My dad called me yesterday afternoon to inform me of his sudden acquisition of two tickets to see the Detroit Red Wings on home ice at the Joe Louis Arena. Despite the outcome of the game - the WIngs lost 2-1 in overtime to the Florida Panthers - I enjoyed the evening for a number of reasons.
It is always great to spend time with my dad, a person I wish I would have made more time for when I was younger. He is knowledgeable about the game, and he helped me catch up to speed on the 2009-2010 Red Wings, as I have been so absorbed in research and writing that I paid little attention to non-dissertation matters the past four months.
And of course, he is my dad.
Yet this was something of a homecoming for me at Joe Louis, as I managed some of the food and beverage operations for the Ilitch family for eight years after Mike Ilitch bought the team. There were of course many changes, and Olympia Entertainment (the newer name of my old employer) has spent millions over the years improving the facility. When I first started working there in 1982, the building was mostly a drab gray edifice with only the barest of accommodations for patrons. Ilitch continued to pour cash into Joe Louis Arena in the almost 20 years since I moved on, and I was impressed with the amenities.
A 21st century hockey game is of course different from the games I remember from the 1980s, and there are non-stop video and audio components to the way that hockey is packaged for its current fans. This reflects the growing influence of digital consumers, the kind of fans who grew up playing video games and wearing iPods from early ages. Every stop in play means either a multimedia advertisement or some form of on-ice entertainment, and I found it difficult to talk hockey with my dad.
Of course, at age 45 I am on the older edge of the targeted demographics for NHL marketers. It should not be surprising that I found somewhat annoying the sound and visual accoutrements of the modern hockey game, and it is also telling that one of the high points of my visit to Joe Louis Arena was learning that 92-year-old Budd Lynch still serves as the public address announcer.
Yes, I am becoming a fogey, although I am still young enough to be proud that I pranked Budd Lynch by calling in a fake patron page (this was in the days before the omnipresent cellular phones). There is a special joy that a 20-year-old goofball experiences when hearing Budd Lynch make the following announcement during a stoppage in play:
"Dr. Harry Ness, please call your office....Dr. Harry Ness, please call your office."
I figured that the people who passed messages to Budd would be too smart if I used the funnier "Dr. Harry P. Ness." If you do not get the puerile joke, say the names out loud and imagine how it would sound when 2,000 people laugh at your idiocy.
Budd Lynch, I apologize for my shennanigans - you deserved better from a company employee.