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Wings celebrate last home opener at Joe Louis Arena

Players have lots of fond memories and look to make some more in last season at the Joe

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - You remember the first ones but you also remember the last ones.

The Red Wings are celebrating their last opening night at Joe Louis Arena.

"It's crazy, who would have thunk it," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "It's going to be an exciting year. Everyone is going to be enjoying the Joe for one last time then we move into our new building next season, so it's going to be a fun atmosphere to play in front of our fans there."

Little Caesars Arena is under construction and set to open next fall.

But there are so many memories that the old barn holds from back to its first game, a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 27, 1979.

"I grew up in Michigan, it's absolutely an iconic building if you grew up in Michigan as a Red Wings fan," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I just think of the Bruise Brothers, the Colorado series, I think of the fights in the building, I think of the Cups, just a lot of different memories that are special in this building."

Blashill isn't the only Michigan native who has fond memories of the Joe.

Here are a few of their favorites: 

"It's got to be scoring my first goal here, 2009 Stanley Cup Finals against Pittsburgh," Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader said. "Always special but on that stage was pretty neat. That, and probably my first time ever skating at the Joe. I was 12, playing in Little Caesars League final. I remember how excited I was. All you see is red seats and how cool it was skating there for the first time."

Waterford native Dylan Larkin has only played one season at Joe Louis Arena but it's a place he won't forget.

"It's got to be playoffs," Larkin said. "Coming in there Game 3 and winning. It was a pretty special night. The Joe was rocking and it was a lot of fun playing here."

Grand Rapids native Luke Glendening said the Joe is definitely special to him and his family.

"I came down here with my dad and I watched a lot on TV, but to be in the same locker room with those guys you grew up idolizing is pretty special," Glendening said. "I'd been here in college for the GLI and the CCHA championship but to be here, playing for the Red Wings with the sweater on is something I'll never forget, a memory I'll have forever."

Larkin and his family also came to Joe Louis Arena as fans.

"It's everything in terms of the Red Wings and watching an NHL game," Larkin said. "I grew up coming here and it's all I've known, so it's pretty crazy that this is the last year but I'm excited to be able to be on the ice."

Howard is not a Michigan native but the Joe has become like a second home.

"When I first walked in there I was nervous even talking to anyone, all those stars that were in that dressing room," Howard said. "It was easy for me to sit there and take it all in."

There are just some things that could only happen at the Joe, those are the things the players will miss the most.

"I think just the memories from the guys you met here," Glendening said. "Having Mr. Lindsay or Mr. Howe walking around. It's just stuff like that that will stick with you forever."

Said Abdelkader: "People always talk about Olympia, they talk about the Joe and the success we've had there," Abdelkader said. "All good memories but it is time now to move to a new arena, to move to a new facility. It's going to be great for us. We're really looking forward to that, but at the same time it'll be sad to see the Joe go."

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