While CSU football fans had little to cheer about Saturday afternoon, students and families in Northern Colorado had something to cheer about Saturday night.
In a rematch of the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals, the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Florida Panthers, 7-4 in front of 5,217 Northern Colorado hockey fans, as the Budweiser Events Center opened and hosted the preseason game as its first official event.
The game took place after a multitude of free events throughout the day promoted the grand opening of the Larimer County Fairgrounds and Events Center.
Students had the opportunity to take a free tour of the new venue, meet some of the Colorado Eagles, the minor league hockey team set to play in the arena, meet some of the Colorado Chill, the new professional women’s basketball league, and hang out with other Colorado celebrities, listen to live bands and skate for free on the new ice rink.
All these events were held in part by Global Spectrum, which runs and operates the Budweiser Events Center for Larimer County.
“I’m amazed I only had to drive 15 minutes to see an Avalanche game,” said Fort Collins resident Cynthia Delmore, who has owned Avalanche season tickets for five years along with her two sisters. “This arena is so close and in a great location. It reminds me of a smaller Pepsi Center, so I already love it.”
Cynthia and her two sisters sat and waited in anticipation for the start of the game, donning their Avalanche jerseys signed by players over the past five years. They were excited to pull their jerseys out of the closet for the first time this season.
“These jerseys bring back so many memories and good times for us,” she said. “It is great to be a part of tonight.”
The preseason game was the first home Avalanche game ever played outside of Denver. For everyone inside the Budweiser Events Center, the two-time Stanley Cup winners were the Fort Collins Avalanche for one night.
Avalanche President and General Manager Pierre Lacroix acknowledged his strong fan base in Northern Colorado by allowing head coach Tony Granato to dress some of the most talented players on the team in newcomers Paul Kariya, and Teemu Selanne.
Rob Blake, Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay also dressed for the game.
Hart Trophy winner Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic did not dress, but fans still got the first opportunity to see Selanne and Kariya score points on the same line.
But that did not come until the second period. Fans had to watch the Florida Panthers take a 2-0 lead after the first period, raising the level of anticipation even higher for the moment when everyone would celebrate that first goal together.
That moment finally came just three minutes into the second period as the Avalanche came out and scored five straight goals and never looked back.
Selanne and Kariya combined for six points, Milan Hejduk added two goals and Rob Blake had three assists – all in the second period.
As the game came to a close, fans expressed appreciation for Budweiser and the Avalanche by sticking around until the end to see every moment of the 7-4 Avalanche victory.
“This night makes up for the football game,” said CSU student Preston Cagle. “The Avs walked all over Florida and that was good closure to my weekend.”