DENVER - Jesse Ferner, 32, has waited his entire life for his beloved St. Louis Blues to rule the National Hockey League. Colorado Avalanche fans waited a few months for a Stanley Cup title.
"I'm a little jealous," Ferner said, "but, you know, we'll have our time."
Colorado hockey fans already enjoyed their time. Prior to the 1995-96 season, the Nordiques skated down from the frozen land of Quebec and became the Avalanche, and Colorado fans soon rejoiced as a talented, entertaining, eccentric collection of hockey superstars won the Stanley Cup. The Avs ruled the NHL again in 2001.
Avs fever has returned to our state. On Saturday night, a packed Pepsi Center rocked with fans waving pompoms and shouting mean words to refs and the aptly named Minnesota Wild. This was hockey heaven for the fans who watched the Avalanche prevail 4-3 in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead.
But there's something thin about this love. A year ago, with the Avs stumbling before the arrival of coach Patrick Roy, the team ranked 26th out of 30 NHL teams in attendance, and Pepsi Center was often a quiet, gloomy, giant room.
Avs fans demand a mountain of victories and pout and stay home when those wins fail to arrive. Colorado hockey fans have been - and there is no way around this truth - spoiled. In 2009, during a lull in an Avs loss at Pepsi Center, I counted 35 lonely spectators in Section 370. They were surrounded by 76 empty seats.
Ferner lives in Colorado Springs, but watches, with the aid of his DVR, every Blues game every season. His Missouri family has waited, in vain, since 1967 for the Blues to bring the Stanley Cup home to St. Louis.
Patience is precious. His family's support is, Ferner says, a "generation over generation" thing. He sat beside his grandfather at Blues games. Someday he might sit beside his grandson at Blues games. (Not all Blues fans are as fervent as the Ferners. St. Louis ranked 18th in NHL attendance this season.)
Avs fandom has a distinctive place in the Colorado sports mix. The Broncos, Rockies and Nuggets were born here, and fans have watched the franchises climb and, more often, fall.
The roots are deep. Trust me on this one.
I attend Nuggets games with old Denver friends, and while we sit there laughing and drinking beers I think back to games we attended in 1971 when the Nuggets were known as the Rockets and played in a cramped arena on 17th Street. That was a long time ago.
Hundreds of Springs residents watched Broncos games with their moms and dads in the 1960s. The support, the devotion and - let's face it - the love runs deep.
And it's not only the Broncos. Last summer the Rockies bumbled to a second straight last-place finish in the National League West while 2.8 million loyal fans watched at Coors Field.
Bill Althoff, a Springs resident, grew up in New Jersey watching the Rangers and, especially the Devils. He's pleased to reside on the Front Range even though he's often baffled by the behavior of Avs fans.
"When things are going good, the fans are all about it," Althoff said. "If they're winning, they're all screaming, but if the Avs start to lose ..."
"They seem to be lackluster."
I disagree, slightly, with Bill.
Avs fans don't seem lackluster when their team starts losing.
They are lackluster.