By @MichaelCaples –
The Saginaw Spirit and the Windsor Spitfires held a joint press conference at Joe Louis Arena Thursday morning to discuss their ‘Farewell to the Joe’ game on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.
The game will serve as the OHL’s last inside the historic hockey building, and it will feature numerous events and tributes for a Sunday full of celebrations as the league says goodbye to The Joe.
“I can tell you from being around our guys and the guys in the locker room know this game is going in, it’s a pretty special deal, not only with this building and it being its last year, the history, the players and the storied organization that the Wings,” said Spencer Carbery, head coach of the Spirit. “That these players are getting to play here, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in an NHL building, in front of a great crowd, such a historic place. They are extremely excited to be able to have the honor of playing in this city. For a majority, it’s once-in-a-lifetime; they’ll never get another opportunity to do this after December 4.”
Prior to puck drop between the two OHL rivals, the Belle Tire 16U team will take on the Mississauga Rebels 16U squad, and the Jr. Spirit will play the Compuware ’06 team. The Stanley Cup and the Memorial Cup will then be marched to center ice before the two OHL clubs square off at 4 p.m.
The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Spitfires players and Michigan natives Luke Boka (Plymouth), Jalen Chatfield (Ypsilanti) and recently acquired defenseman Sean Day (Rochester).
“For the opportunity to play in a historic building at Joe Louis Arena and how special that is for our players, they’re obviously very excited,” said Windsor head coach Rocky Thompson. “We have a lot of players that live close to home playing in Windsor. Sean Day is a player we just acquired, he’s a local boy, he grew up watching the Detroit Red Wings. Jalen Chatfield is another young man who grew up and played minor hockey in Detroit and now is an NHL prospect really, so this is a great opportunity against a team that is up and coming and playing in a place like this, it’s truly exciting.”
The OHL will hold a reunion for the Jr. Red Wings, the last OHL team to officially skate out of The Joe. Pat Peake played on the ’92-’93 Jr. Wings team that skated on Hockeytown’s home ice, and the Michigan native said he’s looking forward to the celebratory day in December.
“I was pretty fortunate being able to play our home games here back in ’92-93 through that era and then coming through this building understanding the atmosphere and skate with it and the people that have played there before,” Peake said. “The opportunity for these kids to come in here and to have an opportunity to play in front of that, it’s going to be fantastic. I think the environment is great.”
Kris Draper, an OHL alum himself, said he’s looking forward to seeing the estimated 26 NHL prospects skating in the game.
“There’s gonna be close to 12 players that are draft eligible that are going to be in that game, so anytime you can get two rivals and put them on the ice, put them in this kind of environment, you expect that the game is obviously gonna be a heck of a game, high tempo, high pace. I’ll be here looking forward to it. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity. This is obviously a very special place for me, played 18 years with the Detroit Red Wings, a very special place for me, Joe Louis Arena. I know that they’re coming down across the border, the Windsor Spitfires, Saginaw coming down I-75 and wheeling into Joe Louis Arena, I know these young men are going to be very excited to be playing in Joe Louis Arena.”