Today she laughs about it. Or laugh as much as you can when you’ve lost most of the feeling in your body from the chest down.
“I think we’re in a state right now where it’s just a crazy world, we’re so at odds,” Avalanche fan Ruby Cates said over the phone from her third-floor room at Fort Collins’ Poudre Valley Hospital. “But even the little things can bring people closer together.”
While the Avs have been busy decimating the NHL en route to winning the Stanley Cup for the past eight weeks, Cates has been treated for a neurological problem and a recent hernia. After Colorado 2, Tampa Bay 1 put a decade-long title to bed on Sunday, she felt like pinching herself anyway.
“When I was having my roughest days in rehab, the Avs were chasing,” she said of the NHL champions, whose theurgical run ended the season with a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup -Finals ended Sunday night. “It gave me something to look forward to.”
Something to distract her from reality. If only for a few hours a night.
One of Cates’ strings of text over the weekend, she recalled, involved a heated discussion of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Another text appeared five minutes later.
GO AVS GO!
“We live in a divided world,” Cates said. “But for Denver and the state of Colorado, that brings us together.”
No deer. No Wade. No red. No blue. No protests. Simply the best dang hockey team on the planet kicking tail, taking names and taking everyone along for the ride.
“You know, I was there at the (Ball Arena) when you could come in for $10[to an Avs game],” recalled Kegan Charles, another Avalanche fan, as he surveyed the chaos late Sunday night joined the game in LoDo.
IT’S OVER! THE AVS ARE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS FOR THE THIRD TIME! LET’S HAVE A PARADE COLORADO!!!
— 92.5 FM – Altitude Sports Radio in Denver (@AltitudeSR) June 27, 2022
“I mean nobody wanted to leave. And now the trophy means everything.”
The best part? How the 2022 Stanley Cup champions got us to stop worrying about the big things long enough to sing Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” until we were deliciously hoarse.
By the time Charles reached 20th and the Market, a horde of dizzying revelers had formed at the intersection, almost all wearing some sort of Avs gear, propped up by a police wall.
An orange traffic barrel bounced over a mosh pit like a beach ball at a summer party, bouncing from one unseen pair of hands to another. Then another.
A celebrant climbed a light pole like a shirtless Spider-Man. At least two street signs were gutted. A huge ROAD CLOSED warning surfed through the crowd.
“AVS IN SIX! AVS IN SIX!” They cried an hour after the Avs sent the Lightning, two-time NHL champions, to Denver for the first Stanley Cup since 2001.
“(EXPLETIVE) TAMPA BAY! (EXPLETIVE) TAMPA BAY!”
With fireworks exploding overhead, Charles waved an inflatable replica of the Stanley Cup over his head as he plunged into the fray.
“I couldn’t really appreciate the (Avs’) Cup (win) in 2001,” Charles explained. “But now I can. Yes, it means the world to us.”
He came to share, to pass his fake trophy, just as Avs captain Gabe Landeskog had just passed the real one to his friend and teammate Erik Johnson.
“Oooooh, can I have the honor?” an older man with a long beard asked Charles.
For a second they held this replica trophy together in the market. Strangers who embrace the moment.
“It’s a melting pot of Avs games,” said Charles. “And no one gives a (expletive) statement on where you stand politically or sexually. It’s a very welcoming culture.”
It brings us together.
“Yes,” Charles replied. “It’s kinda cool.”
Want to talk cool?
A few quiet blocks away, right across the street from the first base gate at Coors Field, Andrew Jeffries was dancing down Blake Street in a smart suit—jacket, pants, all that shit—made entirely of the Avs logo duration.
“It took me a few months to make it,” the Denverite explained. “I just felt an inspiration.”
Enough to weave in a linen interior. Oh, and silk on the inside of the jacket.
“When I did that, it was probably after the loss in Vegas (in the ’21 cup playoffs),” Jeffries said, recalling the sting from 13 months earlier. “These guys worked their butts off.”
— Sean Keeler (@SeanKeeler) June 27, 2022
And here’s the kicker: The Avs haven’t lost a playoff series since he ended his passion project.
“That is the Lucky suit,” laughed Jeffries, who works in the apparel industry.
“There’s a lot going on right now in terms of politics, controversy, life, COVID, whatever. At the end of the day, we’re here to cheer for the Avalanche.
“It’s great to see that. I mean, it (stinks) having all these divisions, but at the end of the day, that’s something that brings everyone together, you know?”
burgundy and blue. A tribe. a heartbeat A trophy. A city.
“It means everything,” Cates said. “You just brought joy to so many people in a not-so-great world.
“I always felt like I won with them, I lost with them. I’ve been in severe pain all day. I try to get better every day. that makes me better In the darkest of times, I’ve always had my Avs.”
She’s always had hope, even if she can’t feel much on the outside from the navel down. Even if moving without a walker is a chore. Although every day includes at least three hours of physical therapy.
“If you stick a needle in me, I can’t feel it,” the Fort Collins resident said. “It made me really, really weak.
“It was crazy. But thank god I could still see the avs.”
Heck, Cates says she’s even all invested in the rehab unit now. Doctors. nurses. Employee. The whole.
“It was what brought me joy,” she said. “I went through a divorce, and hockey got me[through]when everything else was upside down.
“You know, when you’re happy, you work harder. You work harder, you get better.”
Cates was so happy on Sunday that she could have screamed loud enough to wake the third floor. And the fourth, now that you mention it.
“I couldn’t scream, I kept saying so softly:”I can not believe it,’” Cates recalls.
“Then my phone started ringing. People tried to call me and text me. I don’t know how to sleep.”
Like a winner. Ultimately.