The 27-year-old will finally get a chance to prove it Thursday night in Detroit.
Booth, a Michigan product who was born in Detroit and grew up an hour north in Washington Township of Macomb County, has played professional hockey for more than five years and appeared in 343 games, yet not one has been played at Joe Louis Arena.
That unfortunate streak will come to an end when Booth tries to help the Canucks take down the Red Wings and end their NHL-record 23 game home winning streak.
“I don’t think you could ask for a better time to be playing your first game there,” smiled Booth Wednesday post-practice in Nashville. “I guess I saved the best for last.”
He’s got that right.
Vancouver is currently two points behind Detroit for top spot in the league and these Western Conference foes play each other tough. It’s games like this that separate the men from the boys, but expect Booth to saddle that line. He’ll have his warrior game face on, it just might include an occasional overwhelmed chuckle.
Joe Louis Arena is more than the last rink Booth has yet to conquer, it’s where his love for hockey was born. The Booth family still has season tickets for Red Wings games, front row, right behind the glass. They sit on folding chairs to the left of where the Zamboni comes onto the ice.
Booth was there when Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 1997. Although he’s played at Joe Louis Arena as a kid and in college, it’s just not the same as doing it for real, like his idols Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan.
If you’re running the math in your head trying to figure out how Booth has managed to avoid playing in Joe Louis Arena after all these years, just know that luck has been against him.
Twice Booth made trips to Detroit as a member of the Florida Panthers, but he was unable to play because of injury both times.
Unless the universe really has it in for Booth and something goes down between now and puck drop tonight, his long awaited debut at The Joe will be a surreal event for many, especially his family.
“My family is my biggest fans and they supported me through all those years,” said Booth. “They’ve come down, they’ve traveled to Vancouver, they’ve traveled to Florida, they’ve made the long road trips to Montreal to see me play, but just to go there, that will be pretty special.”
If Booth manages to bring his family and friends to their feet with a goal, it would be his first against the Red Wings, one of four teams he has yet to score against.
In three career games versus Detroit Booth has a pair of assists; this season he continues to make a name for himself in Vancouver with 22 points (11-11-22) in 34 games since being acquired from Florida on October 22, 2011. The Canucks have not lost in regulation when he scores (9-0-2), have compiled a winning record of 13-1-3 when he records at least a point and are 22-9-3 overall when he's in the lineup.
It’ll be a night to remember for Booth regardless of the score, but hopefully it’s also a night to remember for the Canucks. They’ve dropped two of three meetings with the Red Wings this season, including a 2-0 loss in Detroit in early October.