Colorado Avalanche’s joyous Stanley Cup parade and celebration brings estimated 500,000 to downtown Denver
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sam Girard broke his sternum in a playoff sport on May 21. Forty days later, he did a cartwheel on a stage constructed on the steps of the Denver City and County Building.
It was an apt demonstration of the jubilation the Avs and their followers are feeling after the franchise received the NHL championship and claimed its third Stanley Cup trophy this week. It was a feat celebrated with a parade and rally that Denver police officers estimate drew 500,000 individuals downtown on Thursday.
Joe Sakic was a participant the final time the Avalanche claimed the cup in 2001. Appearing in Civic Center Park because the staff’s basic supervisor, he thanked the fanbase for its help because the Avs lastly climbed again to the highest of the mountain.
“Twenty-one long damn years,” Sakic mentioned, surveying the ocean of individuals. “It’s been a long time but we’re back. We’re back.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. Jared Polis took turns hyping up the gang and congratulating the staff. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, identified for his stoic demeanor, was emotional throughout his flip with the mic as he described the arduous work and sacrifices of the staff’s gamers, coaches and households.
“When it comes to the players, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. I can’t even explain it. I couldn’t put it into words. I’m amazed by every single one of them,” Bednar mentioned.
It was the gamers that the throngs of followers got here to see. Appearing on stage in varied states of inebriation, the Avalanche didn’t disappoint, regardless of a extreme climate warning beamed out in the midst of the rally urging individuals to hunt shelter as a smattering of raindrops fell.
Team captain Gabriel Landeskog set the tone. Shedding his jersey and wrapping himself within the flag of his native Sweden earlier than hoisting the cup to raucous cheers, the person often called Landy lauded his teammates for his or her resiliency, willpower and perspective.
Then he turned his consideration to the followers.
“The city of Denver, the state of Colorado, you guys have been (expletive) amazing for us this whole year,” he mentioned. “We just want to thank all of you guys for all your support through the tough times, through all the good times.”
“Pumped to see the cup”
The celebration on Thursday began nicely earlier than Erik Johnson, the longest-tenured Avalanche participant, led the Civic Center Park crowd by way of an a capella model of Blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” a track that has change into the staff’s anthem.
Giddy Avs followers started to collect outdoors Union Station simply after daybreak.
Janice and Ryan Wallace staked out a spot earlier than 7 a.m., their three kids in tow.
More than twenty years in the past, Janice celebrated the 2001 championship. This time round, she discovered herself stress-cleaning the home throughout tight video games.
“I love that I now get to pass that along to the kids,” she mentioned because the household waited for the parade to roll previous.
Brody Wallace, 12, acquired into hockey 5 years in the past — when the Avs completed with the worst file within the league. Now he will get to have fun a championship and watch his favourite participant, Cale Makar, drive by in a parade.
“We’re pumped to see the cup,” Janice Wallace mentioned with a smile.
All round them, dad and mom hoisted kids onto their shoulders, craning their necks to see the staff journey by on hearth vehicles.
It could have been 10 a.m., however that didn’t cease followers from guzzling to-go cups of grownup drinks as they high-fived strangers. Chants of “Let’s go, Avs!” rang out sporadically.
Fans clad in burgundy and blue leaned out house home windows and cheered atop balconies alongside Wynkoop Street. One brazen particular person perched himself on the black Oxford Hotel signal that hangs above seventeenth Street. It was a peaceable celebration, although, with Denver police reporting they made no arrests in reference to the parade or Civic Center occasion.
A younger lady slithered by way of the gang, politely asking the lots to let her by way of so she may get to work.
“Work?” one man yelled. “Who’s working today?”
“Best day of my life”
Sandy and Bob Adams took 4 trains to get to the parade from their residence in Berthoud. They watched the truck carrying the University of Denver NCAA championship staff drive previous, pumping their fists whereas holding their very own trophy. The Denver East High School staff that claimed a nationwide title this spring was additionally celebrated as a part of the festivities.
“This is Hockeytown, USA right now!” Bob Adams mentioned with a smile.
Cheers erupted because the heroes got here into view down Wynkoop. Players fired tremendous soakers into the gang. Others shook up cans of beer, spraying anybody in attain. One participant pulled his shirt over his face, chugging a drink by way of the material as the gang roared.
Chants of “MVP! MVP!” broke out when Makar appeared in view, holding the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to essentially the most useful participant within the Stanley Cup last.
Then got here the present everybody was ready for. Phones raised excessive within the air, a low murmur rising to a crescendo as Landeskog rolled by and raised the Stanley Cup trophy excessive above his head, pumping the 34.5-pound silver cup up and down.
“That gave me goosebumps,” mentioned Steve Comeau, who remembers standing in line in 1995 to get opening day tickets when the Avs first arrived in Colorado from Quebec.
The legions adopted the parade down seventeenth Street, en path to Civic Center, skipping, whooping and hollering to nobody particularly. Construction employees in hardhats and orange vests took a break to observe the crowds roll down Broadway. One man honked a horn mounted to his wheelchair.
A teen in a Detroit Red Wings jersey riled up the gang, eliciting hearty boos. Old rivalries by no means die.
“This is the best day of my life,” one man mentioned, consuming a beer tucked inside a pom-pom koozie.
“A dream come true”
Some followers prevented the parade route in favor of claiming prime spots on the Civic Center grass.
Watching the parade come down seventeenth Street on large video screens, the gang went loopy upon listening to that some Avs gamers had been filling their Super Soakers with beer to spray onlookers. The crowd erupted once more, louder, when the Stanley Cup appeared on display for the primary time.
Among the revelers on the good garden had been Bruce and Carolyn Hohne. The couple left their residence close to St. Mary’s Glacier at 6:30 a.m. to get a great place.
“It’s not like they have a parade like this every year,” mentioned Bruce Hohne, 67.
Wearing a Makar jersey, Carolyn Hohne, 59, mentioned the spotlight of the postseason run for her was the Avs defeating the St. Louis Blues within the second spherical and breaking their curse. The staff misplaced within the second spherical of the playoffs three years in a row earlier than 2022.
Asked what she would bear in mind most concerning the 2021-2022 Avs, Hohne supplied one phrase: velocity
“These guys can skate,” she mentioned.
Therese Pocrnick was sporting a Sakic jersey from the 2001 NHL All-Star Game (performed in Denver) as she walked to the park for the rally. Hockey is in her blood. She has a tattoo of her dad, Tony, in his hockey gear on her calf. He performed for DU in 1950, she mentioned.
There had been two explanation why Pocrnick needed to attend the Stanley Cup celebration. First, she mentioned, is that it feels just like the world is coming aside proper now and it’s nice to have fun one thing good. Reason No. 2 was to recollect her dad, who handed away within the late Nineteen Nineties.
“This is a way to keep him present,” she mentioned. “Alive in my memory, you know?”
The spotlight of the Avs’ season for Porcnick got here when Nazem Kadri scored a hat trick in St. Louis in Game 4 of that sequence. It got here after Kadri, who’s Muslim, obtained racist on-line threats after colliding with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington in Game 3.
Kadri was the final participant to take the microphone on the celebration.
“Guys, this is incredible,” he mentioned. “This is a dream come true and you guys are a part of it.”