Detroit — The last game Coby Mascowitz and Griffin Giser attended was the first game at Litttle Caesars Arena in 2017.
On Thursday, the two friends from Birmingham were back, cheering the Red Wings against Tampa Bay Lightning in the regular season home opener at LCA.
“Picked a good one to come back to,” said Mascowitz, as he and Giser ate a pregame meal on the extremely busy main concourse. “It’s pretty exciting to be back with people cheering, and just being with the fans.”
And, as Giser was quick to point out, watching the game differently than they’ve done the past 18 months.
“Not watching from the couch,” Giser said. “It’s just fun to be back here.”
Thursday’s game was also extra special for the Wings, who played last season in a mostly empty LCA, and other vacant arenas around last season’s reconfigured Central Division.
The pandemic limited capacity to roughly 500-750 fans at LCA last season, toward the end of the schedule, after beginning the season with no fans.
A large crowd was ready to make a lot of noise from the pregame introductions, where many of the new Wings, including popular rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, and captain Dylan Larkin received raucous cheers.
Then, thunderous applause rained down upon a ceremony recognizing the captaincy of Dylan Larkin — something that couldn’t be done last season — with Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg among the past captains to attend.
Getting to play in front of a full, boisterous crowd at LCA was refreshing and exciting.
“We didn’t get a chance to play in stadiums that had the ability to go to capacity last year and so it’s been a ton of time for us,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Anybody, a player, a coach, would tell you that fans, how much they mean to the game, how much they mean to the energy and the momentum. So, it’s always special opening night.
“But given the fact we haven’t see this type of atmosphere in a while, it will be that much more special.”
Also, any opening night for the Wings in downtown Detroit makes for a special atmosphere.
“We have great fans throughout the state of Michigan, very passionate, the best fans in the NHL,” Blashill said. “This means a lot of them. We have a connection with the city for certain and we respect how much this means.”
Said defenseman Danny DeKeyser:“All the players are even more so excited this year with fans being back in the building. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen full buildings and the noise the fans bring. They bring another side of the game that we haven’t had for the last year and a half.”