Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup Parade draws approximately 500,000 to downtown Denver

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sam Girard broke his sternum in a May 21 playoff game. Forty days later, he cartwheeled on a stage built on the steps of the Denver City and County Building.

It was a fitting display of the jubilation the Avs and their fans feel after the franchise captured the NHL championship and lifted its third Stanley Cup trophy this week. It was a feat celebrated with a parade and rally that Denver officials said drew at least 500,000 people downtown Thursday.

Joe Sakic was a player the last time the Avalanche won the cup in 2001. Appearing at Civic Center Park as the team’s general manager, he thanked fans for their support as the Avs finally climbed back to the top of the mountain.

“Twenty-one long years,” Sakic said, surveying the sea of ​​people. “It’s been a long time but we’re back. We are back.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor Jared Polis took turns to entertain the crowd and congratulate the team. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, known for his stoic demeanor, was emotional during his appearance on the microphone as he described the hard work and sacrifice of the team’s players, coaches and families .

“When it comes to the players, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. I can’t even explain it. I couldn’t put it into words. I’m amazed by every single one of them,” Bednar said.

These are the players that the crowds of fans have come to see. Appearing on stage in various drunken states, the Avalanche did not disappoint, despite a severe weather warning broadcast amid the rally urging people to take shelter as a handful of raindrops fell .

Team captain Gabriel Landeskog set the tone. Stripping off his jersey and wrapping himself in the flag of his native Sweden before hoisting the cup to loud cheers, the man known as Landy praised his teammates for their resilience, determination and attitude.

Then he turned his attention to the fans.

“City of Denver, State of Colorado, you’ve been (expletive) amazing to us all this year,” he said. “We just want to thank you all for your support through the tough times, through all the good times.”

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Colorado Avalanche shirtless left winger Gabriel Landeskog (92) waves the Swedish flag and hoists the Stanley Cup during the team’s championship celebration at Civic Center Park in Denver on June 30, 2022.

“Pumped to See the Cup”

Thursday’s party began long before Erik Johnson, the Avalanche’s longest-serving player, led the Civic Center Park crowd through an a capella version of Blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” a song that became the team’s anthem.

Giddy Avs fans began gathering outside Union Station just after dawn.

Janice and Ryan Wallace staked out a spot before 7 a.m., their three children in tow.

Over two decades ago, Janice celebrated the 2001 championship. This time around, she found herself cleaning the house during tight matches.

“I love being able to pass that on to the kids now,” she said as the family waited for the parade to pass.

Brody Wallace, 12, got into hockey five years ago – when the Avs finished with the league’s worst record. Now he can celebrate a championship and watch his favorite player, Cale Makar, drive by in a parade.

“We’re excited to see the cut,” Janice Wallace said with a smile.

All around them, parents hoisted children onto their shoulders, craning their necks to watch the team drive by in fire trucks.

It might have been 10 a.m., but that didn’t stop fans from drinking cups of adult-to-go drinks as they clapped strangers. Chants of “Let’s go, Avs!” sounded sporadically.

Fans dressed in burgundy and blue leaned out of apartment windows and cheered atop balconies along Wynkoop Street. A cheeky individual has perched on the black Oxford Hotel sign that hangs above 17th Street. It was a peaceful celebration, however, with Denver police reporting that they made no arrests in connection with the parade or the Civic Center event.

A young woman slipped into the crowd, politely asking the masses to let her through so she could get to work.

“Work?” shouted a man. “Who is working today?

Fans line the streets during the...

Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Fans line the streets during the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup Celebration Parade in downtown Denver on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

“The best day of my life”

Sandy and Bob Adams took four trains to the parade from their home in Burgdorf. They watched as the truck carrying the University of Denver NCAA championship team drove by, waving their fists while holding their own trophy. The Denver East High School team that won a national title this spring was also celebrated as part of the festivities.

“It’s Hockeytown, USA right now!” said Bob Adams with a smile.

Cheers erupted as the heroes appeared in Wynkoop. Players fired super-dippers into the crowd. Others shook cans of beer, spraying anyone within reach. One player pulled his shirt over his face, drinking a drink through the fabric as the crowd roared.

Chants of “MVP!” MVP!” erupted when Makar appeared in view, holding the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the Stanley Cup Finals Most Valuable Player.

Then came the show everyone was waiting for. The phones rose high in the air, a low murmur growing to a crescendo as Landeskog walked past and lifted the Stanley Cup trophy above his head, swinging the 34.5-pound silver cup up and down.

“It gave me goosebumps,” said Steve Comeau, who recalls lining up in 1995 for Opening Day tickets when the Avs arrived in Colorado from Quebec.

The legions followed the parade down 17th Street en route to the Civic Center, jumping, shouting and yelling at no one in particular. Construction workers wearing hard hats and orange vests paused to watch the crowds parade down Broadway. A man honked with a horn attached to his wheelchair.

A teenager in a Detroit Red Wings jersey pissed off the crowd, prompting hearty boos. Old rivalries never die.

“This is the best day of my life,” said one man over a beer in a pom-pom koozie.

Nathan MacKinnon (29) from Colorado...

Jintak Han, The Denver Post

Nathan MacKinnon (29) of the Colorado Avalanche drinks beer with a fan, Tommy Henninger, 21, during the team’s victory parade in Denver, Thursday, June 30, 2022.

“A dream come true”

Some fans avoided the parade route to claim prime seats on the Civic Center grass.

Watching the parade march down 17th Street on giant video screens, the crowd went wild to hear that some Avs players were filling their Super Soakers with beer to douse spectators. The crowd erupted even louder when the Stanley Cup first appeared on screen.

Among the revelers on the Great Lawn were Bruce and Carolyn Hohne. The couple left their home near St. Mary’s Glacier at 6:30 a.m. to find a good spot.

“It’s not like they have a parade like this every year,” said Bruce Hohne, 67.

Wearing a Makar jersey, Carolyn Hohne, 59, said the highlight of the playoff run for her was the Avs beating the St. Louis Blues in the second round and breaking their curse. The team lost in the second round of the playoffs three years in a row before 2022.

Fans flocked to Civic Center Park...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Fans flocked to Civic Center Park and gathered to celebrate the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup victory in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

Asked what she would remember most from the 2021-2022 Avs, Hohne offered one word: speed

“These guys can skate,” she said.

Therese Pocrnick wore a Sakic jersey from the 2001 NHL All-Star Game (played in Denver) as she headed to the park for the rally. Hockey is in his blood. She has a tattoo of her father, Tony, in his hockey gear on her calf. He played for DU in 1950, she said.

There were two reasons Pocrnick wanted to attend the Stanley Cup celebration. First of all, she says, it feels like the world is falling apart right now and it’s great to celebrate something good. The second reason was to remember her father, who died in the late 1990s.

“It’s a way to keep it present,” she said. “Living in my memory, you know?

The highlight of the Avs season for Porcnick came when Nazem Kadri scored a hat trick in St. Louis in Game 4 of this series. It came after Kadri, who is Muslim, received racist threats online after colliding with Blues goalkeeper Jordan Binnington in Game 3.

Kadri was the last player to take the microphone during the celebration.

“Guys, this is amazing,” he said. “It’s a dream come true and you’re part of it.”

Fans flocked to Civic Center Park...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Fans flocked to Civic Center Park and gathered to celebrate the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup victory in Denver on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

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