Denver — The actual game Saturday is going to have to do some work to match this. The Stadium Series Alumni Game Friday at Coors Field between the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche — one of the great rivalries in any sport — lived up to the hype.
The Avalanche wound up defeating the Red Wings, 5-2, which made for a pleasant evening for the excited crowd of 43,319 at Coors Field.
Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan scored for the Red Wings, while Valeri Kamensky, Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Ray Bourque and Stephane Yelle scored for the Avalanche.
But it was so much more than the final score.
There were plenty of memories to take out of this evening which the hockey clock was turned back to a different time.
“We just had a blast,” Joe Kocur said. “Wish the outcome was better, but we’ll get them again.”
So many memories:
♦ During introductions, Chris Chelios gave it right back to the fans heavily booing him when he booed right back into the video camera.
♦ Darren McCarty, who received equally loud jeers, saluted the crowd in every direction of the ballpark.
“I was hoping (to get booed),” said McCarty, an avid Denver Broncos fan who insisted he was mimicking Terrell Davis with the salute. “That would have bummed me out if I hadn’t gotten booed. That’s the ultimate honor in an opposing rink.”
♦ Chilling applause for fan favorites, including Detroit’s Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom, and Colorado’s Sakic, Bourque, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg.
♦ Plays that brought back memories, such as Yzerman skating up ice and putting back a rebound past Roy, Sakic snapping a goal from the dot, Lidstrom smoothly breaking up a play, or Roy making a couple of acrobatic saves.
♦ And there was Tomas Holmstrom jostling with Avalanche defensemen around the net, hostilities renewed.
“It was so much fun to play with the boys again,” Holmstrom said.
“We were in so many battles. It was great to see a lot of the guys getting older.”
It all brought back so many wonderful memories, and the huge crowd basking in almost ideal 58-degree weather loved every minute of it.
Both teams were excited to renew acquaintances in what was one of the more bitter and heated match-ups for a decade.
A huge highlight occurred with about five minutes left in the game when the scoreboard showed a tribute to the rivalry then had the words: “Thanks For The Memories, Thanks For the Rivalry, Thanks For Playing For Us One More Time…”
“It was kind of a special moment for us all,” said Yzerman, as fans stood and applauded both teams while players responded in kind by raising their sticks in saluting the fans.
“It’s been a pretty good rivalry and the chance with the fans in unison, that hadn’t happened before.”
The respect was equal on the Colorado side.
“I was happy to be part of it, it was great years,” said Roy, the current Avalanche head coach and former goalie. “We had a lot of good runs here, we played them a lot of those years and it was a big rivalry with them every year.
“If we beat them, then we (felt) we had a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
And, of course it wouldn’t be a healthy rivalry if there wasn’t something to needle about one team to the other.
Those highlights the Avalanche showed certainly didn’t show many of the Red Wings goals during the rivalry in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It seemed like all the goals shown on the scoreboard were Avalanche goals.
“I wish we had a chance to edit the highlights,” Larry Murphy said.
“But it’s their home building. I was wondering, though, if we had ever scored a goal all those years.”