Soon, very soon, Joe Louis Arena will be shuttering its doors for the final time. On Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning will visit for the very last time to take on the Detroit Red Wings. As a franchise, Tampa can’t wait to see the wrecking ball come through. The Lightning have played at Joe Louis 23 times, and have only won 5 times. The only arena they have fared worse in is TD Garden, where they have 5 wins in 42 games.
One of the wins in Detroit came on November 15th, 2016, in what will likely be the last regular season game Steven Stamkos played this season. The game started off well for Stamkos. At the 6:00 mark he beat Petr Mrazek for his ninth goal of the season. Seven minutes late he got tangled up with Gustav Nyquist along the boards and tore his knee up.
With that, Stamkos bid adieu to Joe Louis. It was his ninth game at the venerable arena (he’s actually been part of three of the five wins), and based on the season-ending injury he suffered, he’s probably not sad to see the beer-stained building get demolished.
The Regular Season:
Steven Stamkos’ first game at Joe Louis Arena came on December 17, 2009 (the Lightning didn’t visit Detroit in his rookie year). He didn’t score. Well, nobody scored, since Jimmy Howard stopped 30 shots for his first career shutout in the Red Wings’ 3-0 victory. Stamkos did come close to scoring — the Tampa Bay Times reported that he clanged one off the post.
It would be two years later before the Lightning and Stamkos returned to Detroit. Back in those days the Red Wings were in the central division and teams didn’t play a game in every building like they do now. On November 11, 2011, the Lightning lost again to the Red Wings, this time 4-2. Stamkos scored his league-leading 16th goal to tie the game at two, but Detroit pulled away in the third with goals from Tomas Holmstom and Darren Helm.
Two more years later, Stamkos ran his Joe Louis goal-scoring streak up to two games when he scored in the Lightning’s 3-2 win. The win was huge for the Lightning; it brought their record on the season to 12-4 and snapped an 11-game winless streak in Detroit that dated back to 1994 (Stamkos was three years old the last time they won there). It was a measuring stick win for a team that was surprising a lot of people in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re proving that we’re for real,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times after the victory.^ It would be the last goal Stamkos scored before breaking his leg two nights later in Boston.
The goal scoring streak was snapped as he failed to score in a 3-2 loss in March of 2014, but he made up for it in his next visit the following season. The Lightning were off to another fast start in the 2014-15 season, and on November 9 they beat Detroit 4-3 in a shootout for their 11th win of the season. Stamkos scored twice (his ninth and tenth goals of the season) in part of a six-game point streak that saw him record nine points.
It was the first time Stamkos scored in Detroit as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It had to be a nice feeling to score in a building that resides on Steve Yzerman Drive, named after the man who is synonymous with the word captain, who wore the “C” for the Red Wings for 1,303 games.
Stamkos wouldn’t score another goal at the arena until this season, adding only an assist in 2015. In his career he played nine games underneath the seven retired jersey banners, and scored 5 goals and added 1 assist.
Stamkos has only visited Joe Louis Arena three times during his NHL career. Due to the issues with the blood clot he missed out on last season’s opening round series. The results from those three games were not pretty.
Stamkos had zero goals on eight shots and one assist. The lone assist came in Game Six on a Jason Garrison(!) goal in the Lightning’s 5-2 victory.
Detroit fans had the luck of catching Stamkos during an 11-game post-season goalless drought, the longest of his career. After Game Five, Stamkos expressed his frustration,
“It's tough, obviously I want to produce and it's not for lack of effort. In fact, I'm working my butt off out there. It's just not going like I want it. Obviously I want to help our team win. No one else is feeling sorry for us or myself. We realize we've got to work hard and we'll keep doing like we're doing.”
Luckily for the Lightning, they had other players, like Garrison and Brayden Coburn, who did find a way to get the puck in the net, and they came back to win the series.
From a historical point of view, the Lightning will probably be sad to see the arena close. None more so than Mr. Yzerman, who described it as a “fantastic building, a great building to play in.” However, based on the Bolts’ record in the building, and some of the beatings they took at the hands of the great teams that Mr. Yzerman himself led, they will be glad to be playing somewhere else next season.
^CRISTODERO, DAMIAN. "STATEMENT VICTORY FOR LIGHTNING." Tampa Bay Times. Nov 10 2013. ProQuest. Web. 23 Mar. 2017 .