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Fans pack Fox Theatre for Wings' opener, Def Leppard

by Brian Compton
DETROIT — KISS was right. This is Detroit Rock City.

Enough about KISS, though. This was a night for Def Leppard, a night for the hockey-crazed fans of Detroit, a night for rock-and-roll and this great sport to come together.

And boy, did they ever.

Thursday night proved to be a double-your-pleasure type of night. Those lucky enough to be at Joe Louis Arena at 7 p.m. had the opportunity to witness the fourth Stanley Cup championship banner to be raised to the rafters in the last 11 years.

But those who were unable to nab those tough tickets at The Joe had the chance for the next-best thing. The historic Fox Theatre, just down the street from The Joe, provided the opportunity not only to watch the game on a big-screen TV, but to see one of rock-and-roll's most successful bands put on a live performance.

It all started right at 7 p.m. here at The Fox, when the lights dimmed and the TV cut to the "Hockey Lives In Me" promo. Immediately, the enthusiastic crowd begins chants of "Let’s Go Red Wings!"

And with that came Def Leppard, ready to rock the house with their new hit, "C'Mon, C'Mon." The crowd roared as the band began to play, with a video of NHL highlights playing behind the stage.

Hockey in North America was officially back, and back in an unprecedented fashion. Face-Off Rocks 2008 was under way.

The entire crowd stood on its feet throughout the song and stayed that way throughout the banner-raising ceremony. Two different venues in the same city were celebrating their favorite hockey team's latest accomplishment in historic fashion. Everyone involved was certainly in store for a special night.

Given the crowd reactions throughout the game, one would have thought we were at The Joe. Rock music played at every commercial break, giving fans a chance to get on their feet and let loose. Every scoring chance the Red Wings had drew oohhs and ahhs in unison.

Unfortunately for the fans in both venues, the Red Wings dropped their 2008-09 season opener, 3-2, to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Obviously, fans were disappointed to see their team unable to feed off such a wonderful high that preceded the drop of the puck. The fans at The Joe headed home.

But for the fans at The Fox, the night was just beginning. Def Leppard wasn't about to send those people home disappointed, too.

After jamming out to a song from Alanis Morissette — a performance that was simulcast live from Montreal — it was time for the British legends to return to the stage. They had just one question for the fans in attendance.

"Detroit, do you wanna get rocked?"

Indeed they did. And with that, the band broke into one of their many hits, "Let's Get Rocked." It was time to forget that the Red Wings lost their first of 82 games. Def Leppard did a phenomenal job of helping the crowd do just that.

"That was kind of a bummer," said Detroit fan Elizabeth F., who declined to give her full last name. “When I first got Def Leppard tickets, I was kind of sad because I wanted to watch the opening ceremonies. But then I realized it was both (the concert and the ceremony), and I was very happy. It was like the best of both worlds. It was like a dream."

The dream continued for nearly an hour, as Def Leppard plays old-time hits such as "Photograph" and "Foolin," as well as hits from their latest album, "Songs From The Sparkle Lounge."

"It was an amazing show. It couldn't have took place in a better city, obviously. It was great to see the NHL step up and do something not only for the city and the fans of Detroit, but just for hockey in general. It was fantastic." – Wings fan Claudio Greco
The highlight came at about 10:05, when everyone in attendance was treated to a tremendous surprise. While the band rocked out to the classic "Pour Some Sugar On Me," Red Wings forward Darren McCarty drove out on to the stage on a motorcycle. He wasn't alone, though.

The Stanley Cup — his fourth with the franchise — was riding shotgun.

"That was fantastic," Wings fan Claudio Greco said. "He's obviously a big fan. It was great to see him here with the Cup."

After performing a couple more hits — they concluded with the classic "Rock Of Ages" — Def Leppard thanked the crowd for such a memorable night. Sure, there are plans to make this an annual event for the Stanley Cup winner, but only Def Leppard can claim they were the first band to participate in NHL Face-Off Rocks.

Fortunately, they were in a city that rocks as hard as they do.

"It was an amazing show," Greco said. "It couldn't have took place in a better city, obviously. It was great to see the NHL step up and do something not only for the city and the fans of Detroit, but just for hockey in general. It was fantastic."

And it was incentive for all 30 NHL teams and their cities. Win the Stanley Cup, and you get to rock out next.

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