The Windsor Spitfires and Saginaw Spirit drop the puck on the 130th and final OHL regular season game at Joe Louis Arena this afternoon, signalling the end of an era in one of hockey’s great buildings.
In addition to the long list of unforgettable Detroit Red Wings moments since The Joe opened its doors in 1979, the Ontario Hockey League has been privileged to share in the building’s legacy as well.
The Detroit Ambassadors and the Detroit Jr. Red Wings played at Joe Louis Arena from 1991-95. Here are just a few of the greatest OHL memories from those four years at The Joe.
- Sept. 27, 1991 – The Detroit Compuware Ambassadors played the first OHL game at Joe Louis Arena, dropping an 8-3 decision to the reigning Hamilton Spectator Trophy recipient Oshawa Generals. Oshawa’s Jason Weaver scored the first OHL goal in the building while Detroit’s Pat Peake scored two minutes later for the first Ambassadors goal at The Joe. Peake, who was Detroit’s first ever draft pick with the first overall pick of the 1990 OHL Priority Selection, remains the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
- March 17, 1993 – Pat Peake set an all-time franchise record with six assists in a single game. Peake scored once as well, notching seven points in a 12-5 win over the visiting Windsor Spitfires. Additionally, Bob Wren recorded a goal, four assists and five points, bringing his season total to 145 pts., a single-season franchise record that still stands today. Wren recorded the most points of any OHL player at Joe Louis Arena, amassing 64 goals, 107 assists and 171 points over 92 games.
- December 1, 1993 – Kevin Brown set the all-time franchise marks for points and goals in a single game, collecting five goals, three assists and eight points in a 10-5 win over the Niagara Falls Thunder.
- February 5, 1995 – A then CHL record crowd of 19,875 took in a 5-5 tie between the Detroit Jr. Red Wings and visiting Windsor Spitfires at Joe Louis Arena. This remains the second largest attendance figure in OHL history.
- May 8, 1995 – The Detroit Jr. Red Wings defeated the Guelph Storm 5-4 in Game 6 of the OHL Finals at Joe Louis Arena, winning their first J. Ross Robertson Cup title. It was a fitting finish as American blueliner Bryan Berard scored the winning goal at 9:35 of the third period, crowning Detroit as the first American team to ever win an OHL championship. The title was especially sweet as the Jr. Red Wings rebounded from a crushing overtime loss in Game 7 of the 1994 OHL Finals in North Bay. This would mark the end of OHL hockey at The Joe as the Jr. Red Wings went out on top, becoming the Detroit Whalers to begin the 1995-96 season. The Whalers played out of the Palace of Auburn Hills and Oak Park Ice Arena for one season before their move to Plymouth.
WINDSOR SPITFIRES AT JOE LOUIS ARENA
The Detroit Compuware Ambassadors, Detroit Jr. Red Wings, Plymouth Whalers and now Flint Firebirds always seem to have closely contested battles with the cross-border rival Windsor Spitfires.
The Spits played a total of 16 games at Joe Louis Arena between 1991-95, going 6-9-1 with 69 goals for and 84 against. The Spitfires won their first ever game at The Joe as Todd Warriner was the first Spitfire to score in the building. Windsor won that contest over the Ambassadors 4-3 on November 10, 1991 as Eric Stamp scored the third period winner.
Their last win at The Joe came on October 16, 1995 as Mike Loach scored the deciding goal in an 11-4 romp over the Jr. Red Wings.
Detroit would have the last laugh on March 5, 1995, winning the last ever clash between the two clubs at Joe Louis Arena as Bill McCauley scored the winner in a 4-3 overtime win for the Wings. Spitfires all-time scoring leader Bill Bowler scored the final goal in the building for Windsor.
13 OHL GRADS WON STANLEY CUP WITH RED WINGS
A total of 13 OHL graduates won the Stanley Cup as members of the Detroit Red Wings, 11 of whom raised the cup at Joe Louis Arena.
Daniel Cleary (Belleville Bulls) (2008)
Boyd Devereaux (Kitchener Rangers) (2002)
Aaron Downey (Guelph Storm) (2008)
Kris Draper (Ottawa 67’s) (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008)
Kevin Hodson (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) (1997, 1998)
Manny Legace (Niagara Falls Thunder) (2002)
Kirk Maltby (Owen Sound Platers) (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008)
Darren McCarty (Belleville Bulls) (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008)
Larry Murphy (Peterborough Petes) (1997, 1998)
Brendan Shanahan (London Knights) (1997, 1998, 2002)
Tim Taylor (London Knights) (1997)
Jason Williams (Peterborough Petes) (2002)
Steve Yzerman (Peterborough Petes) (1997, 1998, 2002)
Several outstanding players in Eric Lindros (Oshawa Generals), Todd Bertuzzi (Guelph Storm), Jason Allison (London Knights) and Darren McCarty (Belleville Bulls) among others played at Joe Louis Arena both as OHL standouts and NHL stars in their hockey careers.
Today we celebrate Joe Louis Arena and the many lasting hockey memories that were made there.