DENVER • Mikko Rantanen. That guy’s a stud. Let’s see what the NHL’s second-leading scorer thinks about this outdoor game the Colorado Avalanche is scheduled to play at — get this — Falcon Stadium.
”It’s going to be exciting. The last time we were playing outdoors we were probably little kids,” Rantanen said in the Avs dressing room at Pepsi Center on Wednesday.
Tyson Barrie. Now there’s a good one to ask. Franchise’s all-time assists leader for a defenseman was all over the ice the last time the Avs played outdoors, in 2016 against the Red Wings.
“That was so much fun,” Barrie said. “I think we lost, 5-3, maybe? Everything leading up to it — getting our families in town, skating outdoors, the atmosphere around the city — was really cool. It was a great experience. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
They’re not yanking your stick, either. That Avs-Red Wings game played under the lights at Coors Field? Unforgettable, one of the coolest events I’ve witnessed. Now the Avs are shaping into and bringing one of the NHL’s best young rosters to Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15, 2020. The “Stadium Series” is hosted by Air Force.
Ticket sales are TBD. The opponent is TBD. The caliber of fun is determined. Here, just ask the Captain.
“I wish we had one every year, to be honest with you. The last one was a blast,” Gabriel Landeskog said. “Even though we didn’t win we had a great time. The fans of Denver and the sports people here loved having it in town. We’re excited to have it next year.”
See, I figured the Avs would be down for another outdoor game, this time at one of the most beautiful places where games can be played. But the local hockey club had lost five straight leading into Wednesday’s showdown against the San Jose Sharks, so who knew? Took about two seconds to turn their frowns upside down at the mention of playing hockey outside.
“A lot of guys, especially Canadians, we have our best memories playing hockey outdoors,” said forward Logan O’Connor, who knows about Front Range hockey love after playing for DU. “For me, at least, that’s where a lot of my fun hockey came from, with buddies that you don’t necessarily get to play with all the time. It’s guys from the community. It’s a pretty cool feeling to know we could have the opportunity to do that in a real NHL game next year.”
Anyway, I can’t wait. How many of you will be there? Falcon Stadium holds around 46,000, and with an ice rink instead of a football field to worry about, they’re hoping to push 50,000. The NHL just hosted its 11th Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, this time in South Bend, Ind. Other than Notre Dame Stadium running out of beer midway through the second period — amateurs, am I right? — everything from the visuals on TV to the hockey itself was awesome. The NHL has a team of roadies who build the rink, which takes about two weeks to put up and five days to take out.
NBC said the Bruins-Blackhawks game at Notre Dame Stadium drew nearly 3 million viewers on the telly. That’s a lot of eyeballs next year on Falcon Stadium. And Air Force hockey is scheduled to play Colorado College that weekend, according to a source, so we can connect the dots there. (DU played CC at Coors Field in 2016.) Yes, there will be a flyover. Of course there will be a flyover.
“It’s something you can look forward to during the year,” Barrie said. “It’s pretty surreal to play an NHL game that’s meaningful and it matters in the standings outdoors.”
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)