Across the Detroit River, hockey history shuts its doors

Feb 16, 2012

If you're a Detroit hockey fan, you're probably celebrating the Red Wings' recent record-breaking home win streak at the storied Joe Louis Arena---a bit of magic for a veteran team in an aging building---but across the river there's a piece of hockey history that make's "the Joe" look like the new kid on the ice arena block.

According to a report from Jeff Klein of the New York Times, the Windsor Arena, one of the world's oldest spectator hockey arenas is set to see it's last slap shot next month after nearly 90 years of operation.

Klein writes the arena, known to locals as the "barn," housed the University of Windsor Lancers in recent years, but the building also saw its share of Hall of Famers---Howie Morenz, Bill Cook and a young Gordie Howe, to name a few---and even served as the home of the Red Wing-predecessor Detroit Cougars in their 1926 inaugural season while their stateside arena was under construction.

More from the Times:

The arena is an intimate part of Windsor life. From its inception, it has been in constant use for hockey, hosting pickup games, youth leagues, junior hockey and even the N.H.L. Boxing matches, lacrosse games and concerts took place here, too.

“I used to come here as a kid,” said Randy Cloutier, who started working as a rink attendant at the arena in 1975, when he was 18. “I’ve spent a big chunk of my life here.”

When the arena opened, articles noted that “the ice surface will be formed by artificial means, thus guaranteeing hockey in all kinds of weather.” A huge “No Smoking” sign covered a wall at one end; the grand new building was, after all, made of wood.

The arena hosted its first professional game three weeks after it opened, the Stanley Cup champion Victoria Cougars versus the New York Americans before a sellout crowd of 7,200.

The ice is scheduled to be removed March 18, Jeff Klein reports, and the city plans to repurpose the space for use as a market.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom