MSU hockey relishes in final chance to play at The Joe
On Dec. 28, 1979, the MSU hockey team made school history.
Playing in the Great Lakes Invitational, the Spartans stepped foot on the ice at the Joe Louis Arena for the first time.
Ever since that historic day, “The Joe” has been the bearer of a lifetime of memories and unforgettable moments for the program.
The Spartans have compiled an all-time record of 88-64-8 since their first game at The Joe in 1984, along with stringing together a 17-game winning streak in the historic arena from March 1982 to March 1986.
MSU has won 23 championships in the building, including 12 GLI titles and 11 Central Collegiate Hockey Association, or CCHA, Playoff titles.
As the Spartans prepare to face No. 3-seeded Ohio State University in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, they have come to the realization that no matter the outcome this week, it will be the final time they play at Joe Louis Arena as the illustrious rink is in its final year.
“I actually took a little bit of time to give it thought because that building has been part of my hockey world as a parent, as a kid, as a coach, as a player, as an administrator since I was 16 years old,” head coach Tom Anastos said.
As a 16-year-old, Anastos made his first ever appearance at Joe Louis Arena with his father when the arena hosted the NHL All-Star Game in 1980. There, the head coach recalled seeing one of the greats — Gordie Howe.
“And the most memorable thing I remember from the game was when Gordie Howe was introduced,” Anastos said. “He was playing for the Hartford Whalers I believe at the time. And I saw Gordie Howe — I don’t know how old he was at that time — but I didn’t see him in the prime of his career. I don’t remember him as a player in the prime of his career, but I remember how much Detroit embraced him and what his name meant in the hockey market in Detroit growing up. And when he was introduced — they came out from the players' benches area — he came across, he was the last guy introduced. I remember like it was yesterday, the building was shaking. He got such an ovation.”
In 1984, Anastos and the MSU hockey team defeated Michigan Tech University 7-0 in the GLI Championship Game. The victory would become Anastos’ most memorable moment at the arena as a player.
“We played Michigan Tech in the (GLI) Championship Game and it set, at that time, the record for the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game in North America and it might still be a Joe Louis Arena record today," Anastos said. "It was 21,576. It was unbelievable. I remember you couldn’t see the aisle ways in the upper bowl because people were sitting the aisle ways. … But that game, I’ll never forget playing in that game.”
Redshirt-freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg said his favorite memory at The Joe was when the Spartans defeated the University of Michigan Wolverines last season in the initial Duel in the D tournament.
“I think favorite memory there was last year,” Rosburg said said. “I wasn’t playing because I was injured, but last year when we beat Michigan in the first ever Duel in the D and won the trophy. I think it was good for our team. It was good for the seniors to be able to win trophy and see (Michael Ferrantino) lift it over his head. I think it was pretty cool, so that’s probably my favorite experience. Not being from Michigan, I’m not at The Joe very much, so it’s cool to be able to play in such a historic rink.”
Sophomore forward Mason Appleton said his dearest memory at Joe Louis Arena was taking the Iron D Trophy last season against U-M.
“Winning that trophy was huge for us,” Appleton said. “Every time we play there, it’s usually a good game against Michigan like this year. Unfortunately we lost in a shootout, but it’s a great atmosphere, great place to play in.”
Although this week will be the last time MSU is slated to take on an opponent at The Joe, Anastos said he hopes he can still catch one final event there before it’s demolished.
“There are just so many experiences that I’ve had that will be very memorable,” he said. “It’s definitely time to move on. But I will tell you, when I walk out of there, I hope it’s not the last time this weekend. I hope to be able to see at least see a Red Wing game or another event there before it closes down.”