It was a night where the Montreal Canadiens did what they do best: celebrate a piece of their glorious past and wax nostalgic about a time where the Habs were outrageously dominating the NHL. This time, Guy Lapointe’s #5 jersey (incidentally, this is the third number to be retired twice) joined the crowded Bell Center rafters, and was reunited with Larry Robinson’s #19 and Serge Savard’s #18 to complete the Big 3, as these Hall of Fame defensemen were known.
The ceremony was simple but effective, with video tributes from former teammates (and even Chicago legend Stan Mikita) were shown. Pointu, as Lapointe was known, was a big prankster, and numerous tales of cut up skate laces, cancelled practices and Vaseline handshakes (he even pulled that one on then Prime Minister Pierre-Elliott Trudeau!) were told. Lapointe of course garnered praise for his great team spirit, leadership and legendary playing. Numerous highlight reels showed Lapointe in action, with his trademark devastating slap shot going past quite a few helpless goalies. And in a lucky stroke of symmetry, the first goal of the game was scored by Brendan Gallagher with a monster slap shot from the face off circle that mirrored many of Lapointe’s goals.
Even before I cooked up this crazy plan to visit every arena in the NHL, I’ve dreamed of attending a game in Detroit. I have nothing but admiration for the Red Wings organisation, who for the last 25 years have build a winning culture and established the closest thing to a dynasty we’ve had since the 80’s Oilers. And with all the new buildings popping up across the league, the Joe Louis Arena is one of the last old school arenas left (along with Madison Square Garden in New-York, Nassau Coliseum in Long Island and Rexall Place in Edmonton)
We bought our tickets way back in August, when they went on sale, expecting a late season game to have some importance. And it did. The Wings are fighting for a playoff spot, being in a 4 way tie for the last wildcard spot, and a victory in this game would have pushed back the hopes of the hated Maple a Leafs. The game was less crucial for the Habs, but they’re in a race to the finish with the Tampa Bay Lightning for home ice advantage, so those 2 points mattered too. Unfortunately the Wings were playing without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, their two biggest stars who are sidelined by injuries, most likely for the rest of the season.
We flew into Detroit the morning of the game and took a cab to our hotel, that was located by the river, a couple of blocks from the Joe Louis Arena. We’d of course heard horror stories about how Detroit was largely abandoned, and we saw some of that on our way over. A large numbers of suburban homes are either abandoned or in an advanced state of disrepair. The closer we got to downtown,the better it seemed, but clearly this is a city that has fallen on hard times. Even newer constructions are no frills affairs. We dropped our bags at the room and set out to walk around and explore the riverfront area. I had a few landmarks in mind and set out to find them. First up was Joe Louis’s fist statue, a monument to the famous boxer. (A more traditional tribute is also found inside the Cobo Center) Right across the street from it is the Spirit of Detroit statue, in front of the Seal of the state of Michigan. We kept walking around downtown, but it was surprisingly deserted. Google maps indicated that there was a Michigan Sport Hall of Fame nearby and we headed out to find it. It was supposed to be part of Cobo Center but no one at their own info booth knew about it. (As a side note, the tourist maps handed out at the airport and hotels are quite out of date, with many listed attractions that have gone out of business. Obviously even Google has trouble keeping up with Detroit’s downfall.) Continue reading
I didn’t realize it at the time I booked this trip, but this game happened on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, an event that shaped the American people for decades to come. (and 10 days later the Capitol turned 150 years old!) Washington bears witness to a long and eventful history, and we used the opportunity to play tourist for a couple of days and see the various monuments and museum that are legion around the National Mall. We flew in from Montreal the day before the game so we had the entire game day available, as well as most of the day after. We would try to cram in as much sightseeing as possible.
The Lincoln Memorial is stunning. Great tribute to a man who shaped his nation.
General Ulysses S. Grant. He led the Union’s army in the Civil War, defeating the Confederate forces led by Robert. E. Lee, and went on to become the 18th President of the United States.
James A. Garfield, one of four american presidents to be assassinated.
The Verizon Center is on the very edge of Chinatown.
Major restoration efforts are almost completed at the Washington Monument. It was damaged in an earthquake in 2011.
The Lincoln Memorial building.
Looking out from the Lincoln Memorial.
Korean War Memorial
The Old Post Office
The Capitol. Pictures don’t do justice to how impressive it is, overlooking the National Mall.
In the course of starting this blog, I was of course focused on my road trips. But recently it dawned on me that if I truly wanted to cover all 30 NHL arenas, I needed to write about my home base, Montreal. And what better way to cover the Habs’s home turf than with a season opener against perennial enemies, the Toronto Maple Leafs. And as an added bonus, the NHL Faceoff event took place in Montreal this year. Continue reading
Local collectible experts Classic Auctions held an event today where fans could meet emerging star Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens.
Lars Eller was traded to Montreal before the 2010-11 season, in a controversial (at the time) move that sent beloved goalie Jaroslav Halak to the Blues. Halak had been the star of the previous playoffs, leading the Canadiens to upset wins over the Penguins and Capitals before the small Habs were pummeled by the bigger Philadelphia Flyers in the semi-finals. Continue reading
I spent last week in Vancouver for a work related conference, and while I was sad that the event happened in the offseason, I still used the opportunity to walk around the city and explore its connection to hockey.
My first stop was of course the Rogers Arena, home of the Canucks. Looking at Google Maps, it appeared to be a short walk away from my hotel near the Convention Center, so I set off to find it. Downtown Vancouver is very nice, with lots of luxury shops (Coach, Versace, Villeroy & Boch, etc), so it was a pleasant walk to the arena. As I was coming up to the area indicated on my map, I could see it in the distance. But as I got closer, I realized that what I was seeing was BC Place, home of the BC Lions from the CFL, and the Whitecaps from the MLS. Here’s a view of BC Place from the opposite side I was coming from.
On the right hand side of the photo, across the elevated highway is the Rogers Arena. Continue reading