Posted by: Katie Martinez | January 23, 2011

Confessions of a Bandwagon Fan

My brothers played football. My dad played football. As did his father, and his father’s father before him.

Ok, so that’s not true…except the part about my dad and my brothers. They did play. I grew up in a football household. I can remember watching CU/Nebraska games when I was too young to spell “rivalry.” I watched John Elway go from troubled rookie to Denver Football God. While I knew other sports existed and even attempted to play a few of them, football had my heart.

In 1995 a new team came to Denver. They changed their name from the Quebec Nordiques (where is Quebec, anyway? And how do you pronounce it?) to the Colorado Avalanche, and the bell of fate tolled. I began to hear unpronounceable names of players who, I came to discover, were every bit as skilled as football players, with one notable exception: they played on ice and strapped blades to the bottoms of their feet.

Awesome.

This brand new team gave Denver its first championship in the spring of 1996, and a bandwagon hockey fan was born. She wasn’t the most knowledgeable, or the loudest. She didn’t get to go to the Cup parade to see a young Joe Sakic hoist the Cup in his jersey and shorts (her parents wouldn’t let her take the car downtown).  But she paid attention to the players with the strange names, especially the cute ones, with more passion than she ever followed football. Her entire opinion of the club was based on who the attractive players were, since all she knew of the game was that the goal seemed to be to get that frozen piece of rubber into the net, and hit as many people as you can on your way to said net.

In short, she was a little embarrassing.

This girl (me, in case you haven’t seen through my thin disguise as yet) followed the “hot hockey boys” casually over the next 7 years. She based all of her opinions about teams and players on looks, with a gradual metamorphosis into favoring those with the talent to score goals or make big hits. She went to her second Avs game in the fall of 2003. Not only did they flash the face of Marek Svatos (yum) on the Jumbotron, but the team was hyptnotic. The speed, grace, and violence of the skaters, combined with the beauty of the game, completely won her over. She started to actually watch games on her own, paying special attention to Svatos’ play, and went to as many games as she could.

In 2005, our bandwagon fan began teaching at a high school with a hockey team. Not only did the school have a team, but hosted many transplants who played AAA Midget Major hockey. By talking to these players, watching hockey with knowledgeable people (players, ex-players, and parents of players), the love of the game took root and began to grow. A few years later she bought season tickets for the Avalanche and never looked back.

I am a success story. I began as a bandwagon fan only interested in these tough-yet-graceful macho men who flew on the ice and looked like models off of it. But given time and the input of actual fans, I developed a true appreciation of the game with an insatiable curiosity about the sport and those who play it.

Long time, loyal fans are always quick to badmouth bandwagon fans. Bandwagoners talk about the team with the same passion and “knowledge” as loyal fans, but have only been following the team since its latest series of wins (or a big championship win).  Loyal fans retort with muted guffaws and eye rolls and perhaps a brief rambling speech full of statistics. If all else fails, they will throw in a “yeah but I was there for The Worst Game Ever, so my opinion counts more than yours.” Female fans shake their heads in disbelief at the young girls who hold up “Marry Me, Matt Duchene” posters at practices and act jealous of every other woman who gets his signature afterward. These new, often somewhat clueless fans certainly say some crazy things and perhaps support the sport/players for less-than-pure reasons. But guess what? They’re still talking about hockey. They’re still supporting the Avalanche.

This is why I will never think badly of the bandwagon fans that show up at the Pepsi Center annually after the newest Peter Forsberg Return rumors. Young girls are in love with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly? Awesome. Sell them a ticket or twelve. Better the Avs than Justin Bieber. (Besides, who isn’t just a little in love with those two?) The boys on the ice can’t distinguish between the cheers of the bandwagon fans and those of the loyal fans. The money spent by the two groups on merchandise and tickets certainly doesn’t look any different. Since the media will follow the attention of the masses, the team needs masses to show up at every game. “Loyal” fans alone aren’t getting it done. Quite frankly, the Avs need some bandwagon fans to show up. Not everyone will be convinced by the game itself. Some people need to be enticed into following the sport. Hopefully the majority of these bandwagoners will stick around long enough to become true fans of the sport and will support the team through thick and thin. In fact, this has to happen if the Avalanche are to earn the respect and place in Colorado sports that they deserve.

But seriously, girls: if you’re gonna make signs, at least be creative enough to make this ex-bandwagoner laugh. It’s harder to mock you through laughter.

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 31, 2010

New Year’s Eve Without Oxygen

As my parents used to tell me when I was younger and whining about studying history, “the only way to create success in the future is to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of the past.” Or maybe it was “because I said so”? I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.

Anyway, just as we all personally examine 2010 and look ahead to 2011, hopefully our Denver sports teams are doing the same. This is just a peek into the triumphs and disappointments I hope they learn from, and what I hope their goals are for 2011.

Colorado Avalanche

Triumphs:

  • Trades were overwhelmingly positive for the Avs this calendar year. Wojtek Wolski was sent to Phoenix for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter. Scott Hannan was sent to Washington for Tomas Fleischmann. Michael Bournival was sent to Montreal for Ryan O’Byrne. Somewhat less clear-cut were the T.J. Hensick for Julian Talbot, and Colby Cohen for Matt Hunwick deals. Regardless, the Avs did a good job of trading up this year.
  • They found a personality! Matt Duchene, once he got his offensive game going, also got a celebratory dance (with teammate Paul Stasny) and a Twitter account going. This kid is turning into an exciting play-his-heart-out leader on this young team.
  • They figured out how to score. Last season (including the beginning of 2010) they had to rely on the brilliance of Craig Anderson to keep them in games. This season they have become the best 5 on 5 scoring team and have multiple lines that can score regularly.
  • Depth. Injuries are always an issue in hockey, and the Avs have had what seems like more than their fair share. During the 2010-11 season (so far), they have been able to stay competitive in spite of having up to 10 starters injured at a time.
  • John Michael Liles finally stepped up. He’s always been a pretty solid player, but this season he’s really come into his own. He plays tough every night, seems faster than ever, has had a solid offensive start, and even remembers to play defense occasionally. Oh, and after getting hit in the face with a puck he came back to finish out the game against the Oilers on December 30. Beast.

Disappointments:

  • The early exit from the 2009-10 playoffs. The Avs truly displayed their need for offense during the series against the Sharks. Luckily they seem to have taken this lesson to heart already.
  • Craig Anderson’s return to mortality. Last season he was truly fantastic. This season in between injuries he has been, well, less fantastic. Luckily Budaj has stepped up and been an incredibly solid backup; sometimes more solid than Anderson.
  • Playing 2-20 minutes of a 60-minute game. Some of this may be due to immaturity, but regardless of the reason the boys need to learn to put in a whole game.

Personal highlight of the year: Watching Craig Anderson 3 rows from the ice during the third playoff game against the Sharks on Sunday April 18, 2010. I don’t remember exactly how, but I ended up with upgraded seats for this game. I went with a somewhat excitable friend who knew more about cheering than hockey. And our seats were so close to Anderson I could’ve reached out and touched him. The Pepsi Center was absolutely rocking as he turned away all 51 shots. Luckily Dan Boyle redirected one of the Avs’ 17 shots into his own net, and the Avs won 1-0. While it wasn’t the Avs best game of the calendar year, it was certainly the most exciting experience for me.

Goals for 2011: Finish games, get healthy, have fun, and remember that winning is one of the best marketing tactics. Oh, and play up the Bang Bang dance every chance you get. It builds the kind of excitement that will sell tickets.

Denver Broncos

Triumphs:

  • Tim Tebow. The kid is a winner with a crazy work ethic and a heart big enough for an entire team. His capacity for leadership is unquestionable. I honestly cannot wait to see what he is capable of.
  • Firing Coach McDaniels. The guy wreaked havoc on the core of a decent team. He may one day be ready for a head coaching position, but he certainly is not ready now. Nor was he ready two years ago, when the Broncos hired him. Ah, hindsight.
  • The at-home, come-from-behind win against the Houston Texans. This game gave fans a glimmer of hope after a season full of gut-wrenching disappointment as well as providing a glimpse into exactly what Tim Tebow brings to the table.

Disappointments:

  • The loss of Peyton Hillis. Yeah, we miss that kid.
  • The running game.
  • The defense.
  • The play calling.
  • The growing rap sheet of four of the Broncos’ players.

Personal highlight of the year: Seeing/hearing Tim Tebow during the game against the Texans. NFL films mic’d him for this game, showing Denver fans why Kyle Orton (in spite of his very solid performance this year) is not the future of the Broncos. See it here. Also there’s a trailer for the ESPN documentary about Tebow here. Kid’s gonna be a star. Er, more of a star.

Goals for 2011: Draft well, continue to train the starting quarterback, make a few decent trades, hire an actual GM who has control of personnel decisions, and hire an excellent head coach. Oh, and for the love of all things holy, STOP GETTING ARRESTED.

Colorado Rockies

Triumphs:

  • The pitching of Ubaldo Jimenez, especially the no-hitter he threw against the Atlanta Braves on April 18. His pitching was a bit erratic over the season, but he finished with a record of 19-8 and a 2.88 ERA. Unfortunately the Rockies’ bats fell somewhat quiet toward the end of the season and Jimenez was unable to get the elusive 20th win.
  • The bat of Carlos Gonzalez. This kid absolutely exploded this season, silencing any remaining doubts about the Holliday trade. (The Rockies also got closer Huston Street in the deal.) He hit 34 home runs, 117 RBIs, had 197 hits and a .336 batting average.
  • The signing of Troy Tulowitzki through 2020. Oh, and he gets about $134 million, which is actually a little less than he might have gotten elsewhere. To explain the hometown discount, Tulo said “I want to give fans someone they can fall in love with for the long haul, not a guy that’s going to be gone in a couple of years.” With this statement, he bought himself a permanent spot in the hearts of Denver sports fans…right next to John Elway. Troy Renck wrote a great story about the new contract for the Denver Post that included the quote above, so please go read it here.
  • Awards galore! CarGo and Tulo both won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards for the 2010 season.

Disappointments:

  • Inconsistent play. Even though they finished above 500 for the third season in a row, they also missed the playoffs by losing 13 of their final 14 games. Most of their struggles could be attributed to injuries as well as a lack of offense on the road…an ongoing problem for this team.
  • Pitching. While Jimenez was largely brilliant, he wasn’t always. Toward the end of the season he actually wasn’t all that great. Neither were any of the other pitchers. Yes, they were bit by the injury bug, but the Rockies were unable to find a dependable rotation that could keep them in a position to win on a daily basis.

Personal highlight of the year: Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter, the first in franchise history as well as the first in the “season of the pitcher”. This was a great game for a great player and it truly couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Goals for 2011: Get more consistent production from the bullpen, consistent offense on the road that comes closer to matching what happens at home, figure out how to keep CarGo around in spite of his agent, and continue to show Denver that not all athletes have to party and spend a night in jail.

Denver Nuggets

Triumphs:

  • Coach George Karl’s 1,000th win. This is an accomplishment in any sport; just coaching enough games to rack up 1,000 wins is impressive. Congratulations to a deserving man.
  • Arron Afflalo. This kid has played very well for the Nuggets. He currently leads the team in minutes played per game and three-point percentage. He also has excellent field goal and free throw percentages. The play of Afflalo can give fans hope for life following the Melo-ocalypse.

Disappointments:

  • Not making it past the first round of the 2009-10 playoffs. Again.
  • Dropping attendance. For a number of possible reasons (including the economy, of course) people are electing to watch the games from home. In the past month attendance at the Pepsi Center has been better for the Avs games than the Nuggets.
  • The uncertainty surrounding Carmelo Anthony. The rumor is he wants to be traded, but is picky about which team gets him. He is still playing for the Nuggets, but no one knows exactly when this will change. It’s starting to feel a bit like a game of “Pass the Bomb.” Everyone is going on as if nothing will ever be different, all the while knowing the bomb will go off at any moment.

Personal highlight of the year: Coach Karl’s 1,000th win, an incredible milestone.

Goals for 2011: Get rid of Melo in the most beneficial way possible, begin to assemble a truly competitive team, get people to come to the games, and win. A lot.

Colorado Rapids

Triumphs:

  • Well, they were the only Colorado team to win a championship in 2010. Woohoo!

Disappointments:

  • Attendance is an issue. They averaged 13,328 at home and 16,870 away. While this was an improvement over last season, it is still 5th lowest in the league.

Personal highlight of the year: Wining the MLS cup, of course.

Goals for 2011: Find a way to increase their appeal in a city already owned by the Denver Broncos. In spite of a huge youth soccer movement (I’ve seen my niece play countless times, there are a TON of little kids playing soccer in this state) this has not translated into city- or state-wide excitement for this team. If winning a cup didn’t do it I’m not sure what will, but…it would still be good if they could manage it. Obviously they’re a good club. It’s a shame more sports fans in Colorado don’t go to their games…or know when the season starts…

Colorado Mammoth

Triumphs:

  • All their games this season will be broadcast on the Altitude networks. Hopefully this will increase their exposure.
  • Ticket prices! For $5 you can see a Mammoth game from a seat you would pay $36 for at an Avalanche game. You can sit mid-field, lower level for $45.
  • Average attendance was 15,037, second in the league. Even though this represented an 8.7% decrease from the 2009 season, it was still significant that so many people showed up to see what was, admittedly, a less-than-stellar product. (For comparison, the Avs averaged 13,948 per game over the same season.)

Disappointments:

  • Last season was not exactly stellar for the Mammoth. Their record for the regular season was 4-12, they finished last in their division, and it goes without saying they did not qualify for the playoffs.

Personal highlight of the year: I don’t have one. Sadly I didn’t make it to a game last season. The last game I went to, however, was an incredible experience. They do a great job of entertaining the crowd. I’m hoping to make it back to a game this season.

Goals for 2011: Figure out how to win. Obviously Denver is already going to see the team, and if they start to win the excitement of lacrosse plus cheap tickets will only increase their appeal.

Denver Outlaws.

Triumphs:

  • They actually made the playoffs! They lost in the first round, but had a record of 8-4 on the regular season.
  • They play at Invesco Field at Mile High. They share the same hollowed ground as the Broncos, and some of the notoriety passes along to the outdoor lacrosse team.
  • They play during the summer. This means they do not compete with the Broncos, Avs, Nuggets, or Mammoth. Basically the only other thing going on is baseball.

Disappointments:

  • They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Long Island Lizards.

Personal highlight of the year: I watched part of the playoff game, and remembered how much fun men’s lacrosse is.

Goals for 2011: Get the attention of sports fans during the summer. Even though there’s not much else going on, the Rockies are a beloved team and baseball is synonymous with summer. The Mammoth’s attendance record proves that Denver is somewhat knowledgeable about lacrosse, so there’s no reason the Outlaws shouldn’t get good press. They just need to figure out how to make a splash.

There you have it, sports fans. Some marvelous moments happened for Colorado sports fans in 2010. Here’s hoping 2011 brings more success and magic than any of us have any right to expect.
Cheers.

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 27, 2010

Football Without Oxygen: The Year 2010 in Review

This has been a pretty big year for the Mile High boys in orange and blue. Unfortunately a lot of the highlights have really been lowlights…but for better or worse, Broncos fans, here we go:
  • January 3: The Broncos play their last game of the 2009-2010 season, a 44-24 loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. After a spectacular 6-0 start, the Broncos finished 8-8 on the season and missed the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. And this was the BEGINNING of the year.
  • February 6: Former Bronco running back Floyd Little elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This honor was well-deserved, and a bright spot in the Bronco’s year. Too bad it came from an EX-Bronco.
  • March 11: Willie Clark is found guilty of the 2007 murder of 24-year-old cornerback Darrent Williams. One of the witnesses in the trial was teammate Brandon Marshall.
  • March 14: Broncos send fullback Peyton Hillis to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn. As of December 27, 2010, Quinn has yet to take a snap for the Broncos. Peyton Hillis has scored 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, 2 receiving). Solid trade.
  • April 14: Broncos trade wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Miami in exchange for second-round draft picks in both the 2010 and 2011 NFL drafts. In spite of Marshall’s talents, his attitude and off-field antics made this trade a not entirely frowned upon event. (I for one was perfectly happy to wave goodbye.)
  • April 22-24: Broncos have an interesting draft, with the most controversial pick being quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round (25th overall). Another interesting pick was cornerback Perrish Cox, who was to make his biggest splash about 7.5 months later.
  • September 14: Broncos trade an “undisclosed 2011 NFL draft pick” to the New England Patriots for running back Laurence Maroney. As of December 27 he has carried the ball 36 times for 74 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 fumble. Oh, and he hasn’t touched the ball since week 6. Awesome. I wonder which pick the Broncos traded for this guy…
  • September 19: Broncos beat visiting Seattle Seahawks 31-14 after a close opening week loss to the jaguars. Optimism in Broncos Nation cautiously rises.
  • September 20: Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead of an apparent suicide. The young player had been placed on IR with a knee injury suffered in the 2009-10 season.
  • September 26: Broncos lose at home 27-13 to the Indianapolis Colts. While this was not necessarily surprising, it somewhat stifled the optimism resulting from the previous win.
  • October 3: Broncos are completely outplayed by a better Baltimore Ravens and lose 31-17. This has now happened two years in a row. Panic subtly sets in.
  • October 17: Broncos lose a close game at home to the New York Jets, 24-20. Fans are undecided if the close loss is a good sign, or if any loss is a bad one.
  • October 24 Part 1: Prior to the football game, injured linebacker Elvis Dumervil forgets his credentials and exchanges words with a parking lot attendant/security guard (I’m fuzzy on the details) who disallows his entrance into the players’ entrance to Invesco Field. No charges were filed.
  • October 24 Part 2: After the Raider Week fan buildup (the team itself generally dismissed the rivalry), the visiting Oakland Raiders kicked the Broncos teeth in, smiled, and then continued to punish the prostrate team. The final score was 59-14. Shots of the stadium during the fourth quarter displayed an emptier Invesco than I’ve ever seen during a game. Once strong men cried into their beers.
  • October 31: The Broncos travel to London to take on the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium. Perrish Cox stays home, having suffered an actual concussion during the beating the previous week. Oh, and the Broncos lost 24-16. Several people suggest Coach Josh McDaniels stay in London and perhaps coach the other type of football.
  • November 7: Bye week, in which even the Broncos manage not to lose to anyone.
  • November 9: Wesley Woodyard named the Broncos’ Walter Peyton Man of the Year for his hard work on the field and impressive charity contributions and work off the field. Kudos to one of the Broncos making a positive impact on his community.
  • November 12: Linebacker D.J. Williams arrested for a suspected DUI.
  • November 14: Broncos hand the visiting Chiefs their heads on a platter, winning 49-29 after a brilliant Kyle Orton performance and a pretty good Knowshon Moreno showing. Broncos Nation rejoices and believes all may not be lost.
  • November 16: Quarterback Kyle Orton named AFC Offensive Player of the Week (week 15). Orton had a passer rating of 131.5 against the Chiefs, completing 22/34 and passing for 296 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He wasn’t even sacked.
  • November 22: Broncos have a somewhat weaker showing against the San Diego Chargers, losing 35-14. Broncos Nation rides the rollercoaster of emotions again.
  • November 27: Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels are fined for the very frowned upon videotaping of the 49ers’ walk through in London prior to the train wreck of a game. McDaniels throws video director Steve Scarnecchia under the bus, stating he knew about the taping but did not watch the product. Broncos Nation generally feels that if the team is going to cheat, they should at least be competitive in the game against that opponent.
  • November 28: Broncos lose at home 36-33 to the St. Louis Rams. Their record is now 3-8.
  • December 5: Broncos travel to Arrowhead Stadium in hopes of again taking out their frustration on the Chiefs. They leave Kansas City with a 3-9 record.
  • December 6 Part 1: Head coach Josh McDaniels is relieved of his duties. While fans everywhere rejoice, McDaniels heads home to enjoy the holidays, being paid to spend time with his young family without the hassle of actually working for his paycheck.
  • December 6 Part 2: Running back coach Eric Studesville appointed interim head coach for the remaining games. Fans exchange confused but optimistic looks; those near computers try several iterations of his name to figure out who he is.
  • December 10: Cornerback Perrish Cox is arrested under suspicion of felony sexual assault occurring on October 28. He was released on $50,000 bond and allowed to leave the state to play at Arizona and Oakland. I told you he’d be back.
  • December 12: Broncos lose. Since who they lost to seems to matter, it was the Arizona Cardinals. Oh, and the score was a whole bunch to not very much. Kyle Orton got the start, but was somewhat less than spectacular. Record is 3-10.
  • December 19: Quarterback Tim Tebow’s twitter feed reads simply “Psalm 23:4”. He finally gets the start against the Oakland Raiders. The Black Hole is indeed somewhat similar to the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Tebow was the leading Broncos passer, completing 8 of 16 for 138 yards and one touchdown. Tebow was also the Broncos’ leading rusher, with 8 attempts for 78 yards and one touchdown. The TD was the result of a 40 yard run which set the record for longest run ever by a quarterback for touchdown in the team’s history as well as being the longest run from the line of scrimmage by any Broncos player this season. Welcome to the NFL Tim Tebow. Oh and the Broncos lost, though with 23 points scored it was somewhat less embarrassing than last time. 3-11.
  • December 20: Broncos release linebacker Kevin Alexander following his arrest for alleged misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend. The team says the arrest and Alexander’s release are not connected. Personally, I’m tired of using the word “allegedly” in conjunction with this team.
  • December 23: Linebacker Elvis Dumervil arrested for disturbing the peace and assault on a parking lot attendant back in October. Apparently charges were filed three days after the incident, but no one is positive why such a big deal is made of a situation that was thought to have been taken care of.
  • December 26: The Broncos win. Yes, you read that correctly. The Broncos started Tim Tebow (16/29 for 308 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception) and came back from a score of 0-17 at halftime to win 24-23 against the Houston Texans. Tebow was also the third leading rusher with 27 yards. (Buckhalter had 42 and Ball had 38; Moreno was fourth with 19.) Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney had huge games as well. Yes, this game came against one of the worst pass defenses in the league…but a win is a win. And a comeback like this is always exciting. Their record is now 4-11.
  • December 27: Denver explodes in Tebow/Bronco mania. Some of Denver loves Tebow and sees him as the second coming of Elway and the salvation of the Broncos. Others will continue to think he’s a terrible quarterback who will never be good enough for the NFL. A very small minority wants to give him a chance to grow before judging; but even these have a leaning toward one side or the other.

My Summary: This season flat-out sucked. The Broncos have been mediocre for several years, but this is the first time they’ve actually been a bad team. They need an almost complete overhaul, especially on defense. Tim Tebow needs more time to work into his role and find his NFL player persona, but I’ll give the kid this: he’s exciting to watch. I’m never exactly sure what he’s going to do on any given play. His ability to run makes him more of an offensive threat than Orton. It’s impossible for me not to root for Tebow. I hope through this next draft and free agency the Broncos can begin to rebuild a decent team for any quarterback to lead, and that this time next year we will all feel slightly less betrayed by our boys. Unfortunately it’ll still be several years before the Broncos are a legitimate threat again. Hooray for the rebuild!

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 22, 2010

A Very Avalanche Christmas

Disclaimer: This post is the result of a bet with a friend. While wearing an Avs hat and talking about Christmas music, he jokingly said, “I bet you can’t relate your favorite Christmas songs to the Avs.”

We’ll see about that.

O Holy Night – Mariah Carey

…The stars are brightly shining…

The Colorado Avalanche has long been a club focused on promoting the team rather than individual players. Well, the word “promoting” is used loosely, but you get the idea. When you ask the casual Avs fan who their favorite players are, however, the answer is almost inevitably “Oh Joe Sakic is awesome…and Forsberg of course, is he still around? And that goalie with the weird name (Roy).” Individual personalities and players will always set themselves apart from a faceless team. While I understand and generally applaud the team-is-everything attitude, successful marketing requires at least one face or personality to build around. Since I’m sick to death of Crosby, why not market the up and coming talent of Matt Duchene? The Avs (or at least Duchene’s agent) have the right idea with convincing him to start a Twitter account and not stifling he and Paul Stasny’s post-win Bang Bang Dance. These are the things fans (long-time and bandwagon alike) love. Let the young stars shine.

Tennessee Christmas – Alabama

Rockies are callin’, Denver snow fallin’. Somebody said it’s four feet deep…Well, I know there’s more snow up in Colorado than my roof will ever see…

Ok so this lyric is a fallacy, at least along the Front Range this year. I keep hearing rumors of feet of snow making mountain passes unpassable (heh heh), but I have yet to see this first hand. But do you know what lots of snow can create, much to the detriment of ill-fated backcountry skiers? You got it, avalanches.

See what I did there? Yep, I’ve got skills.

For the record, I always loved this song because of the warm cozy feeling it evokes. My parents did a wonderful job of making Christmas feel exactly like this every year, regardless of how much snow was or was not on the ground. I was always sad the song wasn’t about a Cozy Colorado Christmas.

The 12 Days of Christmas – The Muppets, featuring John Denver

…Five gold rings…

  • Adam Foote, 1996 and 2001 Avalanche Stanley Cup Teams
  • Sylvain Lefebvre, 1996 Avalanche Stanley Cup Team (current Assistant Coach)
  • Adam Deadmarsh, 1996 Avalanche Stanley Cup Team (current Video/Development Coach)
  • Stephane Yelle, 1996 and 2001 Avalanche Stanley Cup Teams (current Development Coordinator)

So we have SIX gold rings won while playing for the Avs and worn by those still associated with the organization. And I very well may have missed a few. Am I bothered that the only current player to wear a ring increases the average age of the Avs by at least 5 years every night he plays? Nah. The current team is young and fast, the result of bringing homegrown players up through a consistent system. They’ll be fine.

Besides, Paul Stasny has his own mini-ring from winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship as a part of the 2004-2005 University of Denver Team.

BADUM BUM BUM

The Christmas Song – The Carpenters

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight…And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two, although it’s been said many times, many ways: Merry Christmas to you.

When I arrive via escalator to the first level of the Pepsi Center, I am greeted with the wonderful smell of the cinnamon-covered roasted nuts they sell about 50 feet away. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire they’re not, but they are really yummy and hit the spot when I need a quick snack to ward off Jack Frost’s nose-nipping shenanigans at the rink.

At the Avs/Habs game on December 19, 2010 I sat in front of a group of young, aspiring hockey players. The eyes of these tiny tots were certainly aglow as they watched their heroes ply their trade on the ice below. Better than visions of sugarplums any day.

I was lucky enough to also be at the Avs/Blackhawks game December 13, 2010. This game was a shootout from start to finish, with the Avs scoring three goals in the final three minutes to win 7-5. This kind of excitement gets everyone’s blood pumping, and I saw plenty of “kids” between the ages of one and ninety-two in the crowd as it poured out of the Pepsi Center into the cold Colorado air that night.

Winter Wonderland – Amy Grant

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight walking in a winter wonderland.

While I haven’t heard sleigh bells at a game yet, I have heard plenty of cowbell. And the streets of Denver may be somewhat lacking in the glistening white stuff, but the crease and other high-traffic areas on the ice at the Pepsi Center have it aplenty. Finally, I can think of no better winter wonderland activity than watching a fast, physical, skillful game of hockey.

Well, maybe a romantic walk down a snowy street lined with soft white light-strewn trees would give hockey a run for its money.

(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus – Harry Connick, Jr.

So I hollered “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and I put on Santa’s hat. Then he let me hold the reins a while.

It’s no secret that the Avs have been plagued with injuries yet again this year. At one point ten of the starting players were out with some sort of malady. To replace the wounded the Avs called up youngsters from their AHL affiliate the Lake Erie Monsters. These moves worked out better than expected. These youngsters/journeymen, including Jonas Holøs, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Greg Mauldin, have played so well the decision to send them back down is at least difficult and at most impossible. Mauldin has solidly earned himself a spot on the Avs third/fourth line (depending on the night), and Shattenkirk’s offensive output has thus far given coach Joe Sacco cause to allow him to learn the game on NHL ice. Holøs has played 14 games with the Avs this season. He had a +3 rating before an unproductive game against the Red Wings and a trip back to Cleveland. About five weeks later he was brought back up, was a healthy scratch for one game and then was +2 against the Habs and -1 against the Kings for +4 on the season thus far.

Not bad for a bunch of kids pretending to be Santa for a while.

All I Want For Christmas – Mariah Carey

All I want for Christmas is you…

After the YouTube sensation video of the Belfast Giants dancing and lipsynching to this song, it is forever linked to hockey in my mind. Also, it was already the inspiration of my previous grown up hockey wish list blog post (which you can read here, if fancy strikes). After the game against the Kings, however, I would add a wish for the young Avs team to quickly regain their equilibrium and come out skating hard against the Wild in a few days.

Also, I wish that if I ever come face-to-face with Philippe Dupuis again, I could form entire words. Sentences are still a stretch, even for Santa magic.

Christmas Eve Sarajevo – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I have always loved the harmonies in Carol of the Bells. The only thing that could make it better is a dose of rock and roll, which is exactly what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version provides.

In my mind, hockey brings some rock and roll to the sports world. Between the jazzy improv of basketball, the cocky hip-hop beats of football (especially the celebration following a routine hit), and the old standards of baseball, we desperately need some solid rock and roll. The kind that can only be the result of talented individuals all playing together so the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Hockey and rock are both at their best when skilled individuals harmonize creatively rather than promoting themselves in a dissonant outburst. Everyone gets their chance to shine, and sometimes the most beautiful notes come from the most unexpected players.

That concludes my list of favorite Christmas songs. I likened the Avs and associated experiences to the stars that shone on the night of Jesus’ birth (in the least blasphemous way possible, I promise), a real-life avalanche that may happen in the Rocky Mountain high country any day now, the best line in a song sung by Muppets (specifically the incorrigible Miss Piggy), chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the youthful glow people of all ages display in the midst of Christmas magic, a winter wonderland, little kids playing Santa for a night, a Christmas list, and a rock band.

I think my work here is done. I’ll let you all vote: do I win the bet, or not?

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 16, 2010

All I Want For Christmas

I spent an unseemly chunk of last night watching the Belfast Giants lip sync to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” After the fourth (or was it seventh…?) time through I started to think about how my hockey Christmas wish list would read. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. So now you all get to read it. Since I haven’t made any sort of Christmas list since I was five, consider yourselves lucky.

I want Peter Mueller to be able to play NHL hockey again. Brain injuries are tricky. Dude has suffered a lot of them; the one that took him out for the season was a crazy, fluky, whimpy hit that caught him exactly wrong. I have friends who have had multiple concussions and I’ve seen the longing in their eyes when they watch others play…or see the ice…or hear a game…or watch a terrible shift during a game. None of them have played in the pros, so I can only imagine that Mueller’s agony at the thought of never playing another shift would be even more paralyzing. Yes, I want him to return to his former power-play-goal-scoring glory for the Avs. But more than that, I want him to be able to play the game that he loves so much. I’d hate for any of his friends/family to see the heartbreaking emptiness in his eyes when he sees the ice and thinks of what might have been.

I want Anderson to return to 2009-2010 form. Goaltender is a ridiculous position. They get pelted with tiny frozen rubber disks moving at crazy high speeds and are heavily criticized for not seeing and stopping each and every one. That’s an awfully big burden to carry. Last year, Craig Anderson was a stud that kept the Avs in almost every game they played, and won several for them. This year has happily seen the Avalanche offense become a goal-scoring machine (they lead the league in 5 on 5 goals scored) and their defensive pairings occasionally work to STOP the scoring chances of opposing teams, but it would sure help toward the middle/end of the season if their goalie were sensational.

I want John Michael Liles to actually have a 40+ point season. There have been a lot of jokes made about Johnny Hot Pocket and his tendency to focus on inconsistent offense and “forget” that he actually plays defense. But this season he is doing both jobs fairly well. He has definitely grown as a leader, and his mature (shocking, I know) presence can be seen on the ice every night. For what it’s worth, he is currently +13 and has 26 points on the season. Just 14 points to go. Come on, Johnny.

I want the Bang Bang Dance to catch fire. It’s tearing up YouTube and Twitter already. Paul Stasny and Matt Duchene’s post-win dance (from How I Met Your Mother) has even gotten some air time on Denver area news channels. Until now I was unsure those outlets were even aware of the existence of the Colorado Avalanche.  Now that a few of the players are demonstrating that they have actual personalities, maybe the general public will begin to get behind this team. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the Pepsi Center to be bursting at the seams with bandwagon fans…I just want current fans to see the value in purchasing a (somewhat overpriced) ticket and seeing the boys play in person. Plus, how fun would it be for Adrian Dater and Mark Kiszla to have to burn/delete their copies of that tired “no one in Colorado cares about the Avs” story they keep running?

I want the Avs to consistently play with (and beat) the “Big Boys.” The Avs are a young team with many learning experiences ahead of them. But even beat up they have shown themselves a force to be reckoned with this season. Logically they can only get better from here. I want them to continue to play with guts, passion, and the never-say-die attitude they have adopted at times. I want them to finish out this season so strong that next year all the naysayers have to eat their words and admit that the Avs are a decent team. Yes, even the Red Wings fans. I realize this is a lot to ask, since the Avs are perennially underestimated. But hey this is my Christmas list, I can ask for whatever I want.

I want to see Jonas Holøs get a fair shake. As I’ve said before, I’m not a coach or a scout. I have no delusions about myself having more of an eye for talent than the Avalanche staff. But Holøs was impressive in the few games he played so far this year, and I would like to see more of him see him play more often. Who knows what our defense will be capable of when some of the more glaring holes and problems (*cough* Foote/Wilson depending on the night *cough*) can be eliminated. Why not get a preview of next season this season?

I would like for the Front Range to be coating with a thick layer of snow. No, this has nothing to do with hockey.  But I don’t care. As I mentioned before, this is MY list. And the paltry half inch “storm” we got last night was atrocious. We need real snow. One coat on Christmas Day and another around January 6 would be beautiful. Why January 6, you ask? Well that’s about when the kids come back to school. Snow days are even better when you’re an adult.

Well, that concludes my Grown Up Hockey Christmas List. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you can get on board with any of my requests, please feel free to add your hopes/prayers/dreams/desperate screams addressed at no one in particular to my own. Maybe together we can get some Christmas magic behind the Burgundy and Blue…and show all of us pessimistic adults that there is still some wonder to be found during this season.

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 12, 2010

Anything you can do, I can do better

I would like you all to rank the following events in order of importance, from highest to least:

  • College football team hiring “dynasty” ex-players as new coaching staff
  • Firing the much-debated young coach of a pro football team
  • Pro hockey team losing in OT on the road and then posting great wins against very solid teams (including the almighty Ovechkin-led Capitals)
  • The decision to start a proven pro quarterback over an exciting but relatively unproven 1st round draft pick
  • A pro soccer team winning the league championship
  • Pro basketball coach winning his 1,000 game
  • Star pro basketball player trade rumors and associated discussion
  • Pro football team bringing back a much beloved quarterback for a TBD role with the organization

Got your rankings? Good. Here is Denver’s list, compiled by me after keeping up with Twitter and listening to sports talk radio.

  1. Firing Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels
  2. Broncos bringing John Elway back into the fold
  3. Broncos interim head coach Eric Studesville starting (and continuing to play) Kyle Orton rather than Tim Tebow
  4. University of Colorado announcing the hiring of Jon Embree as head coach and Eric Bieniemy as an assistant for the 2011 season
  5. Nuggets’ coach George Karl winning his 1,000 NBA game
  6. Continuing controversy over the Nuggets Carmelo Anthony staying or leaving
  7. Colorado Avalanche getting 6 out of 10 possible points on a tough 11 day road trip
  8. Colorado Rapids winning the MLS Cup

The list is pretty subjective, but you get the idea: the Broncos are still the reigning kings of Colorado. And apparently John Elway is the god of Denver Sports.

Who knew.

Having grown up in Denver I became an Avs fan understanding that it would probably never get the kind of widespread love the Broncos do. It’s just a fact of life lived a Mile High. Football is the new national pastime, and the Broncos are the religion of a shockingly large percentage of our population. Only hockey geeks like me would put the Avs road trip and its minutiae at the top of the list. Die hard Nuggets fans would rather see their issues getting the attention now afforded to Eric Studesville (whose name was completely unknown to most of Denver prior to the Broncos press conference). And while I’m thrilled that one team in Denver won a championship this year, the Rapids are never going to achieve even the notoriety of the Avs. They play soccer in the United States…what more of an argument do you need?

The only people I feel sorry for in this situation are the CU Buffs. Since the firing of Dan Hawkins people have been discussing who would make an adequate, successful, and realistic name for head coach. Some big names, including LSU’s Les Miles, were thrown around. (Right, like Les Miles would leave the big money of the SEC for one of a rebuilding job in the PAC-12.) Everyone agreed that the Buffs needed a way to connect new players to the rich tradition of CU football and that there needed to be far more of these new players being recruited successfully. Opinion was split between the old-school choice of successful ex-coach Bill McCartney, local boy Jon Embree, and some outsider big name such as the aforementioned Miles. There was a lot of debate, of course, since fans and talk show hosts had nothing to talk about other than their own opinions and predictions.

Finally CU announced they would hold a press conference on Monday December 6 to officially crown the next head coach. Bill McCartney leaked Embree’s name the week before, but the school denied making the offer. By the time the announcement was made the whole city knew (and was discussing ad nauseum) that not only was Cherry Creek/CU grad Embree the head coach but that he was stealing fellow alum Bieniemy from the Vikings to be his offensive coordinator. Fans rejoiced and enjoyed the feeling of hope that recruiting will be far more successful and that these two will work together to field a proud Buffs team cognizant of their history and excited for their future in the PAC-whatever.

A few miles away, Pat Bowlen was tapping his tented fingers together and quietly singing to himself: “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” (From the musical Annie Get Your Gun.)

A few hours after the press conference, the Broncos announced the firing of struggling coach Josh McDaniels. This effectively ended any discussion, acknowledgement, or even thought of the existence of the University of Colorado.  The one day that should have rightfully belonged to CU was suddenly overtaken by the Broncos. Every evening sports talk radio show was dedicated to the relief and uncertainty this news brought rather than the stability and hope of CU’s announcements.  The Broncos news broke during the evening commute, hours before their day off. Which begs the question:

Couldn’t they have merely waited a few hours?

Broncos players found out from Twitter, Facebook, and each other.  It’s as if Bowlen was trying to sneak the news in as a footnote. Surely he knew that any Broncos announcement, especially a big one, would immediately spread and supersede anything else happening that day? Now I know pro football is big business. Everyone knew McDaniels’ days were numbered. I just wish they had waited until Tuesday to officially release the news so that CU, Embree, and Bieniemy could have their one untarnished day to shine.

For what it’s worth, I’m really excited about Jon Embree getting the chance to coach. It’s been his dream job since he volunteered back in 1991. He grew up in Colorado, has experienced success at various levels of the game, and seems to have been merely waiting for the right opportunity to come back to CU. Everything I’ve heard and read about him suggests a man of integrity, passion, and skill, all of which are desperately needed in Boulder. The most encouraging thing I’ve read so far was a quote of his in a great CU Independent article (read the whole thing here): “We’re going to get the swagger back in the program.”

And isn’t swagger what college football should be about? Welcome home, coach Embree.

 

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 5, 2010

A little help, here?

I will be the first to admit that I am by no means a hockey genius. I’m not a coach. I’m not even a player. I am merely a supporter. I’m sure Joe Sacco sees things I don’t see, and I’m positive he knows things I don’t know. These facts do not change my confusion about the Avs and their seeming complete inability to play consistently good defense.

There have been some seemingly obvious problems, including rampant injuries.

Kyle Cumiskey has been on the IR since October 30th thanks to a head injury. In the eleven games he played he had one goal and four assists. While he wasn’t terrible before getting hurt, he also wasn’t wowing anyone with his spectacular play.

Jonas Holøs made the roster opening night and made a decent showing in his 12 games with the club. While he was by no means perfect, he also did many things well. In fact, the biggest problem was no one knew how to pronounce his name when trying to discuss his good play. “Holos? Hoolahs? Er, the Norwegian kid.”  (The Avs website says his name is pronounced JOH-nuhs Hu-LAWS, for the record.) He had quick responses without looking panicked or flustered, hanging on to the puck an extra split second when necessary. He made some excellent passes. In spite of what fans considered to be good play he was a healthy scratch for his last several games – Sacco claimed he needed a break from the furious pace – and finally was sent back down to Lake Erie so he could accumulate more minutes while Ryan Wilson played for the Avs.

Ah, Ryan Wilson. Just seeing him step on the ice is enough to make Avs fans groan. While he seems to get lucky and be on the ice for a few Avalanche goals (and even get an assist here and there), what stands out far more is the fact that he is on the ice for EVERY SINGLE GOAL AGAINST the Avs. He gives up the puck on bad turnovers more often than he makes good passes to his own teammates or effectively clears the puck out of his own zone. Now, all of those points may be statistically incorrect, but while watching him play they sure feel true. He’s been a healthy scratch the last few games and the Avs still haven’t managed to win, so maybe he really does bring more to the table than his critics (including me) can readily see.

Kyle Quincey has been far less than spectacular in his few games back. Against the Lightning he was downright terrible, taking the place of Wilson as the fans’ whipping boy. With bad turnovers and worse penalties, he earned his position. Adding to the heaping pile of yuck, he has 0 points on the season. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Come on, even Wilson has some on accident!! Quincey needs to step it up or step elsewhere.

Matt Hunwick was acquired November 29th from Boston in exchange for prospect Colby Cohen. I really liked Cohen so I was sad to see him go, but was willing to wait and see how Hunwick played before I overreacted. I know it should take players a little time to get adjusted to playing a new role in a new system with new teammates, but so far I’m underwhelmed. Hopefully this will change.

Ryan O’Byrne is the other new addition to the Avs defense, from Montreal for prospect Michael Bournival. The first time I saw O’Byrne play in person he “fought” the Blues’ Crombeen. The fight itself was pretty pathetic, and the gigantic defenseman was made to look even sillier when pretty boy Matt Duchene had a far more impressive fight later in the same game (slightly tarnished by Dutchy fighting with his shield in place). Fights aside, O’Byrne has brought size and some decent skills to the table. I like him.

John Michael Liles has been, in a word, impressive. Apparently being scratched and “threatened” last season lit a fire under him. He worked hard in the offseason to find his game and lose some weight, and this year he has been awesome. Yes he still has his “oh wait I play defense?” moments, but those have paled in comparison to his offensive production, good puck protection/clearing, and often acting as goaltender when ours is otherwise engaged. What has stood out the most to me is his willingness to stand up and be a leader. He’s been paired with new/young players to help them learn the game and team. He’s been a more visible leader on the ice. Against the Lightning he received a 10-minute game misconduct penalty when his team desperately needed him on the ice, and he apologized to his teammates after. It’s no secret I’ve loved Johnny Hot Pocket through thick and thin, but I’m really proud of the way he’s played this year. I no longer get grief for drafting him to  my fantasy team. Oh and for those of you keeping track at home, he only has 16 points left to hit 40 on the season.

Kevin Shattenkirk was called up November 3rd to help fill out the beleaguered defense. While he made his share of rookie mistakes, he also adjusted quickly to the speed and physical demands of the game. While in development he was touted as an offensive-minded defenseman, and since getting his feet under him he has proven this by setting the franchise record for consecutive games played with at least one point scored by a rookie.  The game against the Lightning marked his ninth straight such game. He has definitely earned his spot on this team with his play thus far. As soon as they produce a #8 jersey with Shattenkirk on the back, I’ll get it.

Adam Foote has been…well, playing like a man of his age should. Yes, he’s tough. Yes, he brings experience and maturity as he raises the average age of the team by a good 5+ years every night he plays. But boy he looks slow. He’s a little more fragile now as well, as is proven by the games missed due to two separate injuries so far this season. It looks like his well known fiery passion is waning. I understand he’s the captain and they need his leadership, and he still does a lot of little things well (including finding slightly sneaky ways to be a pain in the necks of the opposing team in spite of losing a step or two), but I think it may be time for him to consider retirement. Or at least taking a diminished role to allow younger kids to play in his place sometimes.

The weird thing about this lineup is that they consistently play as less than the sum of their parts. When Wilson is scratched, someone else steps up and makes the bad plays (congratulations Kyle Quincey). Whichever line includes Foote turns the puck over and protects the net about as well as Swiss cheese. Somewhat inexplicably the defense seemed to play the best when the most veterans were hurt and young guys eager to prove themselves got their shot. Obviously kids are going to have learning curves, play somewhat inconsistently, and need to adjust to the number and intensity of NHL games. Having veterans in the mix can logically only help…yet it seems to hurt this team.

Again, I’m no expert. But I would really like to see our defense come together and actually PLAY consistently, rather than requiring the goalies to turn in superhuman performances every night. If that requires some creative pairings or playing with 7 defensemen to get more young kids meaningful NHL ice time, so be it. Why not experiment a little? When they manage to step up and actually play solid defense and our offense doesn’t have to score 7+ goals to win, the Avs may be able to move out of the “sometimes lucky young kids with a bright future” category and into the “threatening contenders” category.

Wouldn’t that be something.

 

Posted by: Katie Martinez | December 1, 2010

Tulo, Will You Marry Me?

Troy Tulowitzki, will you marry me?

Ok I’m joking…mostly. But since the 26-year-old Rockies shortstop just inked a 7-year contract extension that will earn him $163 million between now and 2020, from now on Tulo will have to be watchful against gold diggers. This deal comes on the heels of a terrific year in which he received both the Golden Glove and Silver Slugger awards in spite of spending a significant chunk of time on the disabled list with a fractured wrist. The contract has some very limited wiggle room for the Rockies to trade him away, but no protection in the case of significant injury. (Note: a lot of the information and all of the quotes for this post came from Troy Renck’s article in the Denver Post, which you can find here.The opinions, and the proposal, are strictly my own.)

I cannot overstate how happy I am that Tulo is going to stick around for the foreseeable future. He is the only man in Denver who can pull off a mullet. He added a layer of respectability to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” (albeit a thin one). He makes superhuman plays at shortstop. Watching him on the field even when he’s not hitting well is truly inspiring. When his bat is hot the show he alone puts on is worth the price of a ticket. Tulo has his own personal cheer that can be heard even at other Denver sporting events when the familiar clapping track is played. Most of all, I am thrilled that all the kids (and kids playing grown up, like me) will get to watch a dynamic baseball player retire from the same team that drafted him.

I grew up in the John Elway era, meaning he was the only Broncos quarterback I remember watching as an impressionable kid. If he had been traded away to the Chargers, or decided to walk out on the Broncos when they couldn’t pay both his contract and those of the deserving teammates around him, I would’ve been devastated. As sports fans we are being forced to accept the transient “I follow the money” athlete as permanent. While I understand this from an economic perspective, from the perspective of the fan it sucks. A lot. Our childhood heroes not only turn Benedict Arnold, but also often do so in as public and painful a way as possible a lá LeBron James taking his skills to South Beach. The fact that Tulowitzki wants “to give fans someone they can fall in love with for the long haul, not a guy that’s going to be gone in a couple of years” is music to my ears, a warm hug on a cold Colorado morning, and grease to the hinges of my pocketbook.

Hopefully it will do the same to the pocketbook of the Rockies organization.

In order for this marriage to work, the Rockies will have to continue to surround Tulo with enough talent to allow the team to be competitive. They have already re-signed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa for not a small chunk of change. Hopefully the team will continue to sweet talk Ubaldo Jimenez and Carlos Gonzalez and then put its money where its mouth has been. In the past the Monforts have been widely criticized for not being willing to pay out for big names. GM Dan O’Dowd says the team “will continue to be aggressive about keeping their players at high costs,” so maybe this trend is changing. As solid a foundation as Tulo represents, he will indeed need dynamic teammates in order to bring the World Series back to Denver and end with the Rockies as victors.

Obviously the deal has its risks. Tulo could get hurt. He could stop playing, or lose his swing, or suddenly become a merely mortal shortstop. In spite of these I still think the contract is an excellent thing for the city of Denver. We get to keep one of our heroes, and the Monforts and O’Dowd have assuaged the fears of Rockies fans that they would rather let quality players walk than pay them the going rate. It’s a win win situation.

Especially for the little kid sleeping in his Tulowitzki jersey with visions of Spring Training dancing in his head.

 

Posted by: Katie Martinez | November 27, 2010

It’s Alive!!!

Tonight the Avs welcomed the Wild with open arms. And by “with open arms,” I mean “with sticks and fists of fury.”

Paul Stasny shows more capacity for leadership every day it seems. His early goal really helped the team maintain some semblance of momentum through two unanswered Wild goals (one thanks to Ryan Wilson…shocking, I know) and the injury of Daniel Winnik by a John Michael Liles slapshot to the leg area. Reports as to the severity of the injury were conflicting, but regardless Winnik is a tough guy to lose for any length of time.

The Avs escaped the first period down 2-1. I was a little panicked that the Avs of the Canucks and Sharks games this week had shown up. Luckily for them (and me!), Greg Mauldin showed up with a vengeance. He had two goals in the second. Hejduk scored on a power play. Kevin Shattenkirk scored another goal. Stasny, O’Byrne, Liles, Stewart, McLeod, and Wilson (yes, even Wilson) all had assists. Somewhere in the midst of this bedlam Chris Stewart fought and thoroughly owned Kyle Brodziak, even removing Brodziak’s helmet to allow better access to his left ear (watch it here). The downside of this clash was that Stewart left the game with a fractured hand. There are no details about how serious this injury is, but losing Stewart’s size and ability will hurt. In short, the second period belonged to the Avs with the exception of one shining moment when Kyle Brodziak scored for the Wild.

Personal aside…during one of the stoppages Marc Moser, the play-by-play man for the Altitude Radio Network, did a shout out to my little brother on air. So on behalf of Captain Martinez of the Wake Island Avengers, VMA 211, thanks to “Mose.”

The third period began with much more optimism on my part than did the second. David Jones tipped in another Mauldin shot (and Wilson racked up another assist…lucky son of a gun). Matt Duchene put his 6th of the year in the net with assists by Mauldin and Shattenkirk. Oh, and Brodziak scored his second of the game with about 6 minutes left in the third.

I was most impressed with the fact that the Avs didn’t lay down and die. They came out skating fast and hard. Even after early setbacks, they continued to press. They were hungry for a win, as well they should have been after their “performances” earlier this week. This game started off fairly precariously; there would have been plenty of reasons for them to lay down and not try very hard. They chose instead to fight back and show that they still respect the game, their own talent, and their fans. I was very impressed with their play. Now I can only hope that Wilson will be benched in favor of Holos, and that whoever gets called up to fill in for our injuries will continue the pursuit of excellence we’ve seen from the Lake Erie Monsters thus far.

Tonight I’m proud of my boys, and they should be proud of themselves. Awesome win in front of what seemed to be a great crowd. That’s the way to sell tickets…put a superior product on the ice in front of lots of fans. Keep it up.

Posted by: Katie Martinez | November 27, 2010

When the Rapids and the Nuggets are the bright spot…

In retrospect, any week beginning with the winning of the MLS cup is bound to be bad luck for the big boy sports in the town.

The Monday Night Football stage was set for an epic showdown between the Chargers and the Broncos. Many in Denver were optimistic that a new era had begun and maybe, just maybe, the Broncos could win two in a row. (Most of these same fans would deny their optimism in hindsight and classify it as something more akin to desperate, grasping-at-straws hope.) Lo and behold, the “we don’t really want to play football tonight” version of the Broncos showed up to play. Well, if you use the loosest definition of the word “play.” Broncos went down 35-14 in front of the whole country, and whatever was left of the rose-colored glasses were gone.

Wednesday night disaster struck in Vancouver. Well, a disaster of sorts. Goalie Craig Anderson went down. Again. Adam Foote went down. Again. The boys didn’t appear to want to skate. Again. Or forecheck. Again. Oh, and Hannan played terribly. Again. So, somewhat predictably, they lost to the Canucks. Again. The only bright spots were goals by Duchene and Liles, and an assist by Shattenkirk who continues to dazzle. The low point, in my opinion, occurred in the one five minute stretch of the game I actually got to watch: Tambellini hitting Budaj in the head with his stick, and Budaj’s bludgeoned head sending the puck into the net. It perfectly captured the helpless feeling of watching first place in the northwest division slip away. (Note: this actually didn’t slip away until Friday night, after the Avs failed to get any points against the Oilers and the Canucks beat the Sharks 6-1.)

Thanksgiving was a day of food and football overdose. For hockey fans there was exactly one game to break the monotony: Avs at Oilers. The Oilers are, by all accounts, a pretty terrible team. Even with the addition of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle the team is somewhat lackadaisical. They are still, however, a professional hockey team. So it’s too bad the Avs didn’t show up to play a professional hockey game. As is their pattern the Avs found themselves down early. Wilson? Quincey? Might as well come on out. Everyone knows you’re the weak links on this defense. Shattenkirk was credited with a goal originally given to Duchene in the first, which apparently ticked off Duchene. And one thing you need to know about good ol’ Matt Duchene: you won’t like him when he’s angry. So he put one home in the second to tie it up. The third period was actually not bad. The Avs started to skate a little bit, and their defense even showed up. Sadly they checked out in the last minute of the game and stood looking awestruck as Eberle made a beauty of a pass to the “suddenly appearing out of nowhere” Hall for the game winning goal. While I was the only Avs fan in the vicinity, I’m sure I was not the only one to hang my head in shame. I briefly considered banging it against a wall but decided against it. I need those brain cells, after all.

On Black Friday the CU Buffs faced their Big 12 rivals Nebraska for the last time. In the interest of full disclosure, my dad is a CU grad. I grew up watching the glory days of the Buffs. You know, when they could consistently beat decently good teams. My dad is a pretty low-key guy, but his passion about the outcome of the Nebraska game was palpable. What I’m saying is that my hatred of the Big Red is bone deep and probably won’t leave for the Pac 10 (or whatever) when CU does. After two big wins in a row for the post-Dan Hawkins era Buffs, and with several key Nebraska players injured, CU fans were shamelessly hopeful that we would be able to beat Nebraska and maybe even play their way into a bowl game of some sort. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Saturday morning I awoke to an interesting text: that the NFL was investigating the Broncos for illegally filming the 49ers walk through in London. My immediate response was posted on Twitter: “Wait wait wait…the broncos can’t even compete when they CHEAT?!? wow we are worse than I thought!” Many Broncos fans are getting excited about the admittedly blatantly obvious Patriots connection. I will reserve full judgement until we have a better idea of what really happened. (If you want to read the initial Denver Post story the link is here.) But in the early stages, this doesn’t look good. Broncos fans are already pretty beat up and looking for any scapegoats they can find for their suffering. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure their cries will go unheeded. The facts are that the Broncos haven’t been dominant for several years, and this year they are just not a good football team. They absolutely have to draft better. They need to find a defensive scheme that works. And since there’s no way the Broncos will pay three head coaches, they need to find a way to play with McDaniels at the helm.

But I digress.

Apparently the Nuggets had a pretty good night against the Bulls at the Pepsi Center Friday night, with Melo shooting the game winning basket basically at the buzzer. I didn’t watch the game. They also beat the Golden State Warriors 106-89 in Chris “Birdman” Anderson’s coming out party Monday night. So I guess if you’re a Nuggets or Rapids fan (which I only am by location), you had a pretty decent week. The rest of us are going to go eat more turkey and stuffing to soothe our battered souls.

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