Pepsi Center - Denver, Colorado
The countdown to hockey season has begun. There is a faint chill in the air hinting that fall is on its way, and that can only mean one thing. The first drop of a puck at Pepsi Center is just around the corner.
There are a lot of things that make the Avalanche experience unique. As we anticipate hockey returning to Denver, here are the things I look forward to the most—and the least—in attending games in this season.
Avalanche center Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene is one of the up and coming young stars in the NHL.
His has shown steady growth and improvement since his 2009 rookie season. With healthy teammates surrounding him, Duchene seems poised to have a breakout year.
He scored 67 points last year with line mates that changed every other game. An 80 or 90 point season could be very attainable if he is flanked by the likes of Peter Mueller and Gabriel Landeskog for the majority of the year.
Matt Duchene will be a player to watch this year—and hopefully we'll see some fireworks.
What is the point of a mascot? It's a representation of the team spirit that inspires fans, taunts the opposition, and can pump up a crowd at a moment's notice.
Now let's review—the Avalanche had a snarling, abominable snowman whose footprint marked every team jersey and was one of the most recognizable sports figures in Denver.
We gave up this icon, seemingly the epitome of the spirit of the Avalanche, for...a drooling St. Bernard named Bernie?
This has to be one of the worst decisions of all time by the Avalanche marketing crew. I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that when I saw Howler, I said "that feels like the Avs."
When I see the big pup running around handing out Chipotle bucks or receive the 49th daily Avalanche tweet including a photo of Bernie "planking," I just get angry.
A team playing terribly makes fans angry enough—a mascot shouldn't add to that.
Some of you might throw stones at me for this, but the dancing ice crew at Avalanche home games has to be one of the best ideas the Avs marketing lab rats have had to date.
(No, it isn't even close to enough to make up for Bernie).
If you haven't seen it, the TV time outs can get spicy at Pepsi Center.
It turns out that the trash can and shovel wielding ice cleaners can do far more than clean away the sludge in the crease—they can perform a choreographed dance to a Kanye West tune at the same time.
Nobody on the crew is about to leave their ice scraping duties to back up Beyonce, but let's be honest—they're not half bad.
Avs writer Austin Snow touched on this in his "7 Things Needed to Update the Pepsi Center" piece, but I just have to reiterate it.
The decade old black and white scoreboard above center ice has to go.
It seems the Dallas Cowboys usually have a jumbo-tron that wouldn't even fit inside the Pepsi Center. Is it too much to ask for a little color?
Hey, Josh Kroenke—if you're going to force the team to hug the salary cap floor, can you at least buy us a nice TV?
If you attend games at other arenas around the league, you quickly realize that the Avs have one of the best in-game announcers in the country.
"Roach" has a voice that is equally unique and legendary in Denver—he also currently announces for the Denver Broncos and has done work for the Colorado Rockies and Denver Nuggets in the past.
How many other sporting events do you attend where fans get excited to hear the announcer say the name of a player after they score?
The way he said "Jooooooe Sa-kic!" after the longtime Avs captain contributed to the scoreboard is forever engrained in my memory. The announcement of the goal creates almost as much buzz as the actual goal being scored.
We are blessed to have a guy who has announced for the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the Stanley Cup Finals as the regular voice of the Avalanche. Here's hoping we hear a lot of this phrase this year: "Aaaaaaaaaavalanche goal scored by number 9—Matt Duuuuuuuchene!"
Watching Matt Hunwick last season was painful.
He single handedly thwarted more Avs offensive chances and coughed up the puck in the defensive zone more times than anyone can count.
The struggling defenseman finished the year with a dismal minus-19 rating.
Worse yet is that the Avalanche gave up a stellar prospect in Colby Cohen to get Hunwick, who they re-signed to a one-year contract during this past off-season.
This means Avs fans get to cringe every time Hunwick gets a hold of the puck in an Avalanche uniform for one more season. And we'll hate it even more as we watch Colby Cohen develop into a standout player for the Bruins.
That doesn't sound like winning to me.
Opening night promises to be something special.
The Avalanche will retire the legendary Peter Forsberg's jersey number in a ceremony to begin the regular season on October 8 at Pepsi Center.
Even more fitting is the Avs' opponent that night—the Detroit Red Wings.
Fans will be treated to a throwback to the Avalanche glory days in Forsberg's ceremony.
Hopefully this young Avalanche team can take some inspiration from that and give the masses something to cheer about in Denver again. And a win against the Wings always helps that cause.
What are you looking forward to this season? What are you dreading? Start a conversation using the comment button below!
Hopefully the Avalanche can put something together this year, bring some excitement back to The Can, and get the crowd in Denver rocking again. Bring on October.