When Joe Louis Arena hosted its final Detroit Red Wings game, there was a huge celebration that followed the game, honoring one of the most historic hockey venues in the history of the sport.
More than 60 former players returned and gave The Joe such a memorable sendoff that it brought many to tears.
The very next night, the Detroit Pistons bid farewell to The Palace of Auburn Hills. Some legends returned, but it was a short halftime ceremony that wasn’t televised as the Wings’ celebration was.
Tickets were also pretty easy to come by for the final game at The Palace. Not so for The Joe.
Why such a disparity?
The Red Wings won four Stanley Cups during their time at The Joe, but the Pistons won three NBA titles at The Palace — so did the Detroit Shock of the WNBA.
The Red Wings put together a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances and had championships in multiple decades.
The Pistons had championships in multiple decades and were a perennial power in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 2000s.
The Bad Boys won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989-90 ending both the Magic-led Los Angeles Lakers dynasty and Bird-led-Boston Celtics dynasty in the process. The Bad Boys were led by Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson, John Salley and Mark Aguirre.
Many of those players were in attendance for the final ceremony during Detroit’s loss to Washington, including Thomas, Rodman, Billups and Ben Wallace. But it was nothing like the celebration at The Joe.
So why was the final game at The Palace somewhat of an afterthought for Detroit fans?
There are several reasons that all add up.
First of all, unlike The Joe, The Palace isn’t necessarily going anywhere. It will likely still be there for other events, just not the Pistons.
The Red Wings also had a lot longer to plan the final ceremony, knowing the move was happening for more than a year. The Wings released a logo for the final season at The Joe and sold it on patches, pins, t-shirts and more. The Pistons decided to join the Wings at the new Little Caesars Arena in the middle of this season and didn’t have the same marketing.
But the biggest reason people weren’t sad about the Pistons leaving The Palace is once the Lions returned downtown from the Pontiac Silverdome, the Pistons were the only Detroit team not actually in Detroit.
After more than 20 years at The Palace, following a span at the Silverdome, the Pistons are headed back downtown. It has been a long time since Bob Lanier led the Pistons in their days at Cobo Hall.
Red Wings fans are sad to say goodbye to The Joe, but understand a new venue is needed. Pistons fans are not as sad to say goodbye to The Palace — even though a move downtown is needed, and long overdue.
So while The Palace was never quite at the level of The Joe, it deserved a better sendoff. But the real victory for Detroit fans is having every team back in downtown Detroit.