A Colorado Avalanche Legacy

Our little Joe

We are an NHL family. My husband and I have been Colorado Avalanche fans since the team first came to Colorado from Quebec in 1995. During the Avs’ 2000-2001 season, I became pregnant with our first child. My due date, based on my best guess memory of my most recent menstrual cycle, was calculated to be July 26th, 2001. The hockey season progressed alongside my pregnancy, and the Avalanche were killing it. Thanks, in part, to team captain Joe Sakic’s phenomenal scoring year (118 points from 54 goals and 64 assists), the Avs completed the regular season with 118 points, winning the President’s Trophy. Steve and I were over the moon. Hockey is fun to watch, but it’s a lot more fun to watch when your team is showing up in a big way.

Scrapbook page I made during Joe’s first year as an Avs fan

The team entered the playoffs and we did not miss a game. I was still working as a technical writer and editor for the National Renewable Energy Lab and started my day in the office at 6:30 a.m., but that did not stop pregnant, tired me from staying up late so as not to miss any of the action. When we progressed to the championship series against the New Jersey Devils and were down 3-2, to put on a brave face knowing we might lose our shot at the cup, I told Steve it was okay if we lost because then at least I would get some much needed sleep. But, we didn’t lose. We came back from that 3-2 deficit to win the series and the Stanley Cup on June 9th, roughly seven weeks from my due date. When the clock ran on out on that last game and the jubilant Avs players threw their sticks in the air and flew off the bench to celebrate, I screamed and jumped up and down like a crazy person for minutes. My heart was racing. I was over the moon. When Steve and I finally were able to soak in the win and relax, we went to bed with an early alarm set so we could wake up and drive downtown to pick up Stanley Cup Champion merchandise.

In 2011 with my guys at a game

On the morning of the 10th, we drove down to the Sports Castle on Broadway and picked up our gear and began trying to figure out if we’d be able to attend the Championship parade on Monday. Later that day, we took the light rail downtown to see a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field. It was 90 degrees when we got to the ball game. I was feeling a little off, which I attributed to my pregnancy, the heat, and my lack of sleep the night before. At some point, though, I became aware that my water was definitely leaking. We decided to go to the EMS at the field to get their opinion. There were two EMTs there, both male. They inquired about my due date and asked if I was having contractions. I told them I didn’t think so. They took my vitals, noticed I was not soaked down there, and dismissed my concern as an overreaction by an irrational pregnant lady. I didn’t appreciate their cavalier attitude, so I called my midwife. She told me to get in a cab immediately and meet her at the hospital.

The boys with Bernie in the age of Covid

At the hospital, I measured 3 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. I was in labor. Because my due date was still seven weeks out, the doctor made the decision to stop my labor. They medicated me to stop contractions, checked me into a room, and told me they would have an ultrasound tech check my amniotic fluid levels the next day. The ultrasound revealed too much fluid had been lost, and the doctor ordered Pitocin to stimulate labor again. I panicked. We hadn’t even had a baby shower yet. The nursery was not finished. I had no car seat, no onesies, no diapers, no nothing. The midwife, doctors, and nurses said we would have time to gather all that up because our infant would likely remain in the NICU for 6-8 weeks. It was a lot to absorb, but it was what it was. We made our peace with it and tried to remain positive.

I watched the Stanley Cup parade from the hospital. Labor was induced around 4 p.m., and our five-pound son was born at 12:31 a.m. on June 12th, a little over 48 hours after the Avs had won the Stanley Cup. As soon as I heard him cry and knew he was breathing, I inquired how long they would be keeping him in the hospital. The nurse (and I will never forget this) turned to me and replied, “Oh no. This one goes home with you.” Our son had scored 8/10 on the APGAR. I had gotten my conception timing wrong and we, thankfully, had a fully cooked baby after all. Steve and his parents went shopping to buy baby gear. I was told to pick a name for the birth certificate because we would both be released into the world the next day.

Joe in his Sakic sweater watching Gretzky offer post-game commentary

We decided to name him Joe as a nod to Joe Sakic, and our son’s tie to Colorado Avalanche history was cemented. We’ve attended hockey games with our sons since they were infants, sometimes as a family of four and sometimes with my Avs fan father-in-law who would always buy the boys the something at the game. Joe went to his first Avs game on October 31st, 2001, when he was five months old. Joe has always had Avalanche gear, onesies and toddler rompers gave way to t-shirts and sweatshirts. For his first birthday, my sister gifted Joe an adult-size Joe Sakic sweater, which we held onto until his 18th birthday.

An Avs doll (Matt Duchesne) hanging out at our house

Steve and I watched every game, save one, in the Avalanche playoff series this year, missing just the first game in the Stanley Cup series because it played out while we were asleep on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Joe refused to miss that game, however, waking up at 2 a.m. to watch it in his cabin in the Joe Sakic hockey sweater he had hauled to Europe from home. We woke up at 4 a.m., ahead of our planned flight home from Rome, to catch the final period of the second game in the Stanley Cup series in Italian. Twenty one years and fourteen days after our Joe was born, the Colorado Avalanche, helmed by Executive Vice President and General Manager Joe Sakic, won their third Stanley Cup two days ago on June 26th. Yesterday, I took our grown sons to a sports store to buy us all Stanley Cup championship gear. We’ve come full circle.

On 6/26/22, our son’s namesake, Joe Sakic, hoisted the Stanley Cup a third time, this time as General Manager

Watching Avalanche hockey with our sons over the past two decades, both in person and on the television, has been a priceless gift. These games are family ritual, this team part of our family identity. And this Thursday, I will finally get to attend a Stanley Cup parade here in Denver and I’ll get to do it alongside my Joe. I’m not sure what the legacy of this year’s Colorado Avalanche team will be, but I know the legacy the Colorado Avalanche organization has created in our family.

All the small things, indeed.

If our family has a theme song, this is it now and forever. Go, Avs!

The Tribalism Inherent In Being A Sports Fan

Last night we attended another Colorado Avalanche hockey game. It was a fun one too. The Avs, who have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, were on fire. The Avs scored 4 points in the first period, while the LA Kings scored none. By the end of the game, the Avs had gone up 9 to 3, and the fans were treated to a hat trick. It was the first time our son got to witness, as an adult, the unmitigated joy of other grown-ass adults tossing their baseball caps onto the ice.

As we were standing there, cheering after yet another Avalanche goal, Luke leaned over and said something to the effect of, “Oh, what a wonderful display of rampant tribalism.” He’s a funny kid. I had never thought of hockey fans as a tribe, but he is correct. There we were in our Colorado Avalanche uniforms (emblazoned Avalanche sweatshirts and hockey sweaters) chanting along and waving our fists in the air after every goal, so I guess we were definitely contributing to the tribe mentality. As part of the Colorado Avalanche tribe, I try to be decent. We had some Kings fans sitting to our left, and I did not do any taunting or trash talking. I let them suffer their humiliating loss in peace.

I began thinking about how many tribes there are. We often refer to our friends as our tribe, but there are other tribes too. You might have a tribe of people you associate with from your church or your child’s sports team or your office. I love the band The National and I’m part of their official fan club, so I am part of The National tribe. There are many tribes to which an individual may belong, intentionally or unintentionally.

I think it’s important, though, to differentiate between being part of a tribe and contributing to tribalism in a negative way. Being tribal, in its most basic sense, is actually a good thing. Tribes foster a sense of community. Ever seen how fiercely a tribe of friends will rise to help another friend who is sick or struggling? Tribes also create a sense of belonging, and that can be crucial to dispelling loneliness and depression. Tribalism provides the feeling that we are all in this together. When politicians speak of tribalism negatively, I think they are missing the point. It’s not tribalism that created our political divide but factionalism. On September 10, 2001, we were a fairly divided country. We’d emerged from a contested election, the outcome of which had been decided by the Supreme Court. We were split into factions: those who thought the Supreme Court should have allowed the recounting to continue to a satisfactory conclusion and those who were happy the court had decided to stop the counting and award the election to the person who had the most votes at that point in the process, George W. Bush. But when the United States was attacked by terrorists the following day, those factions quickly, albeit temporarily, dissolved. We united as one great American tribe. American citizens of every faction came together to aid in the clean up and recovery in New York City, to comfort each other in a time of deep sorrow and loss, and to donate blood. For a brief period of time, we united against a common enemy, terrorism. We proved how strong the American tribe can be.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian NHL players have been booed and jeered at during games and have received threats against themselves and their families for something they have nothing to do with. This is sports tribalism gone wrong. NHL fans need to do a better job differentiating between the actions of leader Vladimir Putin and the position of the Russian citizens who have been dragged into this war, some of whom are losing their family members in battle. We can do better.

Tribalism is a good thing that can have negative consequences if the power of the tribe isn’t applied judiciously. I’ve seen some impressive, positive sports team tribalism in recent years. When the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens on December 31, 2017, it put the Buffalo Bills into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. As a show of gratitude, Buffalo Bills fans donated $442k to the Andy and Jordan Dalton foundation for ill and disabled children and their families. When the Bills were defeated in the playoffs this past season by the Kansas City Chiefs, Chiefs fans donated over $300k to the Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo where Bills fans had previously raised over $1M to honor Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen’s grandmother after her death in 2020.

All we need to do is realize both the positive and negative powers inherent in being part of a tribe. We can use our tribes for good or not so good. So, when you’re part of the tribe at your favorite sports team’s event and they’re winning, be kind to the members of the opposing tribe. As with pretty much anything humans do, we can unite around good or evil. Make the right choice. As former First Lady, Melania Trump, put it, “Be best.”

Oh, how I love a good hat trick