Barring a miraculous winning streak and Stanley Cup playoff run by the Detroit Red Wings, the Penn State men’s hockey team will be the last of many greats to win a championship at the historic Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit.
With the Red Wings near the bottom of the NHL’s Eastern Conference, it’s extremely likely they’ll miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1990-91 season and won’t have the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup in their last season at ‘The Joe.’
The 37-year-old arena that’s been home to six Stanley Cup Finals, two Big Ten Hockey Tournaments, the infamous 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships (where Nancy Kerrigan got clubbed by competitor Tanya Harding’s husband), and a WNBA Championship is closing its doors for good after the current NHL season. It will be replaced by the new Little Caesars Arena.
In case you somehow missed it, the Nittany Lions beat the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1 on Saturday night thanks to two goals from freshman winger Liam Folkes — including the tournament winner with 13:17 remaining in the second overtime period. The victory gave the Lions their first conference championship in the program’s five-year Division I history and it also set up an NCAA tournament meeting with Union next Saturday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m.
Five years ago, @PennStateMHKY didn't exist.
— Bob Lanning (@BigTenNetwork) March 19, 2017
Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979 and will host its last hockey game on April 9 when the New Jersey Devils face off against the Red Wings, has seen the Stanley Cup awarded to the NHL’s champions three times, including the 1996-97 and the 2001-02 Red Wings, who wrapped up their Stanley Cup Championships on home ice.
The last NHL team to hoist the Cup on the ice of the Joe Louis Arena was the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins, who defeated the Red Wings in seven games to mark Sidney Crosby’s first ever Stanley Cup championship.
As far as college hockey is concerned, the only other team to win the Big Ten tournament at the Joe Louis Arena is the 2015 Minnesota Golden Gophers, who defeated the Michigan Wolverines 4-2 to wrap up their first Big Ten title since the formation of the hockey conference in 2014.
Wisconsin and Michigan, the other two teams who have won the tournament, both took the title at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild. If the tournament follows the same pattern it has for the past four seasons, it will be played in Minnesota next year and make its return to Detroit at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.
Penn State not only made program history with a big victory last weekend, but also permanently engraved itself into Joe Louis Arena’s rich history.