The Avalanche will revisit an old rivalry during its 20th Anniversary Season as it takes on the Detroit Red Wings at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. The main show will be preceded by an Alumni Game between the clubs on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 at 5 p.m.
Rivalry was a word used frequently at the league's media event, in reference to the opponent the Avs will face on the February evening.
"This is going to be a very special outdoor game," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said to open the press event. "The fact that our title sponsor Coors Light is presenting this game with us at Coors Field, what could be better. When you take the fact that we are in Denver where there are so many great sports fans and the Avalanche has so much support, and you add to that the rivalry that the Avalanche have with the Red Wings coupled with the Alumni Game, this is going to be very special and very exciting."
The friction between Colorado and Detroit is not as intense as it once was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the fans have been overwhelmingly supportive and extremely excited to see these two teams face off on such a national scale.
NHL chief operating office John Collins, Detroit Red Wings special assistant to the general manager Kris Draper and Colorado Rockies owner, chairman & CEO Richard Monfort all attended the affair at Coors Field, in addition to Avalanche president and governor Josh Kroenke, executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic and captain Gabriel Landeskog .
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, MillerCoors director of sports & entertainment marketing Adam Dettman and head coaches from both the University of Denver and Colorado College men's ice hockey team were also in attendance for the press conference.
Led by Altitude TV play-by-play announcer Mike Haynes, six representatives spoke to the media and the invited fans gathered in the stands down the first base line of Coors Field about the excitement and anticipation of the Stadium Series Game.
"You know Denver and Colorado are passionate about their sports, and it's only fitting that they get an opportunity to show their passion that week of ice out here," Monfort said. "In the late '90s and early 2000s, the Red Wings and the Avalanche owned hockey and that rivalry is one of the greatest ones existing in all of sports today. So how fitting is it that Denver, the state of Colorado and Coors Field on a sheet of ice will host that rivalry in February."
Four-time Stanley Cup champion Draper said about the upcoming Alumni Game: "I was just inside talking to Joe (Sakic), the players he has coming out to this event, it's going to be amazing on a Friday night. The Detroit Red Wings organization is committed to bring out an outstanding team that was part of that rivalry from 1996 to 2002 with the names Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Osgood."
Will that same past intensity be present in the Alumni Game?
"Don't expect what you saw back then," Sakic told the media. "I hope nobody is expecting to see that level of play. I can tell you one thing, I know just by talking to Kris when he talks to all his players and I contacted all of the players for our team who are going to be here, to admit, everybody was like, 'We are playing who and when? We're there.' So they are all excited to come out."
Televised nationally on NBC and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada, the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series is just one of many special occasions planned during the Avalanche's anniversary season but has certainly gained the most attention and will be the most anticipated of the year.
To much approval and applause by the crowd on hand at the ballpark, Landeskog revealed the much anticipated sweater design that will be worn by the Avs on Feb. 27, 2016. The white jersey with burgundy, blue and black accents features the Avalanche and Colorado state flag 'C' design with large numbers on the back and shoulders.
"Streamlined sleeve striping connects to the bold visual of the Avalanche stripe, part of the team's socks since 1995," noted in an NHL news release. "The modern styled collar features a 5,280 call out, referencing the Avalanche's home in the Mile-High City."
A mockup of the rink outlined its location for the games, allowing fans to envision the view of the ice from their seats, and Stadium Series signage illuminated the scoreboard and the LED running video boards at Coors Field. The Stadium Series contest will be the state's first NHL outdoor hockey game and the first in franchise history.
"I don't think so," Kroenke said in reference to there not being a bad seat to watch the games from. "I was curious to see the layout. I see it here behind me, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun for everyone no matter where they are sitting. I don't think line of sight is going to be a problem."
Also announced by the NHL on Monday, a limited number of tickets will be available for purchase by the public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27 through Ticketmaster.
For The Fans
Passion was another adjective used frequently by many representatives in attendance at 20th and Blake, referencing the sports fans in Denver and the dedication they show for the burgundy and blue. The Avalanche organization has worked hard to bring an outdoor game to those passionate fans, and the league places high value on making the experience a positive and unforgettable one.
"We started pushing the NHL for this a few years ago, and our fans have hoped for something like this for a number of years and to have it now against the Red Wings I think is going to be spectacular," Kroenke said. "Not only for our current group, but to get all the alumni together is going to be fun for our fans to see."
"It (the Stadium Series game) raises the profile (of an organization), but more importantly it's what it does for the fans here," Bettman said. "They are going to be excited. They are going to have fun. It's going to be a memorable occasion."
Sakic said it will be a special weekend for everyone involved, including the players who are already excited to put on a good show for the packed house. Many on the team will be experiencing their first NHL outdoor game as well.
"I know everybody is excited to have an outdoor game here, and it's been a long time coming," Sakic said. "I know the organization is excited. I know the Rockies are excited. Most importantly, the fans are all excited about this game. Colorado always does the big events, and they are always supported well. They always do them right and this is going to be no different. Everybody is looking forward to the Stadium Series being here."
While it's not even October yet, the Avalanche can't wait for the games to begin.