Chances are you’re the biggest Avalanche fan among your group of friends. You impatiently wait for up-to-the-minute changes to the roster, you know the ins-and-outs of the lineup, and the names of all the up-and-coming prospects. Why? Because you read Mile High Hockey, of course, but also because you’re a rare breed of hockey fan—the men and women who proudly wear their authentic Uwe Krupp jersey and remember not just where they were when Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 1996, but also for every game leading up to it. There’s nothing anyone could tell you about this team that isn’t already etched into the deepest pockets of your memory, right?
Well, after reading longtime beat reporter Adrian Dater’s 100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know Before They Die, I would heartily disagree. I wasn’t ten pages in before the “Whoa, really?”s and “I never knew that”s started falling from my mouth involuntarily. Every story you thought you knew? There’s one more nuance or detail you never considered, there’s a behind-the-scenes anecdote that ties it all together. And it didn’t stop for 100 tidy, easy-to-read chapters spanning the first 20 years of the team’s existence.
Dater, now a national feature writer and columnist for the Bleacher Report, has rare knack for storytelling among prominent sports writers and has put together an approachable and instantly rewarding read for any Avalanche die-hard. Looking for the perfect holiday hockey stocking stuffer? Look no further, MHH faithful. It has my full recommendation.
We recently spoke to Adrian about his new book. The conversation proceeds below:
Tell us a little about the process of putting together this book. After 19 years on the beat, clearly you've amassed a wealth of stories about the Colorado Avalanche. How did you decide what to include, and do you regret having to leave anything out?
Almost all of the book was written just from memory. Yeah, there were certain games where I went back to look up correct stats or if I described a play right. For instance, I watched the Alex Tanguay first goal of Game 7 in 2001 about five times to get it right. I think for most subjects, I told the stories about them I wanted. You always want to include more though. But I knew that this wasn't supposed to be an overly long book. I mean, it's got 100 "chapters" as is, so it's already going to be long in one sense. But I knew I couldn't spend 20 pages on one player, even though I probably could have in a few instances. I didn't want to do a lot of "play by play" in the book whereby I just rehash old plays or go through games play by play. My main goal with the book was to try and tell something about every "chapter" subject that nobody had seen before. Just a more insider look at the people and events of those first 20 years.
With newspapers cutting budgets and sports franchises increasingly demanding control of the media narrative, how realistic anymore is it for a reporter to get as close as you did to this Avalanche team? Could a book like this even be written within today's media environment? Are fans today missing out on the game's wonderful personalities because players have to be so guarded?
It would be a lot more challenging today, but not impossible. As long as media has locker-room access at home and, especially, on the road, these kinds of books can still be told. But, it would be harder, no doubt. I rode the team airplane a bunch of times in the early days, and that almost never happens today for a reporter. Teams and players live in their own little walled-off worlds now, and it is harder to spend any serious time with them. I do think the time is coming when teams won't allow any outside media into their press boxes anymore. I think it will come to the point where teams simply produce all the "content" they desire in-house, and scrap the rest. They have the power to do that. It might be a foolish thing to do in the long run, as they could lose tons of free advertising. But I think it'll happen at some point. Why let a media person who wants to dig up dirt on your product in the house, in your locker room, if you don't have to?
I do think it all hurts the fans in the end. If all fans get is propaganda about the team from in-house flacks, that's not in their best interests as a consumer.
So many sports writers will never have the privilege of covering not just one, but two Stanley Cup championships. How fortunate were you to cover this team for this fan base during this point in history, and are these the last stories there are to tell about these Avalanche teams?
I'm sure others could tell stories I and others never knew about. A player from those teams could write a book from their perspective, and I'm sure there would be a lot in there I wouldn't know. This book was just from my perspective, but there are countless others. I hope some decide to write them.
Obviously, I was real lucky to have my first pro beat be this team. So many great teams and players, so much fun and interesting times. I was incredibly lucky in that regard.
What excites you about today's avenues for reporting and storytelling? With a national platform, now the whole league is your oyster! What work can we look forward to in the future? After the dust settles on 100 Things Avalanche Should Do Before They Die, do you have another book in mind?
It's harder to tell good stories in sports today. I'm glad I'm on the back nine of my career and not just starting out, because teams have just stage-managed their accessibility to players to a ridiculous degree. And they get away with it because they can. Newspapers and TV stations don't have the power over teams they once had. Teams don't need the coverage from them that they once did, with every game being on TV, and any press conference theoretically accessible to any fan. But if you're there every day, you still get the best stories. There is no substitute for just being there, for showing your face, and getting to know people.
With Bleacher Report, my role now is mostly as a "deep dive" feature writer and sometimes columnist. I think my very best strength as a journalist is telling stories when I have good time and access to a subject, and can take a little time with it. I like to think I more than held my own as a reporter, in breaking news, but it was something I didn't enjoy as much as just the simple act of writing. I'm glad I don't have to spend half my day anymore trying to find out if it's a groin injury, or a leg injury, or whatever kind of injury to XYZ player. I'm glad I don't have to pump out mostly meaningless game stories few people actually read anymore. I'm still transitioning to this new kind of role, though. Looking for good, hidden gem kinds of stories is hard. But it's fun when you find them. And I still get to travel to all the big NHL events, or most anyway, to cover those. I don't miss the grind of the travel, as it started to create real problems for me toward the end, but I do like to get out of the house once in a while still too.
No books on the horizon, though I'm always thinking of possible new ideas.
Thanks for taking the time, Adrian! You can own 100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know Before They Die on bookshelves now. Find it on Amazon or at your local bookstore.