by Grant Harmacek
Rivalries were rekindled Friday night as the NHL Alumni Game (part of the Stadium Series) was played between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings. Saturday night saw the current teams playing to keep pace in the playoff race, however, the rivalry has become a shell of itself following the conference realignment several years ago. With teams like Minnesota and St Louis spoiling playoff hopes and poaching players from Colorado, the Detroit Red Wings are almost an after thought, competing in a far off conference in the east.
Despite the lack of spice between the two teams in recent history, nostalgia is powerful and the fierce competition of the mid 90’s is still legendary in all annals of sports. The two teams won 5 Stanley Cup Championships in a seven-year span between 1996-2002 and the blood, goalie fights, overtime wins and playoff implications are still often discussed and relived by both fan bases.
This all time rivalry was brought back to the forefront of hockey consciousness with the alumni game Friday night. The anticipated event brought back notable names from both teams as part of the lead up to the main tilt Saturday night.
For an exhibition game the house was packed: 43,319 fans made it out for the 5pm start time. The energy was live and Coors Field looked incredible. Without a doubt one of the best stadiums in baseball, the view looking out over the stadium with the majestic Rocky Mountains in the background as the sun sinks behind them is an awe-inspiring sight to witness.
#SummerClassic With daytime temperatures around 72 degrees it felt like anything but winter.
The actual on ice game-play was lighthearted but talented. It was certainly a slower pace and the shift changes were sloppy, but the skating was fluid and the old timers were able to link some passes together. Both teams showed class and respect with clean play and only a couple of minor penalties towards the end.
The rooftop was packed and the massive crowd was treated to fireworks and goals from the headliners: Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan scored goals for the Wings, and Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, and Ray Borque were among the scorers for the Avalanche. Inspired goal tending in the late stages by Craig Billington sealed the win for the hometown Avalanche.
Proper homage was paid to an inspiring sports story as Lower Downtown Denver flashed back and looked ahead on some world-class hockey in a spectacular venue.