Before the doors closed on Joe Louis Arena, there was still a feeling the Detroit really was “Hockeytown”. Those of us still believing in what Mike and Marian Illitch had built and looking with hope toward a team that could rise up again. But, they didn’t. The move to Little Caesars Arena was exciting, but confusing. At first, people were staying in the restaurants and watching the games. Empty seats stuck out like a painful reminder of who and what we’d lost as a franchise. The question started to arise, “Did Detroit really love hockey, or did we love winning?” For 2 decades the question seemed ridiculous. Even if the Wings didn’t win it all, people were filling the seats. Then the move came.
For years, there was a thought that a new arena would be called “Gordie Howe Arena”. A testament to how much the owners loved Mr Hockey and his legacy. Then, a feeling like a bit of corporate stink settled in on “Little Caesars Arena”. Mourning the loss of Mike Illitch, the loss of Gordie Howe, now the loss of Ted Lindsay. It feels like the hockey has been taken out of hockeytown. In fact, they gave up on that name. It is depressing.
Max Domi appeared on Tim and Sid talking about coming to Montreal. https://www.sportsnet.ca/...essure-playing-canadiens/
He loved it. Growing up, the “pressure” of a big time market was all he ever knew. Going to a non-traditional market took a toll on him. It’s a lot easier to be excited with a packed stadium and ravenous fans that go insane every time you don’t win it all. (Even when that wasn’t a realistic expectation)
Not every player can put a team and a market on their shoulders. Builders, visionaries, players who are willing to miss out on accolades in order to lift a team up. Perhaps one of the greatest of these types in recent memory was Shane Doan. He still bleeds for the desert dogs. He loves the Coyotes and wants what is best for them. No one would have blamed him for taking a 1 year deal with Chicago or Pittsburgh to try and get his name on the Stanley Cup. It would have been celebrated as much as when Ray Bourque went to Colorado. You want good things to happen to good people. Shane Doan is a great leader.
This brings me to our current conundrum. The Red Wings have a beautiful facility. The amenities are insane and every part of the place is awesome. But, fans won’t fill a beautiful building if they don’t believe in the team.
Steve Yzerman is back. That was such a rush of emotion for a lot of us. We love the Captain. He went through the changes that turned Detroit into an incredible franchise as a player. Now he has to do it again as a GM. But, we need a player on the ice who is doing it. Enter Dylan Larkin. Each year I believe in him more as a leader. He recently stepped up to help raise funds for the Ted Lindsay foundation. He’s arranged charity events bringing in high level USA hockey stars. He made the team at 19 and performed (unheard of for a long time in Detroit). He’s 23. Whatever life lessons he’s learned have given him a passion to try and carry a franchise. If guys are underperforming, he takes them under his wing. You can hear him shouting to his teammates “show me something!” On the ice. He wants to be excellent on and off the ice. He loves the city, and he loves this team.
I hope Dylan has the chance to speak with Shane Doan some day. I am still amazed at that man’s passion for the Arizona market. He could move on, but he wants this to work. That type of player (let alone person) is hard to find. I hope that we have found him in Larkin.