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Colorado Avalanche & Outdoor Games: Hit and miss

Coors Field was a dream come true, Falcon Stadium was a nightmare.

2016 Coors Light Stadium Series - Detroit Red Wings v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche are all set to appear in their third outdoor game in their twenty-five-year history to face the Vegas Golden Knights. Unlike the first two, this contest will play out among the splendor of mother nature rather than adorning fans. Lake Tahoe is the venue, and NHL hockey is the entertainment.

Colorado’s first outdoor contest in 2016 was at Coors Field in downtown Denver, CO. A Major League Baseball Stadium was logistically perfect for hosting an abundance of fans. It was a no-brainer to have the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings rekindle one of the league’s greatest rivalries before conference realignment.

Crushing a Rockiedog and watching Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, etc., during the Alumni game has to be one of the coolest experiences of my life. I don’t think I’m the only one that got more of a kick out of the alumni game than the regular contest. I’d say the Stadium Series at Coors Field is the most successful outdoor event for the Avalanche thus far. Accommodations where perfect people got in and out in an orderly fashion. Oh, and the hockey was great.

The Avalanche lost 5-3 in a back and forth battle that featured two highlight-reel goals from Tyson Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon. It was also the last time we got to see Avalanche playoff legend Alex Tanguay in burgundy and blue as he got traded the following day. It only fits that Tanguay recorded a goal in his final contest as an Avalanche.

All in all the Stadium Series game at Coors Field was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will always cherish. It was so awesome, I didn’t even hesitate to purchase tickets to the outdoor contest at Falcon Stadium years later. Maybe I should have.

Let’s look at 2019’s outdoor debacle at the Air Force Academy. A second-tier College football stadium was a logistic nightmare for everyone in attendance. The pregame party was located just outside the stadium and featured a muddy mess and lines comparable to what we saw at our grocery stores in the height of the pandemic. Going to the bathroom was the most challenging task. There may as well have been one line for both beverages and restrooms because they both involved a thirty-minute wait. On top of that, there were two food vendors available for the more than forty thousand attendees.

I was hoping the NHL would revamp Falcon Stadium to accommodate a much larger crowd than the average of twenty-seven thousand fans that football games drew. Not so much.

Fans packed in like sardines just to get to their seats. You were best just staying in your seat once you got there. Getting a beer was impossible, and at one point in the second period, the concessions ran out of both beer and food. Oh, and the hockey was subpar at best.

The Avalanche lost 3-1 to the LA Kings and allowed Tyler Toffoli to score a hat-trick. Goal-front traffic resulted in a lower-body injury for goaltender Philipp Grubauer. That injury may very well have cost the Avalanche a trip to the western conference finals. It was almost like the Avalanche players knew this was a bad idea long before the fans did.

The game ended in disappointment, and Avalanche fans poured out of a cold Falcon Stadium ready to hit the road. Unfortunately, the lot featured zero guidance and quickly turned into a cluster of frustration. The frustration didn’t end for hours since the venue had only two exits for 47 thousand people. It took me two and a half hours to get to my Airbnb, which sat twenty minutes from the stadium.

Fans who relied on Uber or Lyft sat outside waiting for rides; some walked up Stadium Blvd and S or N Gate Blvd just to get a ride. To put it in perspective, that’s just about an hour-long walk along a busy, cold, and dark road.

The Stadium Series at Falcon Stadium came off like a money grab too many who attended. The tickets came at a premium, but the accommodations didn’t meet the price point. All of this was swept under the rug pretty quickly by the NHL. Other than the random flybys; this event was a giant swing and a miss.

I’m hoping the Lake Tahoe game will return us to outdoor glory. This time I’ll be watching from home. This time it’s a made-for-TV event among one of the most picturesque scenes in the world. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m also very excited to see if Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon can replicate what Avalanche legend Joe Sakic accomplished ten years ago. A hole in one on the seventeenth hole at Tahoe Edgewood Golf Course to score a one million dollar donation to the NHL’s Learn to Play Program. Good luck Nate Dogg.

Editor’s note: This one looks like it’s going to be special

Colorado Avalanche in Lake Tahoe
From Nick Cotsonika on Twitter