AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A celebration of the United States armed forces, particularly the Air Force, dominated the opening ceremony of the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings at Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy on Saturday.
The Kings and Avalanche players walked from the tunnel to the rink in the darkened stadium, following the traditions of the Falcon Walk used by the Academy for its football games. The players were led by retired Col. Oliver Cellini, a 107-year-old who is the oldest living World War II veteran, passing through a phalanx of cadets representing each of the Academy's 40 squadrons while the Air Force's drum and bugle corps played various military hymns.
The arrival of the players on the ice for the start of the game was punctuated by a flyover of three F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and a KC-10 tanker aircraft.
As "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung by the Academy's all-male a cappella group, two members of the academy's Wings of Blue parachute team descended into the stadium, each decorated with LED lights. The first delivered the game puck and the second carried the American flag.
The delivered puck was handed to a service dog, who brought it onto the ice for the ceremonial face-off, which was conducted by Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, the first commander of U.S. Space Command and Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria, the 20th superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The gala started earlier than normal for an outdoor game when four F-35 Lightening II jets flew directly over the Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame outside the stadium two hours before the game.