Jimmy Howard played in an NCAA Division I championship game for the University of Maine in 2004. He has since started 47 NHL Stanley Cup playoff games for the Detroit Red Wings.

But he had never been as nervous before a game as he was Sunday night when the Red Wings played their final game at Joe Louis Arena after 38 years in the facility.

They move to the new Little Caesars Arena next season.

There was an impressive list of Red Wing alums and celebrities on hand.

“To be honest, I was a nervous wreck going to the arena,” said Howard, who finished with 24 saves in a 4-1 victory over New Jersey to become part of Joe Louis Arena trivia lore.

The game was the Red Wings’ last at home as they had their 25-year Stanley Cup playoff string snapped.

“I rode over with my dad [James Howard Jr.] and he kept asking me questions to take my mind off the game. But I could only give him one-word responses.

“I was just trying to focus in so much. The alums were there and it was [captain Henrik Zetterberg’s] 1,000th career [NHL] game. I wanted everything to go smoothly,” said the former All-American, UMaine’s career leader in shutouts (15), goals-against average (1.84) and save percentage (.931).

Howard, 33, said the highlight was the ride to the game with his dad.

“I got out of the car and gave him a big hug. He has been so instrumental in my career … through all the ups and downs,” said Howard, a native of Ogdensburg, New York.

Another former Black Bears All-American, Gustav Nyquist, posted two assists in the game.

Howard said it was fun to see the way the former players and current players interacted after the game.

“Even if you didn’t know [a former player], you felt at ease talking to them because they had worn the Red Wing jersey. You got to see how their experiences compared to yours,” he said.

Howard, who called the new facility “out of this world,” said his fondest memory at Joe Louis Arena is his first NHL game.

“Even though we lost, to be able to have my mom [Lynda] and grandmother [Jean] there was an unbelievable memory I’ll never forget,” he said.

Howard owns a house on Green Lake in Dedham with wife Rachel and they have two sons, James IV and Henry.

Howard had his best season statistically with a 2.10 GAA and a .927 save percentage, but he played in only 26 games because of a knee injury.

“It was tough sitting out over 30 games but when I was out there, I felt really good,” said a rejuvenated Howard, who signed a six-year, $31.8 million contract in 2013.

“It’s amazing what one year can do for your career and your mind. I’ve gone from wondering how many years I have left in the tank to feeling that I’ve still got it after playing as well as I did this year,” he said.

The 2014 United States Olympian was saddened by the news that NHL players won’t be participating in the 2018 winter games in South Korea.

“The Olympics are supposed to be for the best players in the world at their [respective] sports. I hope something gets resolved so [NHL] players can represent their countries,” said Howard.