January 16, 2013
DENVER — Friendly note to the hard-working security staff at Sports Authority Field:
If Gabriel Landeskog approaches the gate, slap him with a 2-minute minor and whisk him back to Pepsi Center. Don’t allow the Avalanche captain near the Mile High playing field.
“I’m 0-2 at Broncos games,” Landy allowed with a grimace.
There is a silver lining to Landeskog’s admission: He feels your pain. He was there on Black Saturday, seated just about parallel to Joe Flacco’s launching point. When the Flacco Fling landed, his stomach dropped to a dark, dark place, just like yours.
"You'd think I’d know better than to only wear one pair of socks. My feet were frozen.”
Landy grieves with us.
Almost a week later, the Broncos' early dismissal from the NFL playoffs still feels like a bitter breakup that hurts worse the next day. And the next day. And the next day.
What Broncos Country needs is a distraction to take its eyes off the NFL teams still playing and its mind off the regret of what should have been.
That’s where Landeskog and the Avs come in. A hockey distraction can’t hurt worse than it already does.
“It’s a good opportunity to help the fans out, get the fans back and maybe make them feel a little better by winning a few hockey games,” said Landeskog, the Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's top rookie. “That’s a difficult thing to deal with, losing a game in a tough way. It's hard to deal with.”
Help us deal, Landy.
Colorado’s home opener Tuesday against Los Angeles is headed toward a sellout. A capacity crowd attended the Avs' first practice, the day after the Mile High Mistake.
“When we came out here on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout,” coach Joe Sacco said. "Even the last couple days, people must be bumping off work pretty early."
Or trying to bump the memory of the Ravens' gut punch from their mind.
Here’s a guess they felt better watching a promising, young hockey squad than if they watch the rest of the NFL playoffs.
The 20-year-old Landeskog is from Sweden and is the youngest captain in NHL history.
He is also a Broncos loyalist and old enough to understand the pain of improbable defeat.
“It was tough the way they lost that game. They were so good before that,” Landeskog said after revealing he also attended the September loss to the Texans. “I’m a big fan. I’m a big Broncos fan. And I wasn’t a football fan before coming here. I really didn’t follow football that much.
"But to watch the Broncos and see how they play, that’s an exciting, fun team. I can see why people here are so into the Broncos.”
Let’s be real: A free car wash after a car wreck won’t lift anyone's spirits. Only time can provide the right emotional therapy for a region in mourning.
The Avs are not mourning the absence of Ryan O’Reilly, their leading scorer with 55 points a year ago, who is holding out for a bigger contract. Sacco said he’s focused only on the players in training camp. Colorado’s 48-game schedule begins Saturday at Minnesota.
That’s enough to worry about, much less the mood of a depressed state.
Sacco told me he is not one for emotional therapy. His roster of 20-somethings is more concerned with returning to the playoffs after missing out last season.
“We like to play a fast game. We like to play a physical game,” Sacco said. “We play on our toes. I’ve said that from Day One. Not on our heels."
Landy and the Avs are free from the NHL lockout.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be back in Denver with the guys," he said.
Perhaps they can help free our minds from a Broncos season gone to heck on a Hail Mary.
Therapy on ice? It can't hurt worse than it does.
Paul Klee is the Denver sports columnist for The Gazette. He can be reached through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@Klee_Gazette).
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