Tusinski: Now is the time to get into Colorado hockey

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The Colorado Eagles celebrate an overtime win against the Tucson Roadrunners at the Budweiser Events Center March 2, 2019. (Photo Courtesy of Colorado Eagles)

Dylan Tusinski, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

There’s a lot of buzz around Colorado sports as of late. The Denver Broncos acquired superstar quarterback Russell Wilson about a month ago, the Colorado Rockies signed World Series winner Kris Bryant shortly after and the Denver Nuggets appear poised for another deep playoff run. Seemingly lost in the hype, though, are the dominant performances from Colorado’s hockey teams this year.

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Colorado is home to two professional hockey teams: the Colorado Avalanche in the National Hockey League and the Colorado Eagles in the American Hockey League. The Eagles are the minor league affiliate of the Avalanche, and both teams are gearing up for playoff runs this year.

The Colorado Avalanche have been having one of the most impressive seasons in franchise history. The team has earned 55 wins (and counting) this season, setting a franchise record for most wins in one season.

As a result, the Avalanche team is sitting at the top of both the NHL’s power rankings and the league’s standings. The team punched its ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth year straight just a few weeks ago and recently clinched the top spot in the Central Division.

Playoffs aside, the Avalanche have been nothing short of spectacular during the regular season. Even if you discount the team’s fantastic record, each game the team plays is simply electric. For example, just the other night, the Avalanche recorded an outrageously dominant 9-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings, in which All-Star Nathan MacKinnon recorded five points — including a hat trick that marked MacKinnon’s third career regular season instance of scoring three goals in one game.

The Avalanche give ample reason for Coloradans to become hockey fans. The team has an astonishing 31-4-3 home record this season, which set yet another franchise record. Earlier this season, the team notched 18 consecutive wins at Ball Arena, creating the fifth-longest home win streak in NHL history.

To put it bluntly, the Avalanche are arguably having their best year ever.

“Even if you don’t have all the players’ names memorized, even if you’ve never seen a game in person before or even if you’re just learning the rules of the sport, hockey fans are a surprisingly inclusive bunch. As long as you’re in the crowd and you’re cheering for the home team, you’re a part of the team.”

The Avalanche aren’t alone in their winning ways, either. The team’s minor league affiliate is having a great season too. The Loveland-based Colorado Eagles also secured a playoff berth a couple weeks ago, advancing to a 37-21-7 record this season. It’s the Eagles’ best record since moving up to the American Hockey League a few years ago, and the team still has a few games to play before the season wraps up.

If you haven’t seen an Eagles game in person, you’re missing out. Even though the team isn’t having the record-shattering season the Avalanche are, Eagles games outrank Avalanche when it comes to the overall fun. The team plays at the Budweiser Events Center, an intimate 7,200-seat arena that doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. The arena’s relatively small size and low ceilings make it one of the loudest in professional hockey, and that energy is only amplified by Eagles fans.

For years, Eagles fans have cultivated a handful of traditions. The most noticeable one is the cowbells that fans ring throughout the game, which is a tradition unique to Northern Colorado hockey. On top of that, fans will chant about how the other teams “suck” in a call-and-response with the announcers after penalties, they’ll chant a whole myriad of things after goals and they’ll even get chants started before the puck drops.

Whether you’re getting into the Eagles, Avalanche or hockey in general for the first time, there’s no shame in being a so-called bandwagon fan. Even if you don’t have all the players’ names memorized, even if you’ve never seen a game in person before or even if you’re just learning the rules of the sport, hockey fans are a surprisingly inclusive bunch. As long as you’re in the crowd and you’re cheering for the home team, you’re a part of the team.

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Though hockey is a sport that’s still fun to watch on TV or at a bar, there’s nothing like seeing a game for yourself. Both the Avalanche and the Eagles have some home games to play before the regular season comes to a close, so why not join in the fun?

Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.