May 26, 2017 – 9:18 PM, Game 1 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals: Matt Garbowsky, dramatically, ties the game at 2 for the Colorado Eagles with 2.5 seconds left in regulation against the South Carolina Stingrays (which Colorado would go on to win). The crowd was, to quote the late Stuart Scott, “en fuego”. You could not hear the blaring goal horn, let alone your own thoughts. Total strangers jumping around hugging each other, beer being thrown in the crowd due to pure excitement. Fans screaming “HEY!” with the goal song and getting louder with every repeat. I could not believe how loud the Budweiser Events Center was and I did not think it could ever be any louder. Spoiler, I was wrong.
May 27, 2017 – 9:48 PM, Game 2 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals: Avalanche prospect Shawn St-Amant buries a power play tally with a shade under 10 minutes remaining. In that moment a sea of yellow, that would make Nashville jealous in previous years, took “en fuego” to pure insanity. The building was shaking; the roar of the crowd was deafening and the Eagles were on their way to a 2-0 lead in the series which ended in a sweep of the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. The crowd inside the Budweiser Events Center never sat back down and being in the building you could tell the crowd had shifted “Big Mo” and the energy was palpable. The crowd was so loud that they caused the audio to fail in the building (we are assuming a breaker blew but the narrative sounds better if the crowd noise blew it out, right?). Once the audio was out, the crowd knew they could take over and did they ever. Even once the music and organ came back the crowd was still louder than either of the audio. At that moment, I realized this crowd was something special that you don’t see in a lot of minor league markets.
I have attended some of the loudest Avalanche, Rockies and Broncos games in my short 23 years living in Colorado (born and raised) but never in my life has my body been hit with such emotion and passion that the Colorado Eagles fan base gave to me in those two moments. Now this does not mean that during the 36-regular season and 8-playoff games played at the “BEC” that the crowd was not engaged and rowdy as could be (because believe me, they were every game). The only way to describe the atmosphere at BEC is fanatic. The passion the fan base brought all season (and seasons prior) has become more of a cult following rather than an affordable family fun activity that the minor leagues are known for. Eagles fans have gone as far to create a Facebook page perfectly named “Colorado Eagles Fanatics” were all Eagles supporters from the infamous “Cell Block E” (named after the seating section and due to the penalty boxes being placed in their section) to newcomers can mingle and talk about the team. Eagles fans in Loveland are just as/if not rowdier than we all were during that magical 2013/14 season the Avalanche had or the Stadium Series game at Coors Field (cue the great memories). I understand the Pepsi Center holds 18,000 strong when at capacity and the BEC only holds 5,289 for Eagles games but the passion is there. Eagles fans sold out the BEC for the final 5 home games of the season (games 3-5 of WCF & games 1-2 of the final) and the other playoff games were just about sell outs as well but missing a few bodies in the crowd.
The major difference between the Eagles and all the “Big 4” teams here in Colorado is the connection the players have made with the community. These players are out in the community and furthering their cause to get people to the building every single night they have a home game. Every season the Colorado Eagles host the “Pot of Gold” game, the team wears special St. Patty’s Day sweaters that get auctioned off to help raise money for a young child battling a disease. This past season during their “Pot of Gold” game they raised over $40,000 and presented a check to the child and the family during the 3rd period media timeout. The fans return the connection to the players by showing up early just for warmups to stand by the glass and to hope to get a puck from their favorite player (yes this happens in the show too but has a bigger impact with the Eagles because of that connection they have built).
I have been extremely blessed to be able to witness two triple-overtime thrillers, a double-overtime barn burner and a quick strike to end overtime in the past two years of Eagles hockey. Maybe I am a bit bias about this building due to my affiliation but this is an atmosphere that you cannot explain, it must be witnessed to understand why I have spoken so highly of the fan support in Northern Colorado. Plus, the in-game experience is second to none. BEC’s video was upgraded two years ago with a huge center screen and beautiful ribbon boards. The opening video’s always have great audio tracks supporting the video. Most importantly, you will not meet a nicer group of fans in the state. We all know how unruly Broncos, Avalanche, Rockies and Nuggets fans can be sometimes (I am guilty after a Whineasota Mild game). Even after a loss those fans are still the first to say hello and talk to you.
God forbid if the Avalanche decide go on another skid this season, or even if the Avalanche decide to play well, I urge you to find your way up I-25 to the Crossroads Blvd exit to catch a Colorado Eagles game this winter. Tickets are insanely cheap compared to Pepsi Center and to be honest there is not a bad seat in the house. If you can’t catch a game live 107.9 The Bear is on iHeartRadio and Kevin McGlue is an amazing PBP guy who doesn’t shy away from being a little bias. You will not be disappointed and who knows, maybe you become a follower and join the Fanatics page on Facebook