Colorado Avalanche Alumni Game Memories

The main entrance to Coors Field before the Alumni Game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta
The main entrance to Coors Field before the Alumni Game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings greats from the historic rivalry met for the 2016 Stadium Series Alumni Game.

You know the old adage — you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I think on some level Colorado Avalanche fans from the 1990s and early 2000s knew we had a special team. We just expected we’d always have a great team.

That’s not to suggest that the current Colorado Avalanche aren’t special and great. They’re just not the consistent Stanley Cup contenders from the glory days. They’re the team we’re watching grow up.

In any case, I, personally, didn’t know how nostalgic I’d be for the Avs of yesteryear until the Stadium Series came up. As cool as watching outdoor hockey is, I found myself more and more enamored with the idea of the Alumni Game. I wanted to see the Colorado Avalanche from my hockey fan beginnings.

For me, being an Avs fan is a large part of my identity. People don’t have to know me too long (we’re talking minutes) to know I’m an Avs fan, even if I’m not geared up (though I usually am). And it all started in 1995 when the NHL announced my home state of Colorado would be getting a team.

Thursday night was for me like Christmas Eve — the Christmas Eve from when you still believe in Santa Clause. All day Friday, my nerves were buzzing with anticipation. Ask my friends — I couldn’t stop staring at Coors Field while we were in Spectator Plaza. I finally ran in the second they opened the gates. I bought a bit of swag, then I just stared at the ice, visions of my favorite players from the 1990s going through my mind.

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Colorado Avalanche alumni warm up before the game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

A college student at the time, I didn’t get to go to a lot of games, but I watched all of them on TV. In the age before Twitter and, hey, even Google, I turned to the two newspapers at the time for word on my favorite players.

This was long before Youtube as well, so when you watched a game, you really watched because there was no expectation that you could go back and watch parts again later. (Unless you recorded the games on you VCR — that’s right, I said VCR!)

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Patrick Roy in action. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

I remember going to see my first-ever NHL game, the third-ever game for the Colorado Avalanche as they hosted my “real” favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I wore a Penguins jersey — Jaromir Jagr’s to be specific. But early on during the game, I was cheering my home team already and trying to decide which jersey I’d save up for. (Spoiler alert: Patrick Roy’s, though I didn’t know it at the time, of course.)

In that weird way that you do when you’re a new fan, I had no idea that Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Sandis Ozolinsh, Valeri Kamenski, Adam Foote would not always be Colorado Avalanche players. If you haven’t watched a game long term, you have no concept that players age and eventually retire. (It’s still hard — a part of me will always think of Matt Duchene as an 18-year-old rookie!)

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Colorado Avalanche alumni line up to face Detroit Red Wings alumni before the game begins. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

For me, being a Colorado Avalanche fan doesn’t revolve around their two Stanley Cup victories. Yes, it was utterly thrilling to watch those greats show off their monumental talents and legendary compete level to win the greatest sports championship.

However, being an Avalanche fan for me is about a team that represents my state, and to which I’m as loyal as a patriot is to her country. (You only have to look at my quasi-religious dedication to Patrick Roy to get the picture — I’m not totally joking when I make references like “Gospel according to Roy.”)

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Patrick Roy talking with the referee. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

Patrick Roy’s coming to the Colorado Avalanche is what sealed the deal for me. I hadn’t exactly known a lot about Joe Sakic, et al, when they were still the Quebec Nordiques. However, I knew the only man who could regularly shut down my favorite shooters, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Alexei Kovalev. And that man was the brick wall of Montreal, Patrick Roy.

And then he became the brick wall of Colorado. That was my guy. That was my first-ever Colorado Avalanche jersey — my only jersey for 20 years until I finally broke down and bought an Erik Johnson Stadium Series jersey.

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Patrick Roy in front of his net. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

Last night, I couldn’t stop watching Patrick Roy. I couldn’t stop marveling at the moves I’d taken for granted back in his playing days. I’d always known he was the best goalie in the world (Sorry, Martin Brodeur), but I took for granted the brilliance of his technique.

Last night… sure, he was a little slower getting up than in his playing days. But the moves — the dropping into the butterfly, the flash of the glove, the stacking of the pads, the sliding across the crease, the playing of the puck way out of the crease — those were the same.

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Patrick Roy chirping the Detroit Red Wings. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

A lot was the same. Peter Forsberg’s power skating. Joe Sakic’s snipe. Sandis Ozolinsh’s roving. Hells, at one point Adam Foote was pushing and shoving with a Red Wing. At another Ray Bourque — a grandfather! — slid across the ice to block a shot!

I stayed riveted to my seat from the time the crews started taking the tarp off the ice until all the players had exited the ice for good. I didn’t want to miss a single second of that last game, that good-bye game to not just the rivalry, but the Colorado Avalanche of my newbie fandom.

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Colorado Avalanche alumni line up to shake hands with Detroit Red Wings alumni. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

And I’ll openly admit that, when the two teams skated to center ice together and raised their sticks in salute, tears welled up in my eyes. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion.

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Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings alumni salute at the end of the game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

So, I apologize for the fuzziness of the pictures. Try to think about them as a throwback to the 1990s, when we didn’t have digital cameras — or digital anything — much less Youtube and Google and Photoshop.

Next: Alumni Game Promises Excitement

Those were special times to be a Colorado Avalanche fan, though. It was like the Wild West of hockey in Colorado, like when settlers came to our great state and struck gold.

And it was the time of the greatest rivalry in all sports. A time when two teams came together as warriors and did battle until they were literally bloody. You can read a lot about the rivalry, and you can read about the closure of the rivalry at the Alumni Game.

If you were an Avs fan from back then, a part of you will always hate the Detroit Red Wings. It’s what you do when you love the Colorado Avalanche.