The Colorado Avalanche believes it’s never too late to grant wishes, and it was no different on Monday when 91-year-old fan Don Benny was awarded his long-time dream of meeting some of the Avs and becoming an ‘Av for a Day.’
Benny, a resident at Sunrise Creek senior living center in Montrose, Colo., got the opportunity through the ‘Wish of a Lifetime’ (WOL) program. The organization, a non-profit based out of Denver, strives to inspire an entire generation and create a cultural shift on how people view aging, as stated in the program’s mission statement.
Their belief is that growing older doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming and living a life of purpose. The WOL program grants lifelong wishes to seniors who have overcome adversity in their own lives, spreading a sense of hope and inspiration to these individuals.
Benny, a retired right wing, was a 1977 Senior Olympian, and has been a Colorado hockey fan since the Avalanche came to Denver for the 1995-96 season. Benny also played the game himself until he was 56 years old.
“I played as a kid in high school and then not again until I was 40,” Benny told Alan Lewis Gerstenecker, news editor of the Montrose Daily Press. “Then I played for another 16 years. It was a lot of fun, a good release. …Although we could never get ice time until about 10 o’clock, so I was always late. By then, my wife wouldn’t wait up, she’d just go to bed.”
Benny also said he remembers the Avalanche capturing the 1996 Stanley Cup in its first season after relocating to Denver from Quebec, as well as winning its second championship during the 2000-01 season.
“They won it their first year in Denver, and then again in 2001,” he told Gerstenecker. “That’s when they had Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Adam Deadmarsh, Alex Tanguay and Patrick Roy. That was a team.”
This World War II veteran has literally dreamt of meeting Avalanche players, and the Wish of a Lifetime program allowed Benny to make it a reality.
“This all started with a dream that I had about having the opportunity to play with the Colorado Avalanche,” Benny said to Gerstenecker. “I followed the Avalanche quite extensively. My wife and I used to live real close to their practice facility at southeast Denver Recreational Center.
“I used to go watch them practice, not every day but often.”
Benny arrived at Pepsi Center on Monday morning prior to Colorado’s morning skate in preparation for its game against the Arizona Coyotes that night. He watched the team practice before getting to meet some of his favorite players in person for the first time. He spent time getting autographs and speaking with Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, forwards Jarome Iginla, Matt Duchene and Jamie McGinn and even head coach Patrick Roy.
Then the longtime Avs fan, along with his son and a couple of close family friends, attended Colorado’s game—a 5-2 win over the Coyotes—on Monday night.
“Since this started with a dream, it’s truly a dream come true for myself, my son and two very close friends,” he told Gerstenecker. “We’re all diehard Avalanche fans.”