[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
1. What’s in a name?
Context: It was the summer of 1995. Due to a weak Canadian dollar, the owner of the Quebec Nordiques was forced to sell his team to the Denver-based COMSAT Entertainment Group. The head of that company, Charlie Lyons, was a one-time Colorado ski bum who wanted the name of the team to reflect the “extreme sports” of his youth. As a result, “Rocky Mountain eXtreme” was picked and logos were commissioned from the team’s in-house graphic designer, Michael Beindorff.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post leaked the new team’s name, and the backlash was immediate. People called into the local radio station and absolutely reamed the choice. The ownership quietly backtracked, claiming the selection never happened.
They instead held a fan vote, where “Colorado Cougars” won out. However, the ownership still had final say in the name, and thus the term “Colorado Avalanche” was born.
The Weirdness: Beyond the obvious weirdness of the “eXtreme” name and the fact that the fan-picked choice didn’t happen, the really odd part of this story is that all proof of the original selection stayed hidden for almost 20 years. The designer uploaded a portfolio containing the logos in 2010, but most hockey fans weren’t aware of it until Icethetics published this great post in 2014.
Looking Back: The team dodged both that awful moniker and the shortened nickname of “Exs” (because THAT would have gone well), and the NHL finally got its ‘90s-style Adjective Team in 1998 with those “Wild” Minnesotans. In the end, all’s well that ends well.
All I can say is good luck, Las Vegas.
Context: After the whole naming fiasco, it was time to begin introducing the new players to the Denver market. The year was 1996, so cheesy sports posters still reigned supreme. Sports Illustrated decided to get in on the action and capitalize on the “cowtown” Avalanche stars Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic just landed in.
The result was … well, look:
Nope nope nope.
I guess nothing says hockey like a Swede and an Canadian posing awkwardly in a 1990s interpretation of the 1890s Denver. Points for lack of fringe at least.
Looking Back: With the Cup win in 1996, Denver quickly came to know and love Sakic and Forsberg even without these, um, questionable images. Like any good hockey town, they supported this one and this one instead. Gotta love the ‘90s.
3. Roy dekes Gretzky
Context: There wasn’t any way Patrick Roy wasn’t making this list. Between his comments to Roenick, his mass of superstitions, and that time he tried to squish Bruce Boudreau with a pane of glass, he is the human embodiment of quirky hockey weirdness. But even with all that, one moment really takes the cake.
The Weirdness: November 16, 1997. The Avs were in New York for the first time that season. It was an off night for the Colorado crew, and they were down 4-1 late in the third. With no one in the zone, Roy came out of his net to play the puck, and his defensemen circled back to support him.
Instead of giving them the puck like a normal goalie would (because this is Patrick Roy we’re talking about here), he decided to deke around a Ranger – who also happened to be Wayne Gretzky – then did a nicely executed spinorama at the red line.
As soon as his teammate touched the puck on the other side, the ref blew the play dead. Evidently, goalies aren’t allowed to go score the goals too, but that didn’t stop Roy from trying or the announcers from getting a good kick out of it.
Looking Back: At least we all know where his fear of possession in the offensive zone comes from now. This makes explaining his current team’s Corsi so much easier.
4. I don’t think that’s his name [NSFW]
Context: For the Avs, it probably would have been better if the league had just canceled all of the Bettman-’13 NHL season. Between a Ryan O’Reilly holdout, the new young Captain getting a concussion four games in, and enough soul crushing losses to span an entire regular year, there really wasn’t a lot to laugh about en route to a 1st Overall pick.
The Weirdness: Evidently, this strain took a toll on the Avs broadcast crew. Even though they’d been together for years, after a game one night, studio host Kyle Keefe let out one heck of a Freudian slip when referring to color commentator, “Peter” McNab.
This video is probably NSFW – consider yourself warned.
Keefe recovers and tries (fairly unsuccessfully) to remain professional, but his partner in crime, analyst Mark Rycroft, explodes into an A+ fit of giggles a few seconds later that last off and on for the next couple minutes.
It might not have been the proudest moment in Altitude TV history, but it certainly was the funniest and definitely the most needed.
Looking Back: Don’t worry, Rycroft. It’s been another three and a half years, and I’m still just as immature as the first time I watched this.
5. Imagine Avs
Context: In stark comparison to the year before, 2013-14 was a fun season to be an Avs fan. The team was winning in a way it hadn’t for a decade, the young players were showing promise, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic were back leading the team, and “Why Not Us?” was ringing in the halls of the Pepsi Center. It truly seemed like a new era.
As such, fans hoped it would be the new era for the jerseys too. The piping on the seven year old getup was a far cry from the previous iconic “mountain” sweaters of Stanley Cup fame. To make it worse, the new set was somehow disturbingly easy to turn into grilling aprons. Understandably, when word of a big announcement came out early in March, some of us hoped for meaningful progress on the #nopiping jersey movement.
Instead, we got this.
To be fair, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons had become the unofficial theme song of the team after it was used in their opening night video, so this made some sense. Even so, finding out the “big announcement” was an ad for an upcoming concert was like finding out Little Orphan Annie just wanted us to drink our Ovaltine.
But as far as the video itself… I have so many questions, but I don’t think I want to know the answers. Why are they so drippy? Why are they badly lipsyncing? What is Landeskog doing? WHY IS THIS EVEN A THING?
Looking Back: Just like the entire 2013-14 season, this video was a crazy ride of complete nonsense, crushed dreams, divisive opinions, weird fun, and lots and lots of “what did I just watch?” moments. The Avs ended up winning the toughest division title in sports that year, being so hot and cold in the playoffs that not even even Katy Perry would know what to make of them, then drafting 10th Overall the next two seasons. If there’s a video that completely sums up that oddly magical PDO-fueled year, this would be it, in all of its uncomfortable awkward glory.
• That time a Nordiques fan jumped the glass and got beat up by the Sabres’ enforcer Rob Ray.
• When an Avs fan’s karma struck back. Literally.
• When Howler the Yeti got into a fight in the McNichols parking lot with a Red Wings fan and a scuffle with a Chicago supporter in the stands. Pretty sure there’s a reason Bernie the St. Bernard is now our mascot instead.
• The team’s South Park cameo. Awful nice of them to let the kids play, don’t you think?
• When Joe Sakic scored a goal and got into a fight. Still no word on how Gilmore likes those apples.
• How this kid named Matt Duchene seemed really excited to point at the jerseys of his future coach and GM.
• This very odd photo of Jose Theodore from the now defunct Rocky Mountain News that has been dubbed “Pimp Cane” by fans.
• When Erik Johnson’s stick “helped” Ryan Wilson out with an interview.
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About the author: Andi Duroux is a writer over at BSN Denver with a focus on history, applied stats, and cautiously optimistic opinions on the Colorado Avalanche. Be forewarned: brevity is not her strong suit. Follow her rants at @andidee15 on Twitter.