Avalanche bring Cup celebration to the streets: Singalongs, shoe chugging and more revelry

DENVER — Event planners had scheduled it for later, but Erik Johnson saw no need to wait. As he finished his speech to Avalanche fans Thursday, he asked for a favor: a little help singing Blink-182’s “All The Small Things,” which will be the team’s anthem en route to their third Stanley Cup in the U.S became franchise history.

“All the / small things…” he began and called on the thousands of fans in front of him to join in.

For Johnson and the Avalanche, the championship parade was a crowning glory: one of their last chances to celebrate together. And it was a long time coming for Johnson, Denver’s longest-serving athlete. At one point on stage, he, Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog — the three players who have been on the team the longest — came together for a group hug with general manager Joe Sakic, the former team captain and the link between that championship team and those of 1996 and 2001

“It’s my ninth year and I finally won something,” MacKinnon said during his speech, appearing to refer to his post-retirement interview last season in which he lamented not having “won shit” in his career. to have.

Of course, the event was about more than just the players. It was an opportunity to share the win with fans, many of whom claimed seats along the 17th Street route as early as 8am, about two hours before the players were due to pass. One couple wisely brought a deck of cards to pass the time. When the procession started they had a lot to see. Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen poured beer into their shoes and drank from them. Cale Makar and Devon Toews took off their jerseys and Pavel Francouz’s daughter rested her head on his lap as the goalkeeper waved to the crowd.

The parade culminated with a rally in front of the Denver City and County Building in Civic Center Park, and towards the end of the route a fan wore a Toronto-Colorado jersey with Nazem Kadri’s name on the back. He had stapled a piece of paper over the Maple Leafs logo that said “Avalanche.”

“Upgrading sweaters is difficult in this economy,” he joked.

“I’ve gotten more Avs shit in the last week than I’ve ever had in my life,” said another fan while buying — you guessed it — more gear from a retailer.

Kadri and his wife Ashley wore T-shirts that read “Too Many Men” with a drawing of Nazem and his teammates celebrating his overtime victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup, which Lightning coach Jon Cooper said shouldn’t have counted must. The shirts were designed by Adrienne Ruth at Kadri’s request, who also printed hundreds of Stand with Naz jerseys for Game 5 of the St. Louis series. (This game followed Kadri receiving racist messages and threats.)

Kadri’s 2-year-old daughter, Naylah Kadri, was also able to enjoy the celebrations. She was thrilled to receive a plastic firefighting hat and donned a shirt featuring Bernie the Dog, the Avalanche’s mascot, with whom she got to hang out at the City and County Building.

Kadri, 31, said he’s watched championship parades his entire life, and Thursday’s parade through Denver lived up to his expectations.

“We’re just going to enjoy it together, and that’s the most important part of it,” Kadri said. “The guys who are in the thick of it with you, you have to enjoy it with them first and foremost.”

City officials lined interior barriers to watch players enter the building after dismounting from their floats. Nico Sturm ran towards her with his arm outstretched. “Let’s get some high fives!” he said. An ebullient Bowen Byram, who had earlier enjoyed a beer shower among some of his teammates’ parade trucks, greeted the fans as he walked in. He estimated he has slept “no more than 12” hours since Colorado won the trophy on Sunday, adding, “The last four days, I don’t remember much.”

When asked if winning a championship is motivation going forward, Byram told reporters his first title was incredible and he’s sucking it up.

“But everyone in this room knows we have a chance to hopefully win a few more,” said the defender. “Next year in the training camp we will refocus and get ready because that was something very special. We want to do that as much as possible.”

The crowd had a chance to cheer for each player as they were introduced. Samuel Girard, with a broken sternum and all, took the stage with a cartwheel and then walked over to give Erik Johnson a hug. Valeri Nichushkin, who was in a wheelchair for part of the event because it hurt to put pressure on his injured foot, managed to get on stage. Alex Newhook and Nicolas Aube-Kubel got on one knee and drank their drinks together and Rantanen tried to walk across the stage.

As the rally began, MacKinnon pumped up the crowd as Jared Bednar walked to the mic. The coach thanked his players and the organization for giving him a chance.

“These guys, everyone has a story,” Bednar said of his players, his voice capturing several times. “I can go through every guy and the sacrifices they made for our team. I’m excited about everyone.”

The normally hyper-focused Nathan MacKinnon, who had been signing autographs for fans inside the building, danced onstage to Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.”

At the rally, several players spoke after appearing to have had a few drinks. Landeskog removed his shirt before addressing the crowd and dropped three F-bombs, one of which he used to introduce Johnson. “I’ll let you listen to the old shit on the team,” he said. Rantanen, who is from Finland, said he probably couldn’t speak English after all the drinks he’d had, so he planned to only speak to Lehkonen, his compatriot, that night. He also shouldered Makar, winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy.

At one point during the rally, Landeskog picked up the trophy and, after raising it for the fans to see, hastily put it back on the table. For a moment it looked as if the prized trophy would tip over. Luckily for the Keepers of the Cup heart rate, Altitude Sports Radio broadcaster Conor McGahey jumped in and planted it more firmly on the table.

In the middle of the ceremony, the sky darkened and raindrops began to fall. Noting that there could be lightning in the forecast, McGahey used the weather to pun on the expense of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that defeated Colorado to win the trophy.

“They didn’t ruin our cup chances and it won’t ruin our celebration,” the broadcaster said.

The event ended with Ball Arena disc jockey Craig Turney – better known as DJ Triple T – playing “All the Small Things” to which the crowd happily sang along for the second time. After the sing-along, the players took their time exiting the stage, and some approached the crowd to let the city join in the celebration. Aube-Kubel jumped onto the barrier for fans to hug him and JT Compher brought down the trophy and held it out for people to touch. Lehkonen greeted his fans with a lit cigar in one hand and a Black Cherry White Claw in the other. And for the record, he wore the same shoe he drank out of.

The University of Denver’s NCAA championship hockey team also attended the event, and alum Logan O’Connor posed for a photo with some of the players. He held the Stanley Cup and Pioneers coach David Carle held the NCAA trophy.

The crowd slowly dispersed, as did the group of players on the stage. However, remaining fans shouted at the stragglers. They called Newhook to “chug, chug, chug” — the newcomer obliged — and also chanted Darcy Kuemper’s first name until he greeted her.

“Our fans have been incredible all year,” said Byram. “We really wanted to give something back to them. … For everyone out here to support us, we thank everyone so much.”

Although the day was a celebration, it also meant a farewell. In the coming days, players will be traveling to their home country off-season or perhaps vacationing. Some will not return to Denver as members of the Avalanche. Next season the squad will be different. In front of the screaming fans, the Colorado players shared some of their final moments as a full group that won the Stanley Cup.

“Whenever a team wins a trophy, there are people who are gone,” Byram said. “But for now, we’re not really worried about that. We are still a team.”

(Top photo by Gabriel Landeskog: Ron Chenoy/USA Today)

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