Opening days are usually memorable for NHL players. But the Detroit Red Wings all understood that the first opening day in the spectacular new Little Caesars Arena would be momentous.
“I was thinking about it all day,” Red Wings winger Anthony Mantha said. “(Was thinking) it would be fun if I could get the first goal.”
Mantha’s premonition, the Red Wings’ competitive fire and reviews of the new arena were all perfect Thursday when Detroit defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-2 to christen their new home that will set a new standard for modern NHL facilities.
The Red Wings scouted the NHL’s best arenas and then copied, or improved upon, the best elements of each. A second rink for practice. Multiple restaurants. Concourses that seem as wide as four-lane highways. An organ paying homage to the team’s Original Six roots.
“It’s so big I feel like I haven’t fully gotten a good look at the place yet,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 37 saves to earn a place in the record book with the first goalie win in the Red Wings’ new digs.
The arena design is so fresh that players have noticed that fans are taking their time returning to their seats after intermission. They are too busy exploring what’s on the concourses in their new building
One concern fans had about the move into the new arena is that the Red Wings team wouldn’t be as magnificent as the building they play in. The Red Wings’ streak of 25 consecutive seasons in the playoffs ended last season and most projections for this season have the Red Wings missing the playoffs again.
But the Red Wings seemed inspired by the arena’s coming out party. Defenseman Mike Green posted four assists, and Mantha finished with a goal and two assists. The Red Wings killed off a 5-on-3 power play, and then added two power play goals.
Scoring the power play goals was symbolically important because one of the lowlights of last season was going three months without netting a power play goal on the road.
The Wild rallied to tie the game 2-2 with a pair of third-period goals, but Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg regained the lead with a goal at 7:07 of the third period.
“He just plays winning hockey and he’s a great example for all of our guys,” Blashill said.
Another feature of the arena is that it successfully blends modern technology with history and tradition.
Source : Kevin Allen, “Detroit Red Wings christen striking new Little Caesars Arena with win“, USA Today, October 6, 2017.
Postscript: The Red Wings won the first game of the pre-season against the Boston Bruins at Little Caesars Arena on September 23, 2017 5-1.