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Detroit Red Wings

First Home to Red Wings Franchise Still Standing

Windsor Arena is 100 years old



Windsor Arena
Windsor Arena played host to the Detroit Cougars, as the Red Wings were known in 1926.

As news was arriving that Matthews Arena, original home to the Boston Bruins, is destined to meet the wrecking ball, it’s astonishing to think that the first home to what would become the Detroit Red Wings is still standing.

Windsor Arena, which will celebrate its 100th birthday later this year, remains situated at the corner of McDougall and Wyandotte in the Ontario city directly across the Canada-USA border from Detroit. Due to a series a circumstances, Windsor’s rink would become Detroit’s home for the entire 1926-27 NHL season.

Detroit, then known as the Cougars, was one of three new NHL franchises that season. The New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks were the other additions, making the NHL a 10-team loop.

The expansion was created when the NHL purchased the rival Western Hockey League, using its players to help stock the new clubs. The nucleus of Detroit’s team came from the roster of the WHL Victoria Cougars and the team would opt to maintain the nickname. The club didn’t become the Red Wings until the 1932-33 NHL season.

Unfortunately, plans to build a new rink in Detroit fell way behind schedule, leaving the club forced to play all of its home dates during the 1926-27 campaign across the Detroit River in Windsor. Detroit’s Olympia Stadium opened the following season.

Red Wings Opened In Windsor As Cougars

The Cougars played host to the Boston Bruins at Windsor Arena the night of Nov. 18, 1926 in what would be the NHL opener for Detroit.

Eight future Hockey Hall of Famers took the ice the night of that opener, including referee Cooper Smeaton. Boston suited up defensemen Sprague Cleghorn and Eddie Shore and forwards Harry Oliver and Gordon (Duke) Keats. Detroit would counter with forwards Frank Fredrickson, Jack Walker and Frank Foyston. A ninth eventual Hall of Famer, Detroit goalie Harry (Hap) Holmes, was felled by illness on game day and replaced by backup Herb Stuart.

Stuart was beaten twice in the game’s first three minutes, first by Keats and then by Archie Briden. That was all the scoring Boston would need. Slipping into a defensive shell, Boston completely stymied the Detroit attack. Bruins goaltender Charles (Doc) Stewart – a dentist in the off-season – blocked every shot he faced. The game finished 2-0.

Later that season, both Keats and Briden would be traded to Detroit by Boston.

Detroit’s Second And Third Arenas Gone

While the structure remains standing, Windsor Arena, which opened in 1925, hasn’t played host to a hockey game since 2013. However, there is a local group proposing a $10 million plan to revitalize the facility and reopen Windsor Arena.

Oddly enough, the second and third homes to the Red Wings – Olympia Stadium and Joe Louis Arena – have both been demolished.