Free For All
The Soapbox: Pepsi Center Memories Always Sweet
I’d like to introduce to you Reagan Smith, a junior at Arizona State who is studying media/journalism at the Cronkite School as part of the curriculum. He was on a recent podcast with me. His parents live in Denver and he’s a big Avs fan.
Here is his first submission for Colorado Hockey Now, about what coming home and seeing the Avs means to him:
By Reagan Smith
Reaffirming My Vows with Hockey
It doesn’t take all that much to get me excited. Sometimes it’s as easy as hearing that a band that I enjoy is going to be releasing a brand new track. Other times, it can be as simple as constructing a sentence in my Japanese class without stuttering. However, there are very few things in this life that get me more excited than the experience of going to that first Colorado Avalanche home game, each season. Well, maybe playoff hockey, but I digress.
For me, going to that very first home game each year isn’t just another game in a season. It’s a pilgrimage.
It’s a trek that generally begins at Lincoln Station in Lone Tree (Saturday night, I had driven).
On the light rail, you never know what one will experience. Sometimes it’s a quiet, relaxed experience with business folks dressed in their button-ups and sports coats. Other times, the light rail can be just about as crazy as the Pepsi Center. Fans decked out in every Avs sweater one could imagine, dyed hair, and even face paint.
Those are the best rides, as they really do open your eyes as to just how many different types of people come out to cheer on the Avs.
Once inside of the Grand Atrium, I’m met with my first Pepsi Center ushers for the evening. All of whom, in my experience (nearly 40 games the last four seasons), have always been super helpful and incredibly welcoming.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s those subtleties that help cement my game day experience.
Saturday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks was the first time I had entered Pepsi Center since last year’s Second Round—Game Six overtime victory against the San Jose Sharks.
This was my yearly pilgrimage to the holy house of Colorado hockey.
It’s a bit weird, but that first home game just has a different atmosphere. A lot of it is spent reflecting on what made me fall in love with the sport to begin with. The sights, the sounds, the countless memories; All of it came rushing back on the escalators up to the 300s level.
Flashback, Nov. 29, 2014: I remember my father and I were lounging around the house, bored out of our minds. Of course, being new to the state, we were curious at just what events happen around the city. It just so happened that on this date, the Avalanche were playing. The move to Colorado was the first time I had ever left the midwestern United States, so I barely knew what hockey was, let alone ever seen a game in my life. But, it was a chance to see live sports, so we took the drive out to Denver.
I vividly remember being greeted with the arena’s smells going up the escalators, simultaneously being intimidated by the fact we had no idea where we were going. Compiled all with the nervousness of seeing a brand-new sport. I remember being absolutely thrown off guard when the KPH-130 goal horn’s guttural billow ripped through the arena on Daniel Brière’s bad-angle shot from the corner.
I think it was in that moment that I fell in love with the sport. There was always such a buildup with no guarantee of payoff at the end. So when the puck did finally cross the line, it was just an explosion of pent up anticipation. That adrenaline rush was something worth sticking around for. It also helps when Cody McLeod wiped the floor with Antoine Roussel while Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” played over the PA. The emotion of everything just had me hooked.
Flash forward five years and a day later, and that nervousness was still just as real. This time, though it stems from being a part of the fan base, not from being introduced. What are the implications of this game going down the road? Is Mikko Rantanen really healthy enough to return? The goals though are still just as sweet. A bit less, terrifying, I might add. Obviously, it goes without saying, but each game is an opportunity for the unexpected to happen. Never before Saturday had I witnessed the Avs put up seven goals on a team, or even put up three goals in the span of five minutes. That’s what makes the spectacle of hockey so great. Anything that can happen, will probably happen at some point. Hell, I still have never seen a hat trick in person.
When you’re a hockey fan, that arena is hallowed ground. And with every first pilgrimage of a new season, you are reaffirming and reconnecting with what makes the sport what it is. That feeling will never grow old.