The Colorado Avalanche had a reunion of the 1995-96 Stanley Cup championship club before the start of the 2010-11 season. I was fortunate to be there, just as I was fortunate to broadcast all the games from the first ever Avalanche season. I called 113 games. There were 9 pre-season, 82 regular season, and 22 post-season contests.
Going to the reunion conjured up a lot of memories. I was asked many times about my favorites from the first Avalanche season.
Here are my top five:
5. First Broadcast in the NHL
After spending fifteen years broadcasting minor league sports, I was excited for the big time. I had called hockey games in some of the strangest broadcast locations in a lot of old and odd arenas. I was looking forward to some luxury in the NHL. What I got in my first game was the Ed Lumley Arena in the Cornwall Civic Complex. The Cornwall Aces were the Avalanche AHL affiliate and they hosted the pre-season game. I squeezed into a room the size of a small broom closet and proceeded to start my NHL broadcasting career. It was not what I had pictured, but it was still the greatest day of my life up to that point.
4. Best Game of the Regular Season
On February 3, 1996 the Avalanche played their most exciting game of the season. The New York Rangers came to Denver to play the Avs. The Rangers were just two years removed from winning the Cup, had a better record than Colorado and had gone nine games without a loss. The Avalanche came out flying. They scored four goals in the first period and added three more in the second on their way to a 7-1 victory. The excitement was in the way they scored. Coach Marc Crawford kept rolling four lines and the Avalanche showed how much talent and depth they had that year. It was a precursor for things to come later in the season.
3. Best Avalanche Playoff Series Ever
The second round of the 1996 playoffs brought the Avalanche and Blackhawks together. I still consider it the most exciting Avalanche playoff series. There were four overtime games. One went to double overtime and another was a triple overtime night. Twice Colorado trailed Chicago in the series, eventually winning in six games.
2. The Roof Almost Comes Off
The season before the Avalanche arrived I broadcasted hockey games for the Denver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies played in front of loud, enthusiastic fans and won the IHL’s Turner Cup. I knew that Denver had great hockey fans, but I was unprepared for what happened in the waning moments of the final game of the Western Conference Finals. Colorado was getting closer to ousting the heavily favored Red Wings and was going to play for the Stanley Cup. The fans kept getting louder, and every time I thought it couldn’t get any louder, 16,061 fans would take it up another notch. It was the most noise I have ever heard in an arena.
1. The Parade
The Stanley Cup belonged to the Avalanche. It was time to celebrate. The organization decided to do it big and do it right. That meant a parade through downtown. I remember waiting on a bus that was to take me though the parade and wondering how many people would show up. We turned a corner and all I saw were people. It was wonderful. There were people lining the streets, people hanging out of buildings and fans swarming the fire trucks that carried the players. I was honored to emcee the event at the Civic Center. I now know what the performers at Woodstock felt like when I walked out onto the stage and saw hundreds of thousands of people cheering.