June 4, 2002. Joe Louis Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings are tied 2-2 heading into overtime in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Bret Hedican skates over center ice and dumps the puck in. It rims around the boards, and Sami Kapanen chips it in behind the net. Jeff O'Neill thwarts a clearing attempt and centers to Kapanen. The puck goes off his stick and back to O'Neill, who delivers a feed to Ron Francis' stick. Francis makes no mistake and buries the shot, shocking the crowd in Detroit and giving the Hurricanes a 1-0 advantage in the series.
That's the most memorable moment in Hurricanes history at The Joe. Francis also had another personal favorite, something that became known as "The Detroit Play."
"Well, I know the one you're thinking off, but there was another one early in my career that was pretty special, too. Every time we'd go to Detroit, my mom, dad and brother would come down because it was the closest pro city to my hometown. We had a faceoff late in the game to the left of the net. I was able to push it forward between the centerman's legs and throw it over to my right winger Blaine Stoughton, who scored into the empty net. I think it was the first time I had done that at the NHL level. I'm sure if you ask Chuck Kaiton, he'll give you the complete play-by-play on it. That was special."
"And then obviously the one, you get to the Stanley Cup Finals, you're in overtime in that building and you score a goal against Dominik Hasek and that team. I think they might have or will have 10 or so guys from that team in the Hockey Hall of Fame. That gave us a belief, and it was an important goal."
The 2008-09 season marked Jordan Staal's third in the NHL. The Penguins matched up against the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final, and the two teams traded home victories in Games 1-6. The Pens edged the Wings 2-1 in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena, as Staal hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup.
"For me, obviously, we won in that building. It's a very fun building. I remember losing the first two games and them singing the song, 'Livin' on a Prayer,' and then coming back and winning in that building was something I'll never forget."
En route to defeating the Boston Bruins in six games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, Bryan Bickell and the Blackhawks found themselves in a 3-1 hole against the Detroit Red Wings. They ended up winning three straight games to move on to the Western Conference Final. In Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena, the Hawks and Wings were even at two in the third period. Bickell scored the go-ahead goal at the 5:48 mark.
"Just playing against some elite players like Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood in his later years. He was the first guy I scored against. We had a series in 2013, we were down 3-1. We had to win at home, win at The Joe and then come back home and win again. At the Joe, we were down 2-1 in the third. We came back in the third to tie it up, and then we won in regulation against them. Then we bring it home and win in OT. That year we won the Cup, so that was definitely a special moment."
"The history that building has. The Red Wings in the late 1990s and 2000s when they won four Cups. The history and the players that have been through it is A-class for sure."
On Oct. 9, 2014, Andrej Nestrasil made his NHL debut with the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
"It was exciting just because of the fact that it was my first NHL game. It was really unexpected, and to play your first NHL game in a building like that with so much history and atmosphere was something special. The fact that my dad was there and saw me play my first NHL game was really special, too."
"Everything happened so fast. I kind of thought I was going to go back to the minors, but I did real well in the exhibition games and made the team. I was talking to my dad and was like, 'I'm still here. No one has told me anything, but just letting you know I might be playing.' He messaged me the next day and goes, 'Hey, I'm on a plane heading to Detroit. You want to pick me up in the airport in a couple of hours?' It was really fast, and it was honestly out of nowhere. It was great."
"Really good memories. The locker room, the people at the rink, the people in the city, they all love it. When you're sitting in the locker room and there are designated seats where no one sits, where guys like Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe sat, and you see all the pictures. There's history. It's pretty special."
On Oct. 6, 2005, Lee Stempniak, a member of the St. Louis Blues, played his first NHL game against the Red Wings. Just over a month later, on Nov. 19, he played at Joe Louis Arena and recorded an assist.
"I started off in St. Louis, so we played there four times a year my first few years. I played against some great players there. My first NHL game was against the Red Wings, and I got to play against Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, guys like that. For me, probably the biggest memory is scoring on Dominik Hasek at Joe Louis. Just growing up as a Sabres fan in Buffalo, against a team like that with Hasek in net, to score on him a pretty nice goal was something I'll always remember."
From 2005-08, Ron Hainsey played with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a Central Division (Western Conference) opponent of the Red Wings.
"I don't remember the details of the games, but when we went in there and got a win, [it was fun]. That Red Wings team was still very, very strong and Columbus was the only Eastern [time zone] team with them in the West, so there was a little bit of a rivalry there. Detroit usually came out on top rather handily, so when we did play them well and win in there, it was definitely a big win for that team at the time."
Bill Peters' NHL coaching career began with Detroit, where he served as an assistant coach for three seasons. In the 2011-12 season, the Red Wings equaled a record of consecutive home victories (20) set by the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers in a game against Philadelphia. The Wings subsequently broke that record, which now sits at 23 consecutive home victories.
"They played very hard, and our team did too. It's a funny streak because it's spread out over a long period of time. It's not consecutive wins; it's home wins. So it took six weeks, maybe more, for us to get to that number. That doesn't happen very often."
"It means a lot of everyone in hockey. It's a special place. It's been around for a long time, and there has been a lot of quality hockey played there, a lot of long playoff runs in the past, Stanley Cup championship teams. Just the history of the building, it will be fun to take it all in."
In one of the most iconic images in Hurricanes' history, Rod Brind'Amour triumphantly lifted the Stanley Cup over his head on June 19, 2006. He advanced to the finals twice prior to that, once with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996-97 and again with the Hurricanes in 2001-02. In both instances, Detroit won the Stanley Cup; the Red Wings swept the Flyers in four games and bested the Hurricanes in five games.
"I don't have too many [good memories], to be honest. Most of them were brutal. I lost with the Flyers in the Cup Final, and I lost with us in the Cup Final. My best memory goes back to when I was back with Michigan State. We won a big tournament there. That was a good memory, and it was all downhill after that."
David Marcoux spent six years (2003-09) as the goaltending coach for the Calgary Flames. In 2004, the Flames bested the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in the first round and moved on to face the Detroit Red Wings.
"You just looked at their lineup, the Red Wings. We started on the road. We had the young guys, Matthew Lombardi, Chuck Kobasew, Shean Donovan. They had the Shanahans, the Yzermans, Hasek and CuJo, Ray Whitney. Daryl Sutter, before we started the round at The Joe, said, 'All right, Lombo, Kobasew, I know you want it.' And the guys are like, 'What? What are you talking about?' 'I know you want his autograph. You want Steve Yzerman's autograph, right? Win the series, and I'll get you his autograph.'"
The Flames won the series in six games. Marcoux wasn't sure whether they got the autograph, but he did have another story.
"The thing I learned about five minutes ago texting CuJo, who was on the other side and is now in our organization, in the first morning skate at The Joe, he got a puck in the face and had a broken jaw. He played through the whole series."
John Forslund is in his 22nd season as the Hurricanes' television play-by-play announcer, his 26th year with the organization and his 33rd year in hockey.
"My favorite memory is Ronnie's goal. Most people probably say that. It was an afternoon game. Leaving The Joe, for some reason I was all by myself, and I was walking back to the hotel. It was a really beautiful day. The sun was out. I was like, 'Wow. We actually have legitimacy here.' Remember, that was a $70 million payroll against a $30 million payroll. No cap. Different system. Weren't supposed to be there. Everyone was hoping for a Toronto-Detroit Final. It didn't happen. It just felt like, wow, we've kind of arrived here thanks to him. Dominik Hasek in goal. That's the most precious memory."
"I've done so many games and playoff games there that don't involve the Hurricanes. From a broadcasting standpoint, it's one of my favorite places, even though a lot of people knock the press box and the facility, it's right up there for me as one of my favorite places."
Tripp Tracy is in his 18th season as the Hurricanes' television analyst. After recalling what was perhaps the Hurricanes' most memorable moment at The Joe, he looked back to just last season, where the Hurricanes won two games in a 12-day stretch after having won in Detroit just once since 1990.
"Without question, you have to always mention O'Neill finding Francis in overtime in Game 1."
"Watching the way Brett Pesce, in particular, played in his second NHL game there last year. After the lack of [historical] success, to see the team win those two regular season games, and Pesce's play epitomized that."
Chuck Kaiton has been the lone radio play-by-play voice for the Hurricanes franchise since it entered the NHL in Hartford in 1979. He's since called more than 3,000 regular-season, preseason and playoff games.
"The three Howes coming back for the first time, which was our first-ever game [in Detroit] with the Whalers. It was fantastic. Gordie got a tremendous ovation. The two sons. It was a dream come true for him (Gordie). It was great to see it happen in Detroit, and it was the first time this franchise ever played in that building, and they won the game. That, for me, is easily the top memory. After that, obviously the '02 playoffs. Just playing there and the fact that the Hurricanes played three Original Six teams in that playoff run."
That puck that found the back of the net off the stick of Ron Francis in Game 1? Francis mounted it, along with the game sheet, and gave it to equipment manager Skip Cunningam, who is in his 44th year with the organization and is the most tenured employee with the team.
"The playoffs in 2002, the first victory for this franchise in Stanley Cup Finals history. Winning the game showed that we belonged in the Finals against a team with a group of Hall of Famers."