Denver — Joe Sakic was close enough to hip check one of his fiercest rivals off the stage and into the stands.
Of course, that wouldn’t be very polite. Not while wearing a sports jacket at an event Monday to promote the Colorado Avalanche hosting their first NHL outdoor game. The Avalanche great turned general manager resisted any sort of temptation even with longtime Detroit adversary Kris Draper sitting a row in front of him.
Colorado and Detroit will play at Coors Field — home of the Colorado Rockies — on Feb. 27. The day before, there’s an alumni game that could feature Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque and Sakic for Colorado, along with Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey and Draper for Detroit.
Just like old times. Well, minus all those fights, big hits and Stanley Cup implications from those rivalry days.
“We didn’t like them and they didn’t like us,” said Draper, who showed up for the news conference along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Rockies owner Dick Monfort, Avalanche President Josh Kroenke and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “But the bottom line is there was unbelievable hockey that was being played. It wasn’t just a bunch of goons going at each other.
“It was some of the greatest players that played in our game, and I think that’s what took the rivalry to the next level.”
There will also be a game between rivals Colorado College and the University of Denver on February 20 at Coors Field.
A makeshift rink was outlined at the ballpark Monday, with one goal placed in the outfield grass just past first base and the other near the hole between third and shortstop.
All that was missing was the ice — and cooler temperatures (it was 75 degrees and sunny). Sakic’s hoping for a mild afternoon in February, maybe with some snow in the forecast.
“Just as long as it’s not too cold,” Sakic cautioned.
Sakic thought it was only natural the Avalanche hosted this contest, especially on the 20th anniversary of the team moving to the Mile High City. Since then, they’ve won two Stanley Cup titles, with Sakic and Roy leading the charge as players.
Now, they’re trying to get the current Avalanche back to that level — Sakic in the front office and Roy as coach.
“It will be great for our team, our organization, our city, to have an outdoor game like this,” Sakic said. “I know the guys are going to be excited and looking forward to that game.”
That it’s against Detroit only adds to the drama. They’ve had some memorable moments, like Roy mixing it up with goaltenders Mike Vernon and later Chris Osgood. Or Claude Lemieux’s vicious hit along the boards on Draper, who’s now the special assistant to the general manager for Detroit.
“It got bitter, but the level of play was outstanding,” Sakic said. “The players, the names, just the intensity of really wanting to beat each other bad.”
Colorado is trotting out a new sweater for the occasion — a “C’’ with a puck in the middle of it. It also says “5280” on the collar — the elevation of the city. Captain Gabriel Landeskog modeled the new look and can’t wait to wear it for real.
“You’d skate outdoors as a kid, maybe at some point in high school. But never in my life in something like this, with 50,000-plus fans,” Landeskog said. “It’ll be an exciting game.”