On February 5th, I wrote about how nervous I was about the Stadium Series and my fictional “Priceless” MasterCard commercials being ruined by a potential 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the hometown Colorado Avalanche. I mean forking out $4,000 plus for game tickets, airfare, hotel, and transportation isn’t easy to swallow for any family of four. It’s a real crap shoot when your beloved team has three wins since the calendar turned from 2019 to 2020. If this were the late eighties, losing a game 8-5 wouldn’t be so bad. But traveling to Colorado Springs with the real possibility of scoring two or less goals and being taunted by 36,000 or more Avs fans in temperatures hovering around 27 degrees wasn’t the most appealing aspect of this family weekend.
As it turned out, my angst couldn’t have been more off base, thanks in large part to Tyler Toffoli and a vintage Jonathan Quick performance.
Before anything else, let me tell everyone the best decision I made: hiring roundtrip private transportation to take us to and from the game. By doing so, we survived the Stadium Series Trafficgate that plagued many who chose to drive themselves. According to the ESPN story, thousands of people “didn’t see large portions of the game, and many left before its conclusion.” I can confirm the traffic debacle because we sat in this traffic for 90 minutes or so after the game, without moving one inch, in the comfort of our chauffeured Escalade...
Game ended at 8:46 p.m. It’s nearly two hours later. pic.twitter.com/fiVfc9eNWU— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 16, 2020
...however, sitting in a sellout Falcon Stadium, the majority of people we saw leaving early was with 55 seconds left in the third period when Toffoli netted the second of his three goals to make it 2-1. Obviously none of the Colorado fans did any homework on the Kings’ penchant for giving up goals in the final minute of periods, despite having seen it with their own eyes just 20 game minutes prior. (More on the Avalanche fans in a moment.)
Maybe the second greatest thing about the game was the luck of the draw we had with the tickets we bought all the way back on October 7th. Sitting in L-11, Row C, allowed us to see all four goals from a vantage point closer than almost anyone in the entire stadium. This was a very real look at how we saw the first Toffoli goal:
We sat in the middle of an literal Avalanche of Colorado fans. We were the only ones wearing black and white for two sections to our left and right and a dozen or so rows behind us. Our celebrations consisted of turning around and scanning for Kings fans higher up in our section. Virtual high fives and eye contact united the LA faithful. We were the few and the proud. It was glorious and delicious.
We walked into the stadium and there was already a buzz from the Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame Fan Festival. And why wouldn’t there be? The lineup of activities, which was free and open to the public, was something special.
Fans were able to test their mettle against Martin Frk’s 109.2 mph shot at the GEICO Speed Shot Challenge or get their photo taken in the locker room photo op complete with authentic Stadium Series gear. There was the Honda hockey skills challenge and MGM Resorts hosting tailgating experiences. The iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and Planters NUTmobile were in attendance. The Navy Federal Credit Union Puck Wall art piece and video booths allowed everyone to film their own Stick Tap. Upper Deck had a cache of professional photographers there to help you get your best side on your very own hockey card. Even the Stanley Cup was there for four hours all shiny and ready for its close-up with fans. Like I said, something very special was brewing before the game.
The Stadium Series capitalized on its Air Force partnership in spades. The aerial demonstration from the Air Force Academy’s 94th Flying Training Squadron and the flyover from four F-35s Lightening II’s from Arizona’s 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force, left us with goosebumps and chills we won’t soon forget. Then when hundreds of Air Force Academy cadets settled in behind the home goal, we were all warm and fuzzy.
We sensed that the once friendly crowd was the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing when Avs Nation was audibly aghast at the Bearded King and Daryl Evans and then not-so-quietly wondered who the guy was in that suit despite our collective protests.
Something palpably changed right around the time the first period ended with the Kings up 1-0 despite being outshot 16-7 by the home team: the Colorado fans tensed up much like a Ducks fan would in a game seven. They started getting nervous and searching for shade to throw at the Kings. They started on the helmets.
How can you take yourself seriously if you call the greatest helmets of all time, aka the Kings chrome lids, inferior to your Captain America sticker jobs? I guess it’s true that fans are blind. But when they started calling Quick “lucky” and saying the Kings should have spent less time playing soccer and more time working on their puck skills, it was quite funny.
But then Colorado got mean right after the Kings gave up their patented last-minute-of-the-period goal when they couldn’t clear the puck. Not only did they boo the Air Force service member on the Jumbotron when he said he was from Los Angeles pulling for the Kings, but then they wondered loudly if the the Kings would ever make the playoffs and belittling our Stanley Cups. This from a franchise that hasn’t won a Cup since 2001. That’s 19 years if you’re scoring at home.
By the time Toffoli tallied his second goal, the Avs fans couldn’t escape the Stadium Series fast enough. On their way past celebrating Kings fans, some of them started screaming irrationally that the Kings were just playing for a draft pick. Spoiler alert uninformed Colorado fans: we already know that. We’ve embraced that fact. We are good with it. No need to scream profanities when visiting fans are outnumbered 9-to-1. An impromptu “Go Kings Go” chant wound up being the perfect remedy these jokers. Like I always say, if you can’t say something nice, say something clever by devastating. The positivity of a last place fan base was obviously devastating to those from Colorado. They whimpered away to grumble about the parking.
Later, I took to the Net to see if the Colorado fans at large were just as whiny as their brothers and sisters inside the Falcon Stadium. Lo and behold I was correct. They were. Before you look at the comments in this thread, look at the team headline for this game. “Not a full effort”? You have to be kidding me. Colorado outplayed the Kings for giant stretches of the game. At one point they were outshooting the Kings 26-12 and even when the Kings won a face-off, the Avs took control of the puck. There were giant stretches of the game where Quick was the only player concerned with keeping the puck out of the net. If not for Toffoli, the Avs would have taken this one 1-0 (or 2-0 with an empty netter). So please, Colorado, quit crying in your beer.
Once again, thank you Quickie for making those Avs fans cry a little Saturday night. Your game was priceless.
So, despite Avs fans joining Ducks and Sharks supporters in my collection of the worst fans in all of the NHL, nothing could ruin the amazing memories this game produced for my clan. This one will sit in the Pantheon of experiences that will be the touchstone of all sports endeavors.
On Saturday, if only for a few hours, it was wonderful to wear the crown again.