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Colorado's Southern Charmers: Jimbo and Charlie

Even in Mississippi, Avalanche hockey has crazed the lives of Leslie, Jimbo and Charlie Hambrick

by Sasha Kandrach @KandrachSasha / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Last fall - after finding themselves intrigued by the curious sport of hockey courtesy of watching Cindy Lou Who from "The Grinch" and "Charlie Brown" play pond hockey - brothers Jimbo and Charlie were tasked with choosing to each select an NHL team as their own and their favorite. 

Jimbo, the older of the two at age six, opted to go with proximity and chose the Nashville Predators as they were the closest team geographically to the boys' hometown of Ridgeland, Miss. 

Charlie, who is just four years old, took a bit longer to make his decision and examined all 32 logos. And after evaluating each team, Charlie picked the Colorado Avalanche. 

"Charlie picked the Avs because he likes to ski," Leslie Hambrick, Jimbo and Charlie's mom said. "But he actually looked over all of the teams in the league and he picked the Avalanche. He figured an Avalanche can take out any of the other team's mascots. An Oiler? An Avalanche can take that out. A Shark? An Avalanche has got that. A Flame? Nope, an Avalanche can take that out too."

Leslie - nor Jimbo and Charlie, for that matter - didn't foresee that when the boys made their selections that the two teams would end up facing off in the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it made for a hockey-packed week as the Hambricks flew out to Denver for Games 1 and 2 from May 2-6 and out to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 from May 6-10. 

"We actually had tickets this weekend to go see the Miami Formula 1 race," Leslie explained ahead of Game 4. "I was excited for that, but hockey has just consumed our lives and it's all the boys seem to care about. So, we couldn't have passed this up."

While still new to the sport, hockey has become such a fixture for the Hambrick family, even despite being based out of Miss. where football is an all-consuming staple of the South. During the regular season, Leslie and the boys went to about two games a month - four games total - split between the Avalanche and Predators. 

"We go to football games and the boys just can't sit still," Leslie explained. "They'll be running up and down the aisles. It's too much time without play. I have a friend in Denver who told me there's things that are better than football, like hockey. And I was like, "There's nothing better than football in the south!" But there is. Hockey is so fast and the boys love it. They're glued to it. Even on TV, that's all they watch."

Jimbo and Charlie are so enthralled by the sport that they've even taken over the living room as a result of their passion. Leslie has cleared out the entirety of their furniture to make room for the boys' make-shift indoor rink that they've constructed for games of mini sticks. And while there isn't ice available for the boys to practice on in Ridgeland or really anywhere convenient in their home state, they've learned to skate during their visits out to Denver. 

Throughout those visits, they've tacked along some days designated to hitting the beautiful slopes of Colorado's front range. During their most recent visit, Charlie - while sporting his Nathan MacKinnon jersey - cut open his chin on a crash and had to get stitches. The accident didn't faze him. 

"He wasn't even upset," Leslie said with a laugh. "He had blood all over the front of his jersey, his chin was all stitched up and he just said, 'Now, I'm just like a real hockey player!'"

The boys' love for hockey has not just instilled a passion, but it's provided comfort during some trying times as their father - who is an active Marine - has had to deploy on assignment multiple times throughout this year, including this past Sunday, on Mother's Day. 

"It's just been such a great distraction for them in a way," Leslie said. "We just try to get them to as many games and they're loving it. We hope the Avs can keep it going so we can keep going!"

Jimbo, who originally selected Nashville as his preferred team, even swapped his allegiances for the Avalanche's postseason run following Game 3, where they were seated behind what the penalty box, or what the boys refer to as the 'timeout box.' After the Predators beat Colorado netminder Darcy Kuemper and scored, the Nashville's fan base exclaimed a chant throughout Bridgestone Arena that stated, "Kuem-per, Kuem-per, it's all your fault! It's all your fault!"

"He didn't like that," Leslie recalled. "He said it wasn't nice and he didn't want to be a part of that so he put on his [Cale Makar] Avs jersey instead and said he would wear it to [Game 4] also."

After the Avalanche completed the First Round sweep, Leslie, Jimbo and Charlie are looking forward to getting back to Ball Arena for more playoff hockey and are just waiting for the dates and opponent. 

"It's just such an amazing atmosphere there," Leslie said. "Every experience with Avs fans has been awesome. Everyone is so nice and welcoming and the boys just go crazy. We love it. It's funny, a few months ago we didn't even pay attention to hockey and now it's basically part of our everyday lives."

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