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Top 10 NHL moments at Joe Louis Arena

Red Wings play there for final time Sunday

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

DETROIT -- Joe Louis Arena has hosted more than hockey games since opening in December 1979: NBA and college basketball games, boxing and wrestling matches, shows and concerts.

It hosted the 1980 Republican National Convention. Ronald Reagan used the office at the adjacent Cobo Arena that belonged to Al Sobotka, who ran both buildings and is now famous for driving the Zamboni and twirling octopuses over his head at the Joe.

"I should have kept the red phone that was there," Sobotka said. "You pick it up, and the White House would answer directly. It had no dials on it."

Sobotka did keep his ID card from the convention. It's still in his pants pocket today.

 

[RELATED: Joe Louis Arena 'beautiful' in its simplicity]

 

But the Joe was mostly a hockey rink, home of the Detroit Red Wings, and that's how it will be remembered after the Red Wings play their final game there against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; SN1, FS-D, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV).

Here are the top 10 NHL moments at the Joe:

 

10. May 3, 1987: Return to semifinals

After the worst season in their history in 1985-86, the Red Wings returned to the NHL semifinals for the first time since 1966. They rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Norris Division final and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 in Game 7. They were so excited they sprayed champagne in the locker room. Captain Steve Yzerman was 21.

 

9. June 11, 1995: Return to Stanley Cup Final

The Red Wings returned to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1966 in dramatic fashion. Slava Kozlov scored 2:25 into the second overtime, slipping a low shot from the right circle through the pads of Ed Belfour, giving the Red Wings a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final and eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks.

 

8. Dec. 26, 1996: Sergei Fedorov's five-goal game

Fedorov, one of the "Russian Five," scored all the Red Wings goals in a 5-4 victory against the Washington Capitals, including the winner with 2:21 left in overtime. Only one player scored more goals in a game in Red Wings history: Syd Howe, who scored six in a 12-2 victory against the New York Rangers on Feb. 3, 1944.

Video: Scotty Bowman skates five Russians, first time ever

 

7. May 16, 1996: Yzerman's signature goal

After winning an NHL-record 62 regular-season games, the Red Wings trailed the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in the Western Conference Semifinals. Yzerman declared they would win Game 6, and after they did, he declared they would win Game 7 too. Then, in double overtime at the Joe, he collected a loose puck, raced up the ice, crossed the blue line and fired a slap shot into the upper left corner of the net, bar down. The Red Wings won 1-0.

Video: Joe Moment: Yzerman scores double OT game winner

 

6. Feb. 5, 1980: Iconic All-Star Game

Gordie Howe, 51, played in his 23rd and final NHL All-Star Game, while Wayne Gretzky, 19, played in his first. Public address announcer John Bell saved the icon who had played 25 seasons in Detroit for last in pregame introductions: "And from the Hartford Whalers, representing all of hockey, the greatest statesman for five decades, No. 9!" Howe received a 2 1/2-minute standing ovation and had an assist. Gretzky did not record a point.

Video: Joe Moment: The 32nd All-Star Game hosted at The Joe

 

5. May 31, 2002: Avalanche on Avalanche

The archrival Colorado Avalanche were the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the Red Wings were expected to dethrone them with coach Scotty Bowman and a roster of future Hall of Famers. The Western Conference Final came down to Game 7. The Red Wings scored six times on Patrick Roy, who had won his past four Game 7s, the past two by shutout, sending him to the bench 6:28 into the second period. Final score: 7-0.

 

4. March 26, 1997: Revenge

The rivalry began when the Avalanche eliminated the Red Wings in the 1996 Western Conference Final and Claude Lemieux injured Kris Draper with a hit from behind into the boards. The Red Wings got revenge, with Darren McCarty pummeling Lemieux amid a melee and scoring the winner in overtime. In Detroit, this is a popular choice for No. 1, but it's hard to top championships.

 

3. June 12, 2009: Penguins win Stanley Cup

The Red Wings clinched the Cup in Game 6 of the Final at Mellon Arena in 2008. The Pittsburgh Penguins returned the favor by clinching it in Game 7 of the Final the following year. Marc-Andre Fleury saved the 2-1 victory by throwing his body across to his right and stopping Nicklas Lidstrom in the final seconds.

 

2. June 13, 2002: Dream team

The star-studded Red Wings lived up to the hype by winning the Cup for the third time in six seasons, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 5 of the Final. When Yzerman took the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, he handed it to Bowman, who had won the Cup for a record ninth time as a coach. Bowman, wearing skates, took a victory lap and announced his retirement.

 

1. June 7, 1997: Finally

Forty-two years of frustration ended when Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers and won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1955. McCarty scored the winner in a 2-1 victory, dancing around defenseman Janne Niinimaa on a 1-on-1 rush and deking goaltender Ron Hextall. The noise when Yzerman lifted the Cup will not be forgotten.

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