Winged Octopus at the Hockeytown 5K

In case you didn’t hear, the Hockeytown 5K took place last weekend with thousands of participants showing up to run, walk, and explore downtown Detroit along with Little Caesars Arena. Among the many fans present included two of our very own Winged Octopus writers: Tess and Michael (yours truly)! We wanted to share our experiences of the day, and to give you a peek at some of the sights of LCA in case you couldn’t make it out yourself!

Tess
On a chilly, Sunday morning around 6 a.m., my friends and I made our way to downtown Detroit to take part in the second annual Hockeytown 5K. This was my second 5K, as my friend Samantha and I participated in the inaugural event last year. Samantha was the one who urged me to sign up for this year’s 5K, saying that this could be the start of an awesome tradition; I couldn’t agree more.

Before the race started, I was incredibly happy to meet fellow Winged Octopus member, Michael Scott! Michael drove up from Toledo to take part in the morning’s festivities. With his camera in hand, he snapped the beauty that is Detroit. 

Tess and I at Hockeytown 5K

Hockeytown 5K smiles from Michael and Tess.

This year’s 5K had a different route than last year’s;  the route had participates run/walk through Joe Louis Arena for one final time. It was very bittersweet going through JLA for the last time: there was no ice, and the banners were absent from the rafters. The seats, boards, glass and scoreboard remained. Being down at ice level, I took a moment to look up at section 219 as I sat there for a number of years as a season ticket holder. I admired the penalty box as my favorite former Wing, Brendan Smith, spent plenty of time there in his tenure with Detroit. I took a moment to just look around the entire arena. I soaked it all in, that this building, a major part of my childhood and young adult life would be closing the doors and this was a final goodbye.

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Some final moments with her boy Smitty.

The sadness I felt saying goodbye to JLA was quickly replaced with excitement once I entered Little Caesars Arena. Inside the doors Michael and I walked in, Gordie Howe’s statue greeted us. I walked around the concourse in absolute awe; that this is the new home of our boys. I felt like a toddler that just received a new toy, so many shiny new things on display, bright colors everywhere; it left me speechless.

LCA is going to be one amazing spot to catch an event. I am extremely excited to see the history that will be made here and I really hope we’ll see our favorite boys raise Lord Stanley in their new home.

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Walkers lining up to begin the 5K in downtown Detroit.

Michael

Normally Sundays are when I get to sleep in to recover from a week of school and work, however September 10th was a different story. At the ungodly early time of 4:30 a.m. my phone told me it was time to wake up, and I begrudgingly obliged and began my day. Few things are worth getting up this early for, but the Hockeytown 5K certainly falls into that category. After a shower, some cereal, and a bit of packing I headed up to Detroit for my first trip to Little Caesars Arena.

The drive up I-75 was uneventful thankfully, as I had no intentions of being delayed. Upon arriving in Detroit I parked in one of the new lots created for LCA, Cass 2721, and got to meet fellow Winged Octopus writer Tess Dudley! She had been kind enough to pick up my race kit so that I didn’t have to drive up the day before (maybe consider mailing them next year huh guys), and we quickly dived into talking all things hockey. After quite a bit of chatting, and some teasing looks from her friends, we split up: Tess back to her friends, while I went to take some pictures.

From the moment I started shooting that day I was in awe: from the Chevrolet Plaza to the new team store, I was spellbound. Prior to the race I focused my efforts in the Plaza, where the Red Wings had set up games, first aid, and a Hockeytown 5K memorabilia tent. The games were free and had competitors test their skills with a stick: one trying to shoot a puck into a front loading washer and the other trying to hit all nine sections of a target arranged like a tic-tac-toe board. My individual performance was rather lacking, but I walked away with a Joe Louis Arena replica and Retired Jersey Banner to show for it. By the time I had my fun and collected my prizes, I realized it was starting time and made my way over to the beginning of the 5K to meet back up with Tess.

Last year’s Hockeytown 5K route stayed primarily along Steve Yzerman Drive, Atwater Street, and back down the Detroit Riverwalk into Joe Louis Arena. As much as I liked the view of the Detroit River and Canada across the way, this year’s route was definitely an upgrade. For the 2017 5K we started off in front of Hockeytown Cafe and Fox Theater, then made our way through downtown Detroit until we arrived to the Joe for one last hurrah. To say the final walkthrough was emotional is an understatement: it was hard to say goodbye to such an icon in the hockey world. Tess and I both took a couple extra minutes to gaze into the stands, the benches, the press boxes, and the barren rafters. Parting for the final time, we continued back through downtown until the finish line outside of LCA, at which point it was time to enter the Wing’s new home.

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Gordie Howe stands at the Northeast entrance to welcome the Red Wings faithful.

Tess and I walked through the Northeast entrance to collect our medals, and both stopped to take in what we saw. We were greeted, as Tess said earlier, by Gordie Howe’s statue on grand display. From then on it only got better: memorabilia on display at regular intervals, a walk of fame that replaced stars with manholes highlighting Red Wing and Piston legends, player banners along the lower concourse, and massive paintings at the entrances. I made sure to pause at Gordie Howe’s portrait next to the Detroit Olympia sign in a moment of remembrance , since I was unable to attend his open visitation I made up for it here. Even though we didn’t have access to the seating area, I was thoroughly impressed by everything I saw within the concourse.

My last stop for the day was the new team store, and all I got to say is WOW: jerseys and shirseys and hats oh my! Red Wings gear was set up on display, with the occasional Pistons item poking through as well. The memorabilia and game used equipment part of the store is my favorite part, despite the fact that I can’t afford any of it. Game used Zetterberg, Larkin, and Mrazek equipment were among the items available for sale. By the way, if you have the money to pick up a full set of pads from Mrazek or Howie then be sure to drop by! I settled for a hockey puck to go with my other goodies from earlier before finally calling it a day.

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Soon friends…

From what I saw in my morning at LCA, I can safely say it is a must see for hockey fans everywhere. The Red Wings have done a fantastic job at incorporating history with new aged design throughout the concourse. Six-foot high touch screen displays of Red Wing greats are complemented by the open bars and vendors along the path, culminating in a seating area that looks sleek and clean. Fans will get to catch the action for the first time on September 23rd as the Red Wings take on the Bruins in the first home preseason game of 2017, and in LCA history. I highly recommend getting there early to take in the new sights, sounds, and smells. After all, if you are going to be a part of history, make the most of your experience. Not much longer until hockey is back friends, and I can’t wait to see the LCA rocking loud and proud!

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Aside from the picture of Michael and Tess, all photos are the property of Michael W. Scott/Winged Octopus and are not to be used, modified, or duplicated without consent and credit.

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