The smell of the rubber mats and the feel of the wood seat are ingrained in Ryan Getzlaf. He’s spent so much time in two specific areas of Joe Louis Arena he didn’t need the question to be completed before he started to answer.
What will he not miss about the place?
“The dressing room. The bench,” Getzlaf said. “The accommodations aren’t exactly what we call NHL standards these days.”
But Getzlaf and the Ducks have respect for the site of so much of the franchise’s memorable moments, good and bad, as they make their final regular-season appearance Saturday at the Detroit Red Wings’ home venue since 1979.
Next year, the Red Wings will move into a modern arena that will be a striking upgrade from one of the last “old barns” of the NHL, which is what makes it special.
“It’s hard to mistake it from other places in the NHL,” said Getzlaf, who scored his first NHL goal there. “Everything about it is old school, from the building to the people who work there. They’re very friendly and very accommodating.
“It’s going to be cool [Saturday]. That building and that organization has a lot of history. It’s an extra special place for me. I got my first goal there. As a [team], we’ve played so many big games there over the years.”
That conversation begins with Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference finals, when Scott Niedermayer tied the score with 48 seconds left in regulation and Teemu Selanne won it in overtime to give the Ducks a 3-2 series lead going back to Anaheim. It is regarded as the most important win in franchise history outside of that year’s Stanley Cup Final clincher.
“That was kind of our Stanley Cup,” Getzlaf said. “When we got through that series, we got a lot of confidence with what we were going through.”
The Ducks’ unlikely run to the 2003 Final began with a 2-1, triple-overtime win at Detroit, behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s 63 saves. They lost two overtime games in both the 1997 and 2013 playoffs, and Game 7 of the 2009 semifinals in the arena. Eight of the Ducks’ 20 playoff overtime road games have been at Joe Louis Arena, a haunted house for the Ducks in the regular season.
They are 7-25-8 all-time there, and a 6-10 record in the playoffs. All those losses and bad blood manifested in the form of Red Wings’ players who sound like James Bond villains: Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk.
Selanne, after a dangerous hit in a 2010 game at Detroit, said of Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall that “one of these days somebody’s going to get him, for sure.”
Despite all those skeletons, there is reverence. Ducks wing Andrew Cogliano remembers the arena when he first came into the NHL.
“It’s a building that had a certain aura,” Cogliano said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing there. It’s a great atmosphere and I think for the organization it’s been a big part of winning and a strong sports team.
“That Detroit team was pretty special when I first came into the league. We played in the playoffs [in 2013], so I remember how lively it was, the crowd and the atmosphere. But overall, you always remember going into the game and knowing you were in for a long night … and some of those guys — [Brian] Rafalski, Datsyuk — were fun to watch. It was kind of cool to play against guys like that.”
DUCKS NEXT UP
When: 4 p.m. PST
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830
Update: The Ducks took Friday off. Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek will start, according the Detroit Free Press. The Red Wings have scored three goals during a four-game losing streak. Dylan Larkin, 20, leads them with nine goals.