Greetings, all! Back from a brief but inspiring trip to Colorado where views like the above were just some of what took my breath away!
The quick outing combined two of my chief passions – travel and hockey! This time a year ago, I’d met up in New York with friends Dee and Dedrie for an LA Kings game in Madison Square Garden (covered in “NYC: The Big Apple ‘Speed Date’ Bit” Parts One and Two). It had all worked out so well that we couldn’t resist looking to make it an annual rendezvous!
The opportunity came with this year’s NHL Stadium Series game – a President’s Day weekend match-up between the Kings and the Colorado Avalanche to be played outdoors at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs!
After making all the arrangements though, afraid I started wondering if the whole endeavor might prove to be better in theory – kind of like that outfit that looked way sweeter on the mannequin…
I mean, last year we got so lucky! Our flights and connections went off without a hitch. We caught an interlude of mild weather that was perfect for my introduction to Manhattan! And the Kings even beat the Rangers! Was I tempting fate here to want even more great holiday fortune?
Well, the first of the nagging worries I couldn’t manage to keep out of my carry-on was (as my worries often prove…) all for nothing. Although it snowed just before, my flight to Denver was delay- and problem-free! I was met by Dedrie and our kind host Stephanie (like Dee and Dedrie, a former Gold Lady Kings recreation hockey teammate!) and we got right down to the business of catching up while taking in the sights!
On top of the natural splendor, I did find that just being at high altitudes left me breathless at times. I’d start huffing and puffing on a staircase and then remember I was up about a mile high! (On the fact that this also sometimes happens to me at sea level these days, I have no comment.) And Colorado boasts many points that are higher still! Steph explained that popular attractions in these parts are “fourteeners” – those are mountains at least 14,000 feet high and, according to colorado.com, the state has the most of any with 58!
Not as lofty, but plenty fascinating are the sandstone formations in Red Rocks Park!
They also make a picturesque backdrop for events at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The venue can accommodate over 9,000 – but there was only a solitary snowman in the seats on this day.
Steph, Dedrie and I continued on to the charming town of Golden for lunch, where the statue of a famous former resident reminded us that for over 140 years, it’s been the perfect place to wash down a meal not just with beer – but with Banquet Beer!
We were also greeted on the sidewalk by a stately bison!
Thankfully, this one wasn’t real (or he’d have been tying up traffic) – but we did get to see proper bison enjoying their own lunch not too far off the road!
They were joined later by some elk (which Steph says she sometimes sees chilling right outside her kitchen window!) – but the bison didn’t look inclined to share.
Of course, the most exciting “big game” for us would be the next day! After collecting Dee who arrived from back east, our intrepid band of four hockey fans journeyed some sixty miles south to Colorado Springs for the Stadium Series game – part of an NHL tradition designed to showcase the sport amid its outdoor roots!
Which brings up another of the worries I’d been toting around. Would a Southern California gal like myself be ready to handle temperatures an app said would be in the 20’s but would “feel like” 7 degrees? You know, I adore hockey – but I’m also partial to sensation in my fingers and toes…
Anyway, there was no putting the outfit back on the mannequin now – just time to bundle up, suck it up and, come what may, head for the Air Force Academy!
This was my first time experiencing the spectacle of a Stadium Series game live! The event offered up all kinds of pomp and circumstance even before puck drop, including fireworks, a formation of planes flying overhead, and a big, billowing American flag carried into the stadium via parachute!
We actually witnessed all this pomp from our car because logistical circumstance (some of it foreseeable I think and, in fairness, some un-) put us among the many fans still struggling well past game time to enter the base, park and get to our seats.
Once we girls did manage to get ourselves settled, we each became steely determined that no souvenir purchases, no growls of the stomach – no, nor even any calls of nature – were going to pull us away from the object of our vacation campaign!
So there we were. Old friends who’d taken the ice as teammates years before, who’d won and lost our own share of games and, regardless, done our share of celebrating together. Now, in “feels like 7” degree weather, we were reunited and holding our breath as the Kings, mired in the last spot in the Western Conference, remained tied 1-1 with a team in contention for the top spot as the clock ticked on and on!
Our former teammate and captain, Pei, texted me wondering how we were faring in the cold. I’d begun shivering during the third period. And now that I thought about it, my fingers and toes were indeed going numb. But I was able to text Pei back that I was getting along – although a goal by the Kings would really warm me up about then.
And very shortly after, the Kings obliged me with a go-ahead goal, then quickly added an empty-net third one to secure victory!
Now, some of the vastly greater number of Avalanche fans present might argue there was little magic in the frigid air that night. I’d have to say it really depends on how you define it.
My Kings are struggling this season – but their record doesn’t reflect that they’ve been right in most of their games. So there was really no magic in their winning. No rabbit pulled from a hat, but team effort and a hat trick of the hockey kind provided by the talented Tyler Toffoli in what would be his last game as a King before being traded. He’ll sure be missed…
And it was no wave of some magic wand that put us in our seats to witness what turned out to be a truly exciting game. Rather, it was actions like Dee and Dedrie’s getting us all on the same page and arranging for the tickets – and Steph’s making three separate trips to the airport to pick us up, then driving us all to Colorado Springs.
It was a short little adventure. But it was potent proof that on any given night – even a freezing cold one – rekindling a fellowship forged by hockey while watching a beloved team defy expectation and carry the day can make it “feel” wonderfully warm!
And that, my friends, is some kind of magic!