Denver was one giant party Thursday as thousands of fans gathered to celebrate the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche with a parade through downtown Denver and ceremony at Civic Center Park.
The beer and spirits flowed like water across downtown Denver as both fans and the Avalanche got started early.
The parade kicked off around 10 a.m. at Union Station and followed 17th Street down to Civic Center Park, where the crowd stretched from the state Capitol building all the way to the City and County Building.
Most of the Avs players opted to ride fire trucks and other large vehicles down the parade route – sometimes a bit wobbly – but others opted for alternate transportation. J.T. Compher was spotted riding a Denver Police Department bicycle down 17th, and Bowen Byram – who was born four days after the Avs won the Cup in 2001 – ran through most of the parade, even getting stopped by a police officer who thought he was a fan who had hopped over the barrier.
Along the way, Avs players repeatedly said how thankful they were to play in Denver and Colorado – calling the fans here the best in the world and thanking the thousands who showed up to support them during the season, playoffs, and at Thursday’s victory parade.
Avalanche fans young and old joined players, coaches and their families in what was one of the biggest celebrations the city has seen since the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2016.
Nikki Lyons brought her baby – aptly named MacKinnon for the star Avalanche center.
“We love Nathan MacKinnon and everything he stands for because he took less for the team,” Lyons said.
Calvin, from Park Hill, said he was thrilled to see the Avs win the cup after Evander Kane’s hit on Nazem Kadri.
“This is what we dream of. This city deserves this more than anyone else and we finally got it,” he said. “I woke up at 7:30 just to get down here and get ready for the parade.”
“We were so fast this year. We just had so much depth,” said Caleb, who came down for the parade. “We waited a long, long, long time. So, let’s go Avs, right?! That was amazing. This was a team of destiny.”
After reaching Civic Center Park, Avs public address announcer Alan Roach emceed the main ceremony, introducing a loose Avalanche team for celebratory speeches.
Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic – who was the captain of the Avs the last two times they won the Stanley Cup and is a franchise legend – started off his speech by congratulating the Peewee Littleton Hawks, Denver East High School, the University of Denver Pioneers, and Colorado Mammoth for all winning championships this year, making a case that Denver is the new Hockeytown, USA. And he heaped praise on the Avs fans for making Ball Arena “the most electric building” in the NHL.
“You guys are behind us all the way. This cup is for everybody here supporting this team,” Sakic said. “Congratulations to everybody here, every Colorado Avalanche fan!”
He said the team headed into this season with one goal: winning the Stanley Cup.
“Right for day one, coaching staff, players had one goal. It didn’t matter what was happening, didn’t matter the adversity, didn’t matter the injuries we went through – they just cared about one thing and that’s to bring home a championship here to Denver,” Sakic said.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, who has now won championships in three different hockey leagues, got emotional almost immediately and had perhaps the most heartwarming speech of the afternoon.
“I mean this is just a surreal moment for me. I’m gonna try not to get emotional, but I love you guys,” said Bednar, immediately crying like he said he wouldn’t as he thanked the Kroenkes, Sakic and others in the organization for their support for him, his staff and the team.
“And when it comes to the players, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. I can’t even explain it, couldn’t put it into words,” Bednar said. “I mean these guys, everyone has a story right? And I could go through every guy and the sacrifices they made for our team. And I’m amazed by every single one of them, I’m so happy for them.”
Bednar then talked about the support from the fans – which Sakic promised him would be there when he first came to Denver six years ago as the two built up the club together.
“And I’m amazed. I’m in the parade today and I’m looking at it. I’m saying I really can’t believe it,” Bednar said. “Honestly, I thank you all for your support. It’s been amazing as the playoffs went on. It’s been a huge difference maker for our team, and I’m so happy to be able to be a small part of bringing this cup back to Denver, to our amazing fans in the city of Denver, because you guys deserve it.”
“I love you,” Bednar continued. “I appreciate it. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.”
Gabe Landeskog, who was named the youngest captain in NHL history at age 19 in the 2012 season, was next up. A few f-bombs, a removed shirt, and a Sweden flag draped over his shoulders ensued.
“These guys right behind me, I can’t even begin to tell you the resiliency, the commitment to win, the determination to win, the attitude. These guys are the best people you will ever meet,” he said. “And guess what? The city of Denver, the state of Colorado, you guys have been f---ing amazing for the last 10 years and we just want to thank all you guys for all your support through the tough times, through all the good times.”
“…I cannot even begin to explain to you guys how much love I have for these guys behind me and how much love I got for you guys,” Landeskog continued. “As much as I love these guys behind me, this is for you, Denver. We f---ing love you guys.”
Star center Nathan MacKinnon said it had been a long road to this point but he was thrilled to win the Cup finally with this team.
“My ninth year, I finally won something, I guess!” he said. “But now we’re super lucky to have the group we have. I know it’s super cliché, but such amazing people on this team. "Everyone’s literally brothers with each other, so we feel supper blessed. The city of Denver – this parade was insane! We couldn’t be lucky enough to have a group of fans like we have.”
Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe winner Cale Makar thanked the fans for showing up and his defensive shiftmate, Devon Toews.
“I just want to say thanks – this is absolutely incredible,” Makar said. “You guys absolutely showed out and regardless of the weather, nobody’s raining on our parade today.”
Mikko Rantanen said he’d lost his ability to speak English after the parade and perhaps a drink or two.
“Like I said, I can’t really speak any English now, so I’m just gonna try to talk to Lehky (Artturi Lehkonen), so love you guys! Love you, everybody!”
And the speeches wrapped up with fan favorite Nazem Kadri, who returned in the Stanley Cup Final after being injured by Kane’s hit in the Edmonton series to seal the deal after one of the best years of his career.
“This is incredible. The fans of Denver, my teammates, management, everybody involved. This is a dream come true, and you guys are a part of it. It’s one of the best parades I’ve ever seen. Lightning, thunder, it don’t matter. We come with the Avalanche baby!” Kadri said, before sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“I couldn’t be more grateful in this time. This is one of the best moments of my life and all you are part of it,” Kadri said. I’m gonna remember it forever. All my teammates, the city of Denver sticking by my side. Never wavered. I love you guys.”
And the celebrations wrapped up with a fitting end — sending the Avs home with "All the Small Things."