SAN JOSE, Calif. – That rink below is where it all happens tomorrow night, the Avalanche and Sharks getting it on for a Game 7. I just happened to be up in the press box this morning, retrieving a laptop power cord I somehow left there (gettin’ old, folks) and snapped that picture of the dark SAP Center.

This will be the 11th Game 7 the Avs have played since moving to Denver in 1995. I’ve been in the building for all of them. Let’s take a look back at the first 10:

May 4, 1998, McNichols Sports Arena. Edmonton Oilers 4, Avalanche 0 

This was a pretty crazy first-round series between the Avs and Oilers. Just two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup, the Avs met the Oilers in the first round and had to play Game 1 without captain Joe Sakic because of his serving a ridiculous one-game suspension for “kneeing” Detroit’s Kris Draper in the final game of the regular season. Sakic was trying to GET OUT OF THE WAY of Draper when the two collided, yet somehow Sakic – many time-all star, gracious captain of the Avs, credit to the sport – gets suspended for a playoff game. It shouldn’t have even been a penalty, much less a suspension. That was courtesy of NHL discipline Czar Brian Burke, whose modus operandi seemed to be: “If you’re a team I like, you get a pass. If you’re a team I don’t like, you get screwed.” The Avs weren’t a team he liked.

The Avs lost that Game 1, won the next three, but Edmonton won the next two, forcing the Game 7 in Denver. The Avs were awful in this one. The only time they really came come close to scoring on Oilers goalie Curtis Joseph was when Uwe Krupp’s point shot on the power play ricocheted off both posts and out.

June 4, 1999, Western Conference finals. Dallas Stars 4, Avalanche 1

This was the awful game in which Mike Keane scored not one, but two goals against his former longtime teammate with Montreal and Colorado, Patrick Roy, at Reunion Arena. The Avs blew a 3-2 lead in the series, losing Game 6 at home despite about four open-net looks in the first period.

Letting Keane go as an unrestricted free agent was a serious mistake by Avs management at the time.

May 27, 2000, Western Conference finals. Dallas 3, Avalanche 2

Another heartbreaker at Reunion Arena. The Avs were the better team of the two in this series, but they just couldn’t solve Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour. The Stars got three fluky goals on Patrick Roy, while the Avs’ ultimate moment of frustration came in the dying seconds of regulation, when Adam Deadmarsh’s tip of a Ray Bourque shot hit the post and squirmed away.

May 9, 2001, Western Conference semifinals. Avalanche 5, LA Kings 1

The Kings had battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to force this game at the Pepsi Center. Despite a 57-win season and a virtual all-star roster, the Avs had all they could handle from the Kings. It was 1-1 going to the third before the Avs finally broke through. Chris Drury and Ville Nieminen scored big goals to make this an easy one by the final horn. This Avs team went on to win the Stanley Cup, as you’ll soon see.

June 9, 2001, Stanley Cup Finals. Avalanche 3, N.J. Devils 1

It remains probably the most glorious night in Avalanche history. In his final game of his illustrious 22-year career, Ray Bourque goes out a champion. Who can forget captain Joe Sakic handing him the Cup to raise first?

The night outside the Pepsi Center was hot, and I remember sweating in my sportcoat and shirt all night. The Avs won the damn thing on two goals by Alex Tanguay and one by Joe Sakic. Those last 10 minutes, if you go back and look at the tape, seemed to take about 25 hours. In the end, the wait was well worth it.

April 29, 2002, Western quarterfinals. Avalanche 4, L.A. Kings 0

This was the first of three Game 7s in the playoffs for a defending Cup championship team. This one, against L.A., proved no problem. The Kings had a great first line with Adam Deadmarsh, Zigmund Palffy and Jason Allison. But Allison was too banged up to be an effective player in this one and the Avs and Patrick Roy won pretty easily.

May 15, 2002, Western semifinals. Avalanche 1, San Jose 0

Two memorable things from this otherwise boring game: Teemu Selanne missed a wide-open net on a wraparound for the Sharks in the first period. His skate his a rut, but it was still quite a feat to miss the net on his chance. The other: Peter Forsberg practically willing a puck over the goal line for the only score of the game. Patrick Roy had his second straight Game 7 shutout.

May 31, 2002, Western finals. Detroit 7, Avalanche 0

I remember this one of the first nights of the “Joint Operating Agreement” between the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, so we at The Post didn’t have a print edition the next day – a Saturday. So, I wasn’t really expected to write too much except a cursory blurb online. So, mostly I walked the concourse at Joe Louis Arena, watching the game in bits and pieces. By the end of the first period, there wasn’t much to watch anymore. It was 4-0. The Avs suffered their worst playoff loss to that point, and the great Avs-Red Wings rivalry was essentially over by then.

April 22, 2003, Western quarterfinals. Minnesota 3, Avalanche 2

Patrick Roy’s final game. It didn’t end the way he wanted.

The Avs had a one-goal lead late in the third, but Rob Blake was called for roughing and the Wild’s Marian Gaborik tied it up to send it to overtime. In the OT, Andrew Brunette beat Roy on a breakaway to put a shocking end to the series. Colorado blew a 3-1 lead in the series.

April 30, 2014, Western quarterfinals. Minnesota 5, Avalanche 4

Probably one of the most frustrating losses in Avalanche history. They had leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, yet lost them all. Jared Spurgeon’s tying goal in the game’s final two minutes of regulation was the real killer, but Nin0 Niederreiter ended it in OT against an Avs team that seemed too shell-shocked by then to win.

Adrian Dater
Author

Adrian Dater, was born in Vermont and lived as a tot in New York City before living most of his first 25 years in New Hampshire. Education:  Went to Keene State College and received a degree in journalism in 1988. I wrote sports for the college paper, called "The Equinox." Career: After a two-year stint out of college working as a proofreader and part--time sports writer for The Concord Monitor (N.H)., I moved to Denver in May of 1991, with no job, no connections and no car, but a lot of hope. After doing some odd jobs (including working as a bill collector for a trash company), I found some odd writing jobs for local periodicals and then latched on with The Denver Post in December of 1991 as a score-taker for the high-school sports department. That led to more writing jobs, such as covering DU hockey, lots of high-school coverage and various minor-pro sports. In March of 1995, I got a scoop that would change my life: I broke the story of the Quebec Nordiques moving to Denver to become the Avalanche, and for the next 19 years I covered the team every day. In 2015, I became the lead NHL national columnist with Bleacher Report, where I worked until 2017 before joining BSN Denver. I have also been a main hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Hockey News, The Sporting News, Hockey Digest, Versus.com and have written seven books on sports, including the 2006 best-selling "Blood Feud", a book about the famous Avs-Red Wings rivalry. Most memorable sports moment: As a fan, when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Also, when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. The finest sports book I’ve ever read: It would probably be a book called "Game Misconduct", by Russ Conway. It's the story of how a small-town sports reporter (Conway) in Massachusetts exposed the corruption and brought down one of the most powerful figures in the NHL at the time, Alan Eagleson. The book is a primer on how to report and investigate powerful entities. One sports movie that I can’t live without: I loved "Rocky III", and I loved a 1977 basketball movie starring Robby Benson called "One on One." And, of course, "Slap Shot." Most memorable experience as a reporter: I've gotten to interview some of my boyhood heroes, including Larry Bird, Fred Lynn and Luis Tiant. But probably the most memorable of them all was writing the story of Ray Bourque's one and only Stanley Cup in his 22 years, his final game as a pro with the Avs in 2001. The sport that started it all: As a guy who eventually grew to become 6-foot-6, I could hoop it up some. I was the starting center on my high-school team that made the N.H. state semifinals in 1983. While I never played competitive hockey, I played a lot on the many frozen ponds of New Hampshire and had a pretty good slap shot.

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ugh. Memories of 2014 is not good. Game 6 was developing just like that Game 7. Thankfully the Avs managed to pull this one out. Had me worried for a second there. PTSD began to creep in, almost didn’t watch OT because of it. Glad I decided to watch in the end. Now to Game 7. The mixed results from Game 7s worries me, but this team is special. Just need to score first and hold onto the lead. Being in San Jose, it’s definitely harder than it sounds, but it really is just that simple. Should be a fun one. Win or lose, what an insane season.

  2. Avatar

    Whatever happens tonight…. there is reason to celebrate.

    If we win: we play the St. Louis Blues for the right to play in the Cup Finals. That’s a series we will be able to compete in and have a serious chance to win.

    If we lose: We draft #4 overall AND #16 overall this summer. Winning tonight drops that to #4 and #28-31, a considerable fall. I’d rather be in the WCF, but it’s certainly a silver lining. #16 could provide the kind of 2-3 line player that makes this team just dominant for years.

    That said…. GO AVS, Stomp the Sharks!

    • Avatar

      I don’t think this is right. Yes for Ottowa’s #4, but 1-15 go to the teams that didn’t make the playoffs. 16-23 go to the teams eliminated in Round 1. We would be in the 24-27 range of those eliminated in Round 2, and prob 26 or 27 since we went the distance along with Dallas. I’ll take a WCF over pick 26 or 27 ANY day of the week, and twice on Sunday!

  3. Avatar

    Jesus dude, 2001 notwithstanding you gave me PTSD with this post. I sure hope tomorrow gets rid of the last memory I have, which was 2014, and which was only mitigated by me being on the coast of Hawaii. They just don’t have a good game seven record.

  4. Avatar

    Not only was our last victorious game 7 against San Jose, you could also say that the Sharks ended the first great era of this franchise when they knocked out the Avs in Game 6 of the second round of the 2004 playoffs. While not a game 7, that really was the last time Forsberg and Sakic featured in the playoffs for us in a meaningful way and certainly the last time, the Avs had any serious ambitions to win the Cup. So we will see what tomorrow holds, but it sure would be a fitting narrative if a new era dawns for the Avalanche with a defeat of the Sharks.

      • Avatar

        Good point. That’s exactly why I added in “a meaningful way”. Not only did Forsberg miss most of the Detroit sweep in 2008, Sakic was already 38 and Forsberg had by then been struggling big time with his ankles.

  5. Avatar

    AD, not to give you more work, but just a thought, I’d be curious to see a history of San Jose’s game 7’s.

    I could google it, but I’d prefer to read it from you. 🙂

  6. Avatar

    I was at game 7 in 2014. I’ve been to a World Series game at Wrigley, a sweet sixteen game but nothing NOTHING comes close to the intensity of a game 7. I was bummed but not sad because I thought it was the beginning of the Roy era of success. Boy, was i wrong. The Wild v Avs seemed like a great rivalry to come close to the Red Wings but….yeah. How’s your future looking Minnesota? To paraphrase Soundgarden “we’re feeling California while you’re looking Minnesota “

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