Colorado Avalanche fan, and new Mile High Sticking contributor, Tom Janz shares some memories of being a displaced but die-hard Avs fan.
The Colorado Avalanche are my team. I have always been a geographically displaced fan, spending the majority of my life in New Jersey. Despite that, I have watched almost every game that team has played in the last decade or so. I have also seen the Avs play in eleven different buildings across the NHL, including two different home arenas for both the Devils and the Islanders.
In short, I am a die-hard fan.
In spite of my location, I began cheering for the Avs when they first moved to Denver, when I was nine. It was a perfect time for me to find a team to follow. My parents had just seen the New York Rangers finally win a Stanley Cup a couple years before, but I wanted my own team to care about.
The 1995-96 Avs were young and fun. While I don’t remember a ton of details, I managed to see my new team raise a Cup less than a year into their existence, a far cry from forty years of suffering for my parents.
The 2000-01 season is a favorite memory of mine, as I’m sure it is for any Colorado Avalanche fan who saw it. That was one of only two teams I ever watched where I had an unshakeable feeling that they were going to win a championship. Even going into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against New Jersey, just ten miles from where I lived, without Peter the Great, and down three games to two, I KNEW the Avs would find a way to win.
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Thankfully, with the best game I’ve ever seen Saint Patrick play, and a timely goal from my all-time favorite player, Adam Foote, the good guys won! One more win and Mission 16W was complete!
With all the fun of the second Stanley Cup season, the year that really made me a die-hard fan was the 2001-02 season. While winning is what we all hope the Avs do, I feel like losing is what really brings out character and shows the true colors of fans.
That 2001-02 team came so close to repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. Game 7 over Los Angeles in Round One. Game 7 over San Jose in Round Two, a series the team probably should have lost. Then came game 7 against Detroit. I still remember what I had for dinner that night, and I don’t think I’ve eaten at that restaurant since.
Seven goals. Seven. The Detroit Red Wings got seven goals. The Colorado Avalanche got none.
The Avs have never gotten that close again. The twist of the knife for me was the fact that my aunt and uncle had season tickets to the Carolina Hurricanes at the time. I would have been able to go to game 3 or 4 if the Avs were in the Finals. And I’m fully convinced that Avs would have won that series. But, it was not to be.
One final story to cement my fandom to you, the Mile High Sticking reader. On December 30, 2007, my best friend and I, departed New Jersey by car, headed for Colorado. The main purpose of the roughly 3,600 mile round trip was to see two Avalanche home games.
My two-game experience at the Pepsi Center was great. In game one, I saw former Av, Steven Reinprecht, score a hat trick for the Coyotes in a bad loss. The following game saw the Avs redeem themselves. Colorado defeated the Islanders 2-1 in OT, on the strength of a Marek Svatos goal, making for an enjoyable, if still long, car ride home.
Allow me to leave you with the story of my favorite game that I ever attended. It took place on December 9, 2005, in a snowstorm, at Continental Airlines Arena.
The Avs quickly built up a 3-0 lead on the Devils, before coughing it up. The game went to a shootout, the first I had seen in person. There, Avs goalie Vitaly Kolesnik out-dueled Martin Brodeur, stopping all seven Devils, before Antti Laaksonen won the game for the Colorado Avalanche.
Fun fact: I saw two of Kolesnik’s three career NHL victories in person.
I want to thank you for reading this, and I am very excited to be able to write for you throughout the upcoming season. Feel free to share some of your favorite Avs memories below, here in the doldrums of late July. Go Avs!