Dater/editor’s note: This is a fun story for me to be able to post, as it comes from a buddy of mine from New Hampshire named Pat Salvas.
Pat was the sports information director for years at Dartmouth College. I lived for several years as a kid in Hanover, N.H., where Dartmouth is located. My stepfather, Michael Ladam, graduated from Dartmouth with a computer sciences degree in…1972 I believe. One of his computer class professors was a man named John Kemeny, who is credited with helping write the first BASIC computer language. Kemeny also was a friend and co-worker with some guy named Albert Einstein. He was Einstein’s “mathematical assistant”, which I suppose would be akin to something like “Jimi Hendrix’s guitar tech.”
I went to every single Dartmouth hockey game from roughly 1975 to 1977, pounding on the glass from my front-row, general admission seat. I wrote about that experience of mine here.
Pat Salvas worked as the Dartmouth SID for many years later, and was particularly attuned to the Big Green hockey team. He somehow became just a massive Avs fan in the years before that, in particular a fan of Joe Sakic. Pat, for years, always left a press box seat available to Sakic, if he cared to see a Big Green hockey game.
It became something of a “thing” at one point, and I wrote about it here.
Pat works at a nice school in N.H. now named Bishop-Guertin. He came out to my house the other night, having flown from back east on last-minute notice, because he didn’t want to miss out on this parade. As he writes in the following piece: he just wanted to really experience what it was like to be around “my people” for the first time in a big setting in Denver.
Here is Pat’s story:
By Pat Salvas, for Colorado Hockey Now
It’s what I heard over and over on the Monday morning of June 27 as I came into work half asleep at 7:45 a.m.
The fatigue was hardly new. I have two little ones, so I’m usually tired… like all the time. What was new was the heightened level of cheerfulness people were showing toward me and the congratulations showered on me as I walked the hallway to my office.
It’s because I’m the only Avalanche fan at my job. Hell, I’m probably the only Avalanche fan any of my co-workers and friends know. That’s because I live in southern New Hampshire. Only north of Boston by just about 50 minutes, it’s an area where the local sports teams dominate the landscape and the fandoms of everyone.
But not me.
My team since I was a little kid has been the Colorado Avalanche. Well, back that up a bit. I was. Nordiques fan. My dad’s family is from Quebec and in a weird sense of ancestral pride, I gravitated to the Nords.
How could you not? Those colors! Those jerseys! The Colisée was so cool! Joe Sakic! But as a kid in New Hampshire in the early 1990s without ESPN+ or streaming services (some of questionable legality these days), I was only able to watch when Quebec played nationally on ESPN (unlikely) or against the Bruins on WSBK. The latter of which meant I at least got to hear Sakic, Steve Finn, Adam Foote and Stephane Fiset’s names called by legendary Boston announcer Fred Cusick. Some of my favorite memories of a kid were getting to watch the Fleu-de-lis finally appear on my parents’ old kitchen television, relegated to sitting at the counter because the living room TV was in use.
That was my first real taste of being banished to a space by myself as the result of my team. I’ve been on an island ever since.
That was until this week.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Game 6’s third period and the members of the 2021-22 Colorado Avalanche poured over the boards, littering the ice with all their equipment as they piled up behind Darcy Kuemper’s net, my phone started to buzz… and it didn’t stop for almost an hour.
“I’m so happy for you!”
“Congratulations. They deserved that championship. See you in the Final again next year!” (A classy gesture from my Lightning fan friend who agreed to my terms of no texting during the series so as not to say something we didn’t really mean in the heat of the moment.)
The texts were too much, and I still haven’t responded to most of them. Nearly 75 different names in all.
My wife said to me the next day, “These people do understand that you’re not actually on the team, right?”
This coming from the woman who agreed to name our first born after an Avalanche player. We found out we were having a boy and I slid the 2001 roster across the dinner table one night. A more than suitable list of boys names to choose from. We went with Blake. It was the trade that put us over the top that spring after all.
This was also the woman who has been with me for 13 years and who watched me build a backyard rink “for our son” and lost me for hours at a time as I painted it Avalanche colors, adorned it with every logo in franchise history (put on the boards in chronological order of course), hang all of the retired numbers and Stanley Cup banners and build a center-hung scoreboard light made to look like the old Pepsi Center scoreboard complete with Game 7’s final score.
She has also watched me crippled by the 2014 Game 7 OT. The shock of losing the 2017 Draft Lottery (THREE TIMES!). The horrifying final minutes of the Game 7 against Dallas in the Edmonton Bubble. She saw the 2019 offside call in San Jose and last year’s gut-wrenching slow collapse against Vegas. And the entire 2016-17 season.
I’m not on the team. I understand that. But she knows that the team is part of me.
I’ve been alone on that aforementioned island with those moments the last few years. That’s why Monday morning when I finally sat down in my office after probably just 90 minutes of sleep the night before, I looked at my phone to see a text that read “Let me know what flights you book so I can make sure we have coverage for the kids.”
She gets it. She understood I needed to go. I didn’t have to ask. I had to be in Denver this week. After 21 years of being on an island, I needed to be with people who felt the same way I did. And so, Wednesday morning I boarded the first of my two flights to go to Denver.
I’m a 37-year-old man. A father of two with a very understanding wife. And here I was flying across the country to go to a parade. No regrets.
I booked a hotel on 17th Street so I would be right on the route. On Wednesday afternoon, I walked around and figured out how I would get from my spot on the parade route to City Hall for the rally.
“I didn’t fly out here to sit in my hotel room.” I said to myself a few times.
I went to the Rockies game to see Gabe and the boys throw out the first pitch. I told my wife in a text that I was “Cup huntin’.” (I also needed to find Dinger because my daughter is weirdly obsessed with that purple dinosaur… she wanted a picture of daddy and Dinger. Check.)
Thursday morning. Parade Day. It was the first time in my life I felt like I was truly with my people. Everyone was so happy. A party of half a million people all as excited about the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup as I was. It wasn’t people happy for me because my team won. We were all happy because our team won.
No one congratulated me. Because we were in it together.
It was a foreign feeling for me as it relates to the Avalanche. It was incredible to meet so many people and hear their stories. I talked with a couple from Kansas. Another from Iowa. Another from Houston. A family from Grand Junction and a ton of people from the metro area.
During my 72 hours in Denver, I made two trips to Ball Arena and the pro shop, I visited Larimer Street to see the banners I see on TV and social media amongst other things. I had a short window to get in my fix. And I needed new ideas for next year’s rink!
I used to work in college athletics but transitioned to a new job last summer after 15 years. I had worked so many nights, weekends and countless hours on the road or in my office. This was the first time in a long I could dedicate myself to watching as many games as I could, a luxury I had previously not been afforded. This crazy new thing I had called “free time” and an ESPN+ account (which is incredible… for out-of-market fans like myself) allowed me the ability to go all in.
By the end of the season, I had watched all 102 games start to finish. With one exception: the game in Boston. It was bad. Down 5-1, I pulled the chute with five minutes left in the third period. Parking and traffic in Boston suck and it was time to go. The fanbase who had once been so nice to Avalanche fans in the decade following Ray Bourque’s memorable cup run had forgotten about our previous truce and mutual chivalry. I was once again the enemy and they gave it to me that Monday afternoon. I don’t blame them. Looking back, that had to be the worst game in an otherwise incredible season.
There I was in the rafters of TD Garden. Getting crushed by a sea of Tommys, Mattys and Donnys. Alone on an island.
So Denver: Thank you for having me. I had a blast. You’re a great city. You’re a great community. You’re truly a great hockey town.
I have to go back to my island now. But I do so with incredible memories and about $700 in merchandise that I’m going to flaunt for as long as I can. I know no one else will have it, either.
Go Avs Go!