DENVER -- Persistence paid off for Colorado Avalanche president Josh Kroenke, who for several years had been lobbying for a Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Game.
It will happen on Saturday, Feb. 27 at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, when the Avalanche and longtime rival Detroit Red Wings meet in the first NHL outdoor game to be played in the state.
The League made the official announcement in January, and on Monday NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman held a news conference with officials from the Rockies, Avalanche and Red Wings on a sun-splashed morning under blue skies with a hockey rink configuration stretched across portions of the dirt infield and outfield grass.
In addition, alumni from the Avalanche and Red Wings will play at Coors Field on Friday, Feb. 25. The teams faced each other five times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1996-2002 and combined to win the Stanley Cup five times during that span.
"We will take their long-standing and sometimes very intense rivalry to a new level, which in the case of this fantastic stadium … mile high at 5,280 feet above sea level," Bettman said, adding the game will "send us over the one-million mark in total attendance" for Stadium Series games.
"The fact of the matter is this is a wonderful stadium. It bears the name of the title sponsors of the Coors Light Stadium Series," Bettman said. "We have a great rivalry, we're in a city with incredible sports fans, it's a great combination. This is going to be a wonderful event."
In attendance were Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort, Avalanche senior vice president and general manager Joe Sakic, Red Wings special assistant to the GM Kris Draper and Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. University of Denver hockey coach Jim Montgomery and Colorado College coach Mike Haviland, whose teams will play at Coors Field on Feb. 20, were also present.
Kroenke said he and other Colorado officials put in a lot of phone calls to the NHL office with the hope of securing a Stadium Series game. The timing for a game this season made sense because it marks the 20th anniversary of the franchise's arrival from Quebec.
"Detroit was definitely one of the teams that we wanted to talk about first," Kroenke said. "I think they were just as eager as well."
The Avalanche unveiled a special jersey they will wear for the game, with Landeskog modeling.
The main color is white, a connection to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, with a burgundy Colorado "C" surrounding a black puck as the crest. The black collar features the number 5,280 -- signifying the mile-high altitude -- and larger numbers on the shoulders and back will make it easier for fans to identify the players.
"The Colorado 'C' is something you see everywhere these days, and I think our fans will like it as much as we do," Kroenke said.
The League announced a limited number of tickets will go on sale to the public on first-come, first-served basis at noon ET on Tuesday, Oct. 27. They will be available for purchase on www.Ticketmaster.com/NHL and www.Ticketmaster.ca/NHL
"It's exciting," Sakic said. "It will be great for our team, our organization, our city, to have an outdoor game like this, a spotlight game. Every outdoor game is unique, and to be able to participate in one, especially at home, I know the guys are going to be excited and looking forward to that game."
Weather can be unpredictable in February in Colorado, where 60-degree temperatures under sunny skies are as possible as a full-scale blizzard.
"I love warm weather, but if it snows, as long as it's not snowing during the game … actually, it doesn't matter, as long as it's not too cold," Sakic said. "Snow would be all right."
Landeskog played outdoors while growing up in Sweden, though he hasn't done it since high school.
"You'd skate outdoors as a kid, but never in my life in something like this with 50,000-plus fans," he said. "It'll be an exciting game."
Landeskog was envious while watching previous Stadium Series games on television, hoping he'd eventually have an opportunity to play in one.
"Even when I was in junior and back home in Sweden, that's when they started playing the outdoor games and the Winter Classics," he said. "I remember watching the Pittsburgh
Penguins beat the (Buffalo] Sabres (in Orchard Park, N.Y., in 2008) and Sidney Crosby scored a goal and pretty much shoveled the puck in with all that snow on the ice. Ever since then I've been dreaming about playing in one of these games. It's really exciting to be here and I know I speak for all my teammates that we're really excited for this game. I'm going to try and soak it all in."