Colorado Avalanche: Following the Team to Vancouver

EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 22: J.T. Compher #37 of the Colorado Avalanche skates during the game against the Edmonton Oilers on February 22, 2018 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 22: J.T. Compher #37 of the Colorado Avalanche skates during the game against the Edmonton Oilers on February 22, 2018 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

I traveled to Canada to watch the Colorado Avalanche in enemy territory three times. First stop: Vancouver.

The Colorado Avalanche played the Canucks in Vancouver on February 20, a 5-4 overtime win for the Avs. As part of a vacation road trip, I attended that game with my friend Leslee.

I have never been on a vacation, seen an ocean, or been out of this country. So for me, going to Canada to see my favorite hockey team the Colorado Avalanche was a no brainer. My friend Leslee and I followed the Colorado Avalanche on one of their Canadian road swings.

The city of Vancouver is absolutely breathtaking. This was my second time ever flying and I loved every minute of it. I think I had the most Canadian welcoming ever once we landed.

Walking through the airport is very different than DIA because it is much smaller. We got to the gate at customs and immigration, walked over to the booth and handed the gentleman our passports and IDs. He asked us “What brings you ladies to Canada?”

We told him, “We are here to see the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, Edmonton, then Calgary.”

Smiling he said, “So you’re Colorado Avalanche loyalists then!”

Leslee responded, “Yep, pretty much”.

Testing us he asked,“Who is your favorite player then?”

Leslee replied, “Varly”.

He said, “Okay, I can see that one, typical response. Welcome to Canada.” He handed Leslee her passport and she was free to enter Canada.

I knew I would get an interesting response from my answer but I had no idea what it would be. “JT Compher”.

He put my passport down and looked at me very confused, “JT Compher, that’s an odd one. You’re gonna have to explain that one!”

This has become a common question in my hockey life. “Well, he is young and still developing. He has good vision on the ice and is a good set up man. He is trusted and plays in all situations (even strength, power plays, penalty kills, and overtime). He has a deceptive shot that doesn’t look like much but can beat a goalie. He plays with a lot of heart and grit. My favorite thing, he sacrifices the body and blocks shots.” I call shot blocking the “Brett Clarke affect”, I love players that block shots.

The gentleman in the booth stared at me for a minute or two debating my fate. Finally I heard, “Okay, that’s a good analysis. Welcome to Canada.” And with that, he handed me my passport. We were on our way.

The first day of the trip there were not too much hockey related activities, mostly touristy things, including my first taxi ride ever.  The second day of the trip started with stop at Tim Hortons before a tour of the Rogers arena, fully dressed in Avs gear. We walked into the team store at Rogers arena and shopped around.

We might have been in enemy territory but I’m going to buy something. While in the store the employees started talking with us about hockey and our trip.

One of the managers said “I used to play hockey and I love your jersey. Mostly because I played with Compher for a few games”. Sweet! They were amazed that a couple of Avalanche fans made a trip from Colorado to see them in Vancouver and were more than happy to talk hockey with a couple hockey fans.

The tour started with watching Vancouver do their morning skate, probably one of the coolest parts of the trip. One of my favorite non-Avalanche defensemen, Erik Gudbranson, just got a contract extension so we talked a bit about that with the tour guide.

Once warm ups were over the tour continued, a lot of Olympic history is displayed in their arena and is very interactive. They told us about how the Canadian cheated in the Olympics by putting a lucky looney under the center ice dot. Who would have thought Canadians were cheaters!

We were on the suite level at the top when we heard the zamboni stop and heard sticks, skates, and pucks hitting the ice again. Naturally Leslee and I investigated.

We saw the Colorado Avalanche on the ice for morning skate and the tour stopped for us right there. We stood and watched for five or six minutes before the tour guide said “Okay well we aren’t going to get you two back, how about we move closer so we at least have a good view.”

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So we moved down to the first level again. We were right by Marc Moser and Kyle Keefe doing their live warm up feed on twitter. I heard Keefe say “Look Mose, Avs fans!” and looked over to see Moser waving and saying “Oh hi Avs fans!” Total geek out moment for me, Marc Moser!

They continued their feed and we proceeded to watch warm ups. The tour guide asked us about the jersey colors and what they mean as well as asking about different players on the team and who was hurt.

After about 30 minutes he said we were already” way over on time and he needed to get us back”. Before we left the tour guide stopped us and said “Thank you for coming today, I actually learned things today and that never happens.” Back at the team store they were more then happy to give us directions on where to eat and hang out before the game.

Game time. I’m a dork and make signs at most if not all the games I attend. I had to make a sign for our trip. “In town from Colorado for the Avs Canadian road swing” with check boxes by each city.

We got in early and went through the team store to do so. Many dirty looks getting thrown our way by Canuck fans. The manager found us again and asked how our lunch was and where we had eaten, it was cool to see he remembered us and took the time to check in.

We found our way toward the visiting bench and put my sign against the glass for warms ups. The Avs equipment manager came out and asked to see my sign. I turned the sign and he asked “Why the heck Canada though?!” We named him Avs equipment guy from then on, even though we do know his name now.

He then went back to the locker room and emerged with two pucks one for me and one for Leslee. We found out as soon as warm ups started that we were standing right next to a group of Alexander Kerfoot’s friends. They cheered and hollered whenever he would touch the puck.

We sat in our seats for puck drop. The gentleman seated next to Leslee was so nice, he sat down and immediately asked “Would you like a French fry? You only get one though because you’re Avs fans.”

Umm…. Who is going to turn down free fries? The guy next to me was not so friendly.  He complained to the usher during the game that I was cheering too loud and being annoying. (He should trying attending a game at Pepsi Center when the Blackhawks are in town — talk about loud, annoying fans!) Everyone else around us was interactive and chirping us like hockey fans should.

The Colorado Avalanche got down early, so when they did score I may have been more obnoxious then I should. But I’m not going to get that chance in Vancouver often. When most of the Canuck fans found out we were in town from Colorado they became very interested and talked with us a lot.

The atmosphere around us got very… interesting — intense — when the Avs tied it and forced overtime.

Then the Colorado Avalanche won on a sweet goal by Nathan MacKinnon:

It was a power play goal because Daniel Sedin hooked Tyson Jost.

The fans around us congratulated us and told us it was a great game… glad we picked Canada to visit first. They are all so nice there.

While the arena was emptying we stayed to take picture. From the isle I heard “Are you related to JT Compher? No way you just bought his jersey”. This came from someone in an Avs jersey. I wanted to go and punch him in the face, odd that Vancouver fans were nicer to us then our own fans this game.

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We found out later that Nathan MacKinnon scored his 100th goal of his career that game, pretty cool so say I was at the game, in Vancouver. We went back to our air bnb still buzzing from the game, and wondering what Edmonton would gift us with. Onward and upward to watch the Colorado Avalanche in city number two.