Monday, April 10, 2017

4.10.17 Heroes of the Day: Joe Louis Arena and The Palace of Auburn Hills

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on



Names: Joe Louis Arena, The Palace of Auburn Hills
Ages: 38, 29
Occupation: sports arenas
Last Seen: Detroit, Auburn Hills, MI
Awarded For: being two of sports legendary arenas

When Joe Louis Arena opened in 1979, disco was dying and new wave was gaining steam. People watched MASHThree's Company and Dukes of Hazzard on TV and the Iran Hostage Crisis dominated the news.

It was in the middle of the infamous "Dead Wings" era, where the team had one of the longest droughts in the NHL. They hadn't won a Stanley Cup since 1955 and other teams in the Detroit area were a lot better. JLA was named after one of the toughest fighters in his day and the arena fought hard to get butts in their 20,000 seats.

New blood arrived in 1982 with Mike Ilitch buying the team and brought the team back to being an intimidating force in the NHL. If the Joe's walls could talk, they could have talked about greats such as Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Brenden Shanahan and too many others to mention.

The Joe brought so many warm memories to hockey fans in Detroit, especially in 1997 when the team won their first Stanley in 42 years. It happened again the year after, 2002 and 2008. True, it was not the greatest NHL arena with its weird design, narrow concourse and weird steps in the arena itself, but its sightlines made those who came feel like they were in the middle of it all.

But there was that other arena in the Detroit area, The Palace of Auburn Hills. To some, it made The Joe look old and dated.

It was built in 1988, giving the Pistons an arena that was an actual arena. For years, they played at the Silverdome, which was weirdly configured for basketball. Granted, they played some well-attended games - including a 1988 game vs. the Boston Celtics in front of 61,000 - but when the Silverdome's roof partially collapsed in 1985, it was decided that it was time for a new arena.

Since moving to the Palace, the Pistons won all three of their championships: 1989, 1990 and 2004. It was the home of the Bad Boys, Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman and John Salley. Grant Hill, Joe Dumars, Chauncey Billips, Rip Hamilton kept the Pistons afloat and the Palace kept attracting people from black Detroit to lily-white Auburn Hills.

Of course, the bottom had to fall out somewhere for both teams.

In 2009, owner Bill Davidson died and his widow - who had zero interest in the team - let the team sink. Billionaire Tom Gores bought the team two years later. Since Gores bought the team, the Pistons have only had one winning season, which led to their only playoff appearance since 2008.

Of course, the Red Wings - like the Pistons - haven't won a Stanley Cup since 2008 and they too had its owner, Mike Ilitch pass away recently. Thankfully, unlike Karen Davidson, the Ilitches plan on keeping their teams. However, the Wings did something recently that they hadn't done since 1990: fail to make the playoffs.

Unlike most newer arenas, The Joe and The Palace didn't have the revenue streams to provide better budgets for those teams. With the Tigers and Lions playing in still-fairly-new stadiums in downtown Detroit and making the playoffs from time to time, it was time for both the Red Wings and Pistons to get new arenas. The Wings made the announcement first a few years ago that they would be moving to a new arena in downtown Detroit, appropriately named Little Caesars Arena. Then, Gores had the idea of moving the Pistons to LCA, and that was accepted. For the first time since 1978, the Pistons would be playing in the city of Detroit full-time.

Yesterday, 20,000 fans said their final goodbyes to The Joe and tonight, around that same amount of people will do the same to The Palace. People are paying their respects to those two arenas that have given Detroiters a ton of joy and memories over the years.

For me, even though I'm a bigger Red Wing fan, I'll admit that I never visited The Joe. I wanted to go badly when I was a teen, but my Dad didn't like the idea of me going there because his cousin was mugged there. However, I did go to The Palace for my first-ever rock concert, AC/DC in 1996. Very good times.

It's sad to say goodbye to those two arenas, but it's for the best for both teams. The Palace is in the middle of nowhere and The Joe was a dump comparing to other NHL arenas. But ya know? It had a good run. Olympia Stadium had their legends like Gordie Howe and Sid Abel, but it's time for Little Caesars Arena to create their newest future hall-of-famers. It's nice that all Detroit teams will actually be downtown for the first time in nearly 40 years. 

Here's to a clean slate and great memories of the past.


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