Marian Hossa has received a thorough drubbing in the Canadian media for signing with the Red Wings. The criticism has been across the continent from Vancouver to Toronto, and from TSN as well. The worst thus far seems to have issued from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star, hammering Hossa for wanting to seek a chamionship ring and " . . . play out of a smelly, crumbling Joe Louis Arena . . .". This sort of statement was totally unwarranted and uncalled for. Of course the comparisons between the arenas and franchises in Detroit and Toronto are all too easy to make.
It is indeed wonderful that the Toronto Maple Leafs have the barely a decade old, shiny, bright, Air Canada Centre to play out of. It is indeed a marvelous and world-class facility, but it deserves a better franchise. The Maple Leafs have not gotten a sniff of the Stanley Cup Finals since 13 years before the "smelly, crumbling" Joe Louis Arena opened in Detroit in 1979. The thing that seems to be smelling and crumbling in Toronto is the reputation of one of the most storied, Original Six franchises in the NHL.
While Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment seems to have come to their senses in re-hiring Cliff Fletcher to re-build the franchise, only time will tell if the efforts bear fruit. Meanwhile, in the years since moving to Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings management and ownership has shown a complete dedication to building on the reputation of one of the other storied Original Six NHL franchises. There is a palpable dedication to building and maintaining a truly successful NHL team in Detroit, and that attracts players at sometimes bargain prices simply for the opportunity to be in a great hockey environment.
That smell in Joe Louis Arena is the smell of tradition and the sweat of the hard work it takes to build and maintain a dominant NHL franchise, even in a salary-cap environment. The crumbling that Damien Cox has taken note of is the destruction of a past, the Bruce Norris era, that is similar to what the Maple Leafs have suffered through most recently. I, for one, am glad to be done with the days of "aggressive hockey is back in town!" in the time before the arrival of Steve Yzerman.
Now that the Red Wings have tied the Maple Leafs for 2nd place in all-time Stanley Cup wins, perhaps MLSE and Cliff Fletcher will have the incentive it takes to build a winner, after all having a bright, new Stanley Cup banner in a smelly, crumbling building beats having a smelly, rotting 41 year-old Stanley Cup banner hanging in a shiny new one any day!