The Red Wings are missing the playoffs for the first time in 26 seasons and moving into a new home. So we asked fan/rock star Arun Bali how he feels about the transition.
A new era is dawning in Detroit, with Joe Louis Arena closing and the Red Wings missing the playoffs for the first time in 26 seasons. I’ve been to several games at the Joe and it was always a fun experience thanks to the history of success the Red Wings have had the past two decades. But I wanted to know how a fan felt about this big transition for the franchise, so I hit up my buddy Arun Bali, guitarist for the band Saves the Day and a lifelong Red Wings fan, born and raised just outside Detroit (he now lives in Nashville). The following is our conversation about the Joe’s legacy.
OK, so first off: When you think of Joe Louis Arena, what memories first come to mind?
Arun: My first trip to the Joe was before the streak had even started, so you can imagine there have been quite a few great memories. Seeing Steve Yzerman play in person for the first time, watching the Russian 5, all those amazing playoff games during the streak, seeing a few Datsyukian shootout goals – there are so many. We had it really good for a long time with the players and talent we got to see on a nightly basis.
I even enjoyed going to the Joe when the Wings had away games during the playoffs. I watched the triple OT Larionov goal on the Jumbotron when they played in Carolina. That was a late night, and all those Miller Lites I consumed weren’t cheap.
Ha! Outsiders have a very specific view of downtown Detroit, but what was it like heading in for hockey games for you, as a Michigan native? And was a Coney Island stop mandatory, or is there a better local food spot you’d hit?
I love being in Detroit, whether it’s for games or shows. My favorite Wings game tradition has always been meeting with friends at a bar in Corktown called Nemo’s. We’d park our cars there, have a beer, and then hop on this old school bus that would shuttle us to the games. It was brutal in the winter, especially after the games where we would have to wait outside for it to shuttle us back. I was never a Coney Island guy, but I would take out-of-town visitors to Lafayette since it’s such a staple. Sir Mack Rice allegedly wrote the song Mustang Sally while eating there.
I’m very excited to see what it will be like around the new arena. As sad as it is to see the Joe go, I’m looking forward to starting new traditions at Little Caesars Arena. Side note: can we all agree that they missed a huge opportunity by not calling it “Little Caesars Coliseum”?
Arun Bali. Image by: Getty Images
Very true. Now here’s a music question: What was up with fans singing “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit? What’s the connection?
I don’t know about that one. I was never a big fan of the song or band, but I remember it being a massive hit. It’s just one of those silly things that caught on. I don’t think the band had any specific Detroit connection. I would imagine most arenas have that song that everyone sings where you say, “really, this song?”
They used to always play “Can’t Wait One Minute More” by CIV. Being a punk/hardcore fan, I wish that had caught on. They might still play it at games, I didn’t notice it the last couple of times I went to the Joe.
And what are your feelings on “Don’t Stop Believin’?” The Wings did it before The Sopranos, if I’m not mistaken.
I don’t mind that one, only because it means the Wings won or are about to. I think we’ve all accepted singing “born and raised in SOUTH DETROIT” even though there isn’t really a south Detroit. There is downriver, but that doesn’t make for a good lyric, I suppose.
Now that you’re living in Nashville, what’s the experience like at Bridgestone vs the Joe? And do you rock a Wings jersey?
I am definitely an unabashed Wings fan regardless of what building I’m in. I really do enjoy going to games at Bridgestone and I try to catch as many Preds games as possible. It’s not even 10 minutes from my house. The sight lines are really good, and they have a decent, local beer selection. The Joe will always have a special place in my heart since I’ve been going there for years. But after seeing games at Bridgestone or even the renovations to Madison Square Garden (I’ve been able to see several Rangers games this year) I am excited to see what games will be like at LCA. I hope it draws players to Detroit, too. I imagine having super modern facilities would have big appeal for players. As a musician, I always love playing classic venues, but appreciate new places that have nice amenities for modern touring. I imagine it’s the same for athletes.
And finally, you were a Wings fan before The Streak began. Now that it’s over, how do you feel?
I became a Wings fan in the late 80’s, when Jacques Demers was the coach. Steve Yzerman was scoring 60 goals a year, but didn’t have a great team around him. So I remember them not making the playoffs a few times. It had to come to an end at some point, and I feel like a lot of people became concerned with them continuing to make the playoffs even though they couldn’t always make a deep run. They aren’t that team right now, but have some good young talent that makes me excited for the future. Maybe them finally missing the playoffs will be a wake-up call. I can only hope the rebuild doesn’t take too long.