Little Caesars Arena Thoughts

Saturday’s 5-1 exhibition win over the Boston Bruins marked the Red Wings’ opening of Little Caesars Arena.  It may not count as anything in the record books but it was the first chance to see what a Red Wings’ hockey game at the new arena looked like.

As such, here are some of my thoughts about Little Caesars Arena…

Parking around the arena is relatively awful in comparison to around the Joe.  More specifically, traffic getting in and out is.  The JLA parking structure was something of a nightmare but at least there were surface lots nearby that you could get out of and on your way quickly.  At LCA, the surface streets were backed up all around the arena.  I’m sure it didn’t help that a Tigers game was getting out at about the same time as the Wings were wrapping up, but the Wings game wasn’t exactly a sellout (no matter what they announced) so there’s some trade-off there.

The arena felt quiet.  Maybe that’s because it wasn’t packed.   Maybe it’s because the game wasn’t great.  Maybe it’s because I was tucked up in the last row of the upper bowl behind the gondola.  Maybe it was loud but just felt quiet.  Or maybe it really was quiet.  I don’t know.  That there were only one or two sustained “Lets Go Red Wings” chants could point to it just being a quiet night.  Or the arena killing sound could be why chants didn’t pick up.

The center ice sections of the lower bowl are now club seating so good luck getting down there if you’re someone who likes watching warmups.

I’ve heard a lot of people raving about the food choices but as someone who doesn’t go to an arena to eat…  Meh.  The food is expensive, though.  The “$5 for a bottle of water” kind of expensive.

My seats were in the last row of the upper bowl and they were still pretty fantastic.  I think I even managed to get some good player photos from where I was, which is better than I can say about Tampa or Columbus.

There’s still a ton of construction going on around the arena.  That’s going to be happening for awhile.  Even with the arena itself done, we’re not seeing anything close to a finished product yet.

Overall, it felt kind of like a road game.  I think that’s to be expected and is a feeling that will go away with time.

Thoughts on Athanasiou’s (Lack Of) Contract

We’re a week into the Red Wings’ preseason, having wrapped up training camp and three exhibition games, and forward Andreas Athanasiou is still not with the team.

The most recent report from MLive’s Ansar Khan – who still has me blocked on Twitter – is that Athanasiou is asking for $2.5 million per season while the Red Wings are offering $1.9 million.  That doesn’t match what I’d heard Athanasiou was asking but I’m not hung up on that because the $1.9 million is more important to me and has been reported by several outlets.

Last night I Tweeted the following about that:

It was an intentional oversimplification but I think there’s a point there nonetheless.

The knocks against Athanasiou are that he’s a one-dimensional player and that he only has 101 NHL games under his belt.  And they’re valid issues.

But if I’m Athanasiou, I’m looking at Darren Helm’s contract for $3.85 million per season.  I’m saying he’s one-dimensional, too, it’s just that defense is his dimension.  I’m saying he was given his contract at age 29, just as a player known for his speed could be expected to begin his decline, which is just as much of an unknown as youth is.

Darren Helm, speedy defensive specialist on the decline, is worth twice what Andreas Athanasiou, speedy offensive specialist who may be an unknown, is worth?

If I’m Athanasiou, the Wings’ first offer is still in my mind.  $1.2 million per season.  It’d’ve made the Red Wings second-leading goal scorer their second-lowest-paid forward not on an entry level deal, above newcomer Luke Witkowski.  Even the $1.9 million deal lifts him only past Luke Glendening.

Are there deals across the NHL that can be used as comparables to show that Athanasiou is worth no more than $1.9 million?  Of course.  The problem is that Ken Holland already has a history of giving out bad deals.  If I’m Athanasiou, I’m looking at $1.9 million and saying, “Now?  You just happen to get sane about your contracts when it’s my turn?”

Athanasiou seems to me like the kind of guy who’d get offended by a low offer.  I don’t see that as a bad thing but I know there are plenty who would.  I think he’d find it hard being the team’s second-highest goal scorer and being paid like their fourth-line faceoff specialist.

By extension, I don’t think the two sides are as close as it’s been reported lately.  Whatever number they say he wants, I think Athanasiou wants to not be among the lowest-paid forwards on the team.  It takes getting up to Helm’s $3.85 to do that.

Do I think he’ll actually get that?  Not a chance.  But I can see why he’d be unwilling to give any more than he already has.  So if Holland is holding firm at $1.9 million and Athanasiou is already at $2.5 million, that $600,000 might as well be $6 million.

But I admit that this is all conjecture.  Athanasiou may very well sign for $1.9 million minutes after I publish this.  If I’m reading him right, though, I don’t see that happening.

Griffins Banner Thoughts

In just over two weeks, the Grand Rapids Griffins will raise another Calder Cup Championship banner to the rafters of Van Andel Arena.

They’ll then probably move it to a spot on the service walkway on the south end of the stadium but that’s beside the point.

I was at the Van for a concert last night and was looking at the existing banners, wondering what the new ones might look like.  They’re the first ones with the new logo and colors that the team introduced for the 2015-16 season.

If I had to guess, the Calder Cup Championship banner will be in the style of the current one, with the 2013 championship logo swapped out for the 2017 version.  I’m less certain about the Western Conference Champion banner, though.  A black version of the previous banner style?  Will the logo still inexplicably be in an oval?  Will the Calder Cup banners be grouped together or will everything remain chronological.

I think it’s an opportunity to revamp the banners in general and, following what I proposed back in 2013, this is what I suggest now:

The new banners follow the style I outlined four years ago, with coloring and striping based on the current jersey designs.  And, just as was the case four years ago, I know the number font on Travis Richards’ retired jersey number isn’t quite right.

While I would prefer to see these banners actually hanging from the rafters, I know the team doesn’t do that, so I imagine that first set on the east side of the service walkway, the second set on the west side, with the Calder Cup and retired number banners in the middle.  You could do five on the east and four on the west but I think there’d be a weird kind of symmetry having one of the “wrong” banner style in each set.

Of course, I don’t expect my idea to be used.  We’ll just have to see what they actually do on October 6.

Twenty-one Years

I always have a hard time figuring out what to say on DetroitHockey.Net’s birthday.

I have the tendency to pledge to do something in the coming year and then not actually do it.  Two years ago I mentioned building a new DH.N store, which I’m just now finally getting around to.  To be fair, last year I mentioned rebuilding the site’s multimedia section, which I did last month.  Call it progress.

So tonight marks 21 years since I started this site.  I don’t have a whole lot to say about it but I think that’s worth commemorating anyway.  Thanks for taking some time out of your day to celebrate with us.

Training Camp Jersey Number Stuff

The Red Wings released their 2017 training camp roster today and with it we see the final assignment of jersey numbers.  As expected, there are some changes to note.

With Evgeny Svechnikov having switched from #37 to #77, Dan Renouf takes the #20 formerly assigned to Drew Miller.  This means that Renouf, Svechnikov, and Dominic Turgeon are all assigned the same number in Detroit as they wear for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

As Turgeon has taken the #23 that had been worn by Brian Lashoff, Lashoff switches to #32.  Lashoff wore #32 during his original stint with the Griffins but has worn #18 since returning to the team.

With Lane Zablocki having taken #46, Ben Street switches to the #11 previously assigned to Daniel Cleary.

Free agent signee Turner Elson takes the #57 left behind by Mitch Callahan.

Trade deadline acquisition Dylan McIlrath has been assigned #4 with Detroit.  Pro tryouts David Booth and P.A. Parenteau are wearing #17 and #90, respectively.  Returning Grand Rapids-bound goalie Tom McCollum got his #38 back.

Update, 9/16: I completely missed that, with the departure of Tomas Jurco, Eric Tangradi has taken #26, freeing up the #49 he had been assigned for Axel Holmstrom, as noted in my review of the prospects tournament roster.

At some point recently the Griffins’ updated the roster on their website to include new jersey numbers.

Vili Saarijarvi is currently assigned the #9 that Axel Holmstrom wore through last season’s run to the Calder Cup Championship.  Saarijarvi wore #9 with the Flint Firebirds and the Toledo Walleye but had been assigned #48 in Grand Rapids.

New goalie Matej Machovsky is assigned #34 while the returning McCollum gets his #30 back.

Elson has #15 while AHL free agents Pat Nagel, Patrick McCarron, and Corey Elkins have #35, #12, and #47, respectively.

Thoughts on Little Caesars Arena

Having had two hours to wander around the Red Wings’ new home earlier today, I’ve finally gotten an opportunity to put together some actual thoughts on Little Caesars Arena.

A new arena won’t save the Red Wings from the issues they face on the ice and the ticket prices at said new arena won’t win them any favors with the fanbase, either.  I’m not excited about this season and Little Caesars Arena doesn’t change that.  That said, it’s pretty easy to be excited about the venue itself.

I came in through the southwest entrance and the first thing I noticed is the ridiculous amount of natural light in the much-promoted Via concourse.  I’m curious how that space will look at night but in the day it’s unlike any NHL arena I’ve been in.

The concourse doesn’t feel like an arena.  It feels more like a mall.  A large, open hallway with shops and food vendors on either side.  Maybe during an actual event the “portals” leading to the arena bowl itself would be more prominent but during the tour that wasn’t the case.

The portals are significantly more prominent on the upper concourse, which is more sparsely-populated in general.

The Production Line statues from Joe Louis Arena have made their way to Little Caesars Arena but are no longer grouped together.  I don’t love that but each statue now has a photo of the player with his jersey number as a backdrop, which does look really good.

The Via concourse includes custom manhole covers honoring people important to Red Wings and Pistons history.  It’s a nice feature but not one that really impacts anything.

My favorite feature is probably the “Olympia” signage from Olympia Stadium having been re-mounted in the east concourse, right next to a giant mural of Gordie Howe.

In the arena bowl itself, the scoreboard is probably the biggest change.  It’s just huge.  I’m not sure if it’ll be overpowering or not but that’s my concern.  I would have loved to see the arena bowl lit up like it would be during a game.

The lower bowl feels pretty standard.  It’s clean.  There are cupholders.  I’m not sure that’s going to feel very different.

The upper bowl is going to take some getting used to.  Accessing it from its own concourse should make traffic in the arena much more tolerable.  The upper bowl is steep.  There are actually handrails and I imagine they’ll get some use.

There are no bad seats in the arena.  The last row of the upper bowl has a great view.  The gondolas block the scoreboard but not the ice.  The gondolas have a great view as well.  You really do feel on top of the ice.

The thing that struck me most after the fact is that I was looking at the concourse and saying “This reminds me of Nationwide Arena.” and I was looking at the seating thinking “This is better than Amalie Arena.”  At no point did I compare it to Joe Louis Arena.  In all honesty, there really is no comparison.

As I noted on Twitter, “Mr. I” appears behind the nets on both the main sheet and the practice rink, so I wonder if that will be a permanent tribute.

Speaking of the practice rink, the team’s Stanley Cup banners from the Joe are hung there.  There are new banners hanging over the ice at Little Caesars Arena, in some kind of box that makes them retractable for different events.  They were retracted during today’s tour.

I overheard someone say that the Red Wings’ banners would be retracted for Pistons’ games and vice-versa but that seems a bit weird to me given their placement in the arena.  The Red Wings’ banners are all on one side and the Pistons’ are on the other.  If only one set was going to be displayed at a time, why not spread them out over the entire arena?

I don’t like the placement of the banners in general, but that’s a rant for another time.

Speaking of rants, a couple negatives…

Unless I missed it, Larry Aurie does not have a commemorative manhole cover.  That’s the least the team could have done if they’re not going to give him a banner in the rafters.

Also, while the Via concourse is pretty incredible, the north and west sides of the arena are a bit more standard.

Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing a game played there to see how some of this works out in actual use.

Little Caesars Arena Tour Photo Gallery

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