The Story Of The Time I Got ‘Booed’ At Joe Louis Arena
Everyone has their own favorite story of seeing a game or a concert at 'The Joe', but mine involves an heroic climb up the famous stairs outside the Arena and then being booed by over 19-thousand fans.
The date was January 9, 1984. Me and some friends decided we wanted to go see a guy named Wayne Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers play the then dismal Red Wings. Gretzky was in the midst of an incredible game scoring streak in which he had scored at least one point (a goal or an assist) in 40-some consecutive games. (The streak would end a few weeks later at an amazing 51 games, a record that still stands.)
The only way we could secure tickets was through my friend Dick's brother, who was holding three extra tickets through a bar that was taking a bus load of fans down from Saginaw, my home town.
Being 25 years old at the time meant that I was still at an age where I thought I could drink beer all the way down on the bus, and still manage to walk up the huge outdoor concrete stairs of The Joe even after they were iced over by a steady snowfall that afternoon. This was a fallacy.
If you're not familiar with 'the stairs', they are a 40 step hell you must negotiate to get in to The Joe. A small challenge in good weather, they are a huge problem if it's slippery out or you're drunk, and it was and I was.
After failing to get to the first landing within five minutes of slipping and sliding, we managed to get a valuable position on the inside lane, where there was a metal banister, which allowed us to shimmy up the rest of the stairs. It seemed to take hours, but it was probably only ten minutes.
Once inside, we were treated to yet another terrible showing by the WIngs, who gave up a goal in the first period to Gretzky, ending any suspense that we would be the ones to end 'The Streak'.
My second adventure that winter night came when I noticed a weird marking on a page in my program. Slurring my words, I asked the guy next to me if he knew what it was.
Of course, he slurred back (I think everyone was drunk that night) that little mark meant I was chosen to play 'Score-O'!
If you don't know, 'Score-O' is a game every hockey arena used to play between periods. A random fan, in this case, me, was picked to go out on the ice and shoot a hockey puck at a small hole in a wood board covering the goal. If I could some how get it in, I would win a new Jeep courtesy of Pontiac Jeep!
I rode out on to the ice in said Jeep, accompanied by a local model, who I awkwardly tried to hit on, because who wouldn't see the charm in an overly drunk guy from Saginaw who reeked of stale PBR?
She handed me a puck and a hockey stick to make my attempt to win the Jeep. Concentrating the few brain cells I hadn't killed on the task at hand, I gave what I thought was a mighty whack to the puck toward the goal, which now seemed to be a mile away.
The puck veered immediately off to the left and went a total of maybe five feet before spinning to a stop. This made the throng of over 19 thousand angry, for if the team wasn't going to give them anything to cheer about, they had rested their faith in me, a lowly chump, to at least win a Jeep, or if not come close in trying. I did neither.
The thunder of boos rang out for what seemed like minutes, as I scurried back toward the Jeep, only to find out it had left, and it was my fate to make the long walk of shame toward the Zamboni pit.
And that's my Joe Louis Arena memory, a story that has given me a little pang of delight every time I've told it over the past 33 years.
Maybe I'll get to play 'Score-O' in the new place when I go. And maybe this time I'll win the damn Jeep.