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Closing the Doors to Joe Louis Arena: Highlights from this Historic Venue

Adam M. Young | September 7, 2017
Joe Louis Arena.
Named for legendary pugilist (that’s boxer to most of us) Joe Louis, Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena has been a legendary venue on the Detroit sports and concert scene since opening on Dec. 12, 1979. It was home to the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League since their first game there against the St. Louis Blues at the end of 1979.

With the opening of the new Little Caesars Arena looming on the horizon, here’s a look back at the history and highlights of the legendary building known simply as The Joe.

Early Days

Not even two months after opening, The Joe hosted the 32nd NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 5, 1980. It was Wayne Gretzky’s first appearance in the event and Gordie Howe’s last. The game set an NHL attendance record with a sellout crowd numbering 21,002.

The Red Wings’ Contributions

Since moving in at the end of 1979, the Red Wings have won four Stanley Cup Championships, capturing the title in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. During that time, the Red Wings put together an incredible streak of 25 consecutive postseason appearances, the third longest streak in NHL history. The streak finally ended last season, coinciding with the closing of The Joe and the start of a new era for the team at Little Caesars Arena.

The Red Wings’ average attendance at The Joe was 20,066 – the capacity of the arena. The team played for the last time at the arena on April 9, 2017, going against the New Jersey Devils and winning 4-1.

Notable Concerts

For many years, Joe Louis Arena was the largest indoor concert venue in Detroit. The first concert there was on Feb. 17, 1980, when Rush rocked the arena with their progressive brand of Canadian rock. The venue has seen everyone from Elton John to Madonna and Kanye West to Stevie Wonder play there in the legendary hall. On July 23, 2017 Jeezy and Migos played the last concert at The Joe before the building was shuttered.

The Final Event

Six days after the last concert, the final event took place at Joe Louis Arena, a matchup between Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. The Joe officially closed the next day, and the wrecking ball is demolishing it to make room for a new hotel and convention center. Even with the arena gone, plenty of fans have memories of their time spent at Joe Louis Arena to last a lifetime.

If you are heading to the Little Caesars Arena, check out our ultimate parking guide.
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