The Pepsi Center echoed with “Red Wings suck! Red Wings suck!” chants after the Colorado Avalanche beat up on the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night, rushing back the memories of a great rivalry lost. Where have all the good rivalries gone?
Sure, the Denver Broncos don’t like the (now) Los Angeles Chargers. The Avalanche aren’t huge fans of the Minnesota Wild. Scan the Christmas card list of the LA Dodgers and you probably won’t find the Colorado Rockies on it, but what gives? Why have great professional sports rivalries in Colorado dried up? I’m talking about an “I can’t stand them, get the hell out of here, how dare you even come into our place and play,” type rivalry. Where have they gone?
“Raiders week,” once bookmarked as one of the most exciting weeks on the Denver Broncos schedule, hasn’t been the same Raider week that used to engulf the city of Denver like it did in the past. Yes, there was a time where fans would ride in their cars, halfway out the window, twirling their blue and orange streamers, flags and pom-poms like the crazy fans that they were. They were in love with their blue and orange and those same colors would blanket the Mile High City during the week, as the hated silver and black came to town.
Those were the days, but while the Broncos best rivalry may have been lost due to competition level. Sadly, the Avalanche had their bloody, intense and long standing rivalry with the Red Wings ripped away by the NHL. A rivalry that was one of the most fierce in NHL history, starting in the mid-1990’s and stayed strong well into the 2000’s, there truly was nothing like it. Such a rivalry that featured iconic moments like ‘Bloody Wednesday,’ and brawls involving Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy and multiple Red Wings goalies that will forever live in NHL history. Two teams that hated each other and were not afraid to air out that hatred in public, but more importantly, both were competitive as well, running into each other in the playoffs on multiple occasions. Now the Wings flew to the Eastern Conference, and only play the Avs twice a year.
Competitive play that has been hit and miss over many years between Denver sports and their opponents, is the biggest reason why fans haven’t gotten the rivalries they’ve been craving. Most love a night at the ballpark down on Blake Street, but let’s not sugar coat things. The Colorado Rockies haven’t been able to consistently string together competitive years in their franchise history. There’s an exciting buzz coming into the new year, sure, but until proven otherwise, the Rockies are still finding themselves.
Timing of competitive play, also a contributing factor. The Denver Nuggets, while competitive during the Carmelo Anthony era, never developed a heated rivalry that transcended sports. The Utah Jazz are considered one of the biggest rivals of the Nuggets by default due to playing in the same division, however the two haven’t been competitive at the same time, to truly fuel a heated rivalry.
The Denver Broncos had a deep rivalry going with the Oakland Raiders for many years, however inept front-office management from Oakland over time destroyed any hope that silver and black fans had of watching a good product on the field, thus killing the competitiveness between their two yearly matchups against the Broncos. The Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs are certainly disliked by any Broncos fan you speak too, however there was no magic like Raiders week. Even non-football fans knew it was Raiders week, when it came around. That’s how high the level got between the two.
After witnessing the constant shouting match in-game by Avalanche and Red Wing fans, turning the clock back to 1997. It reminded minds how sweet it truly was to have a great rivalry, even if it was only relived for one night. Colorado and Detroit once shared a unique and deep rivalry that may never be replicated ever again.
Selfishly, oh how I crave for another rivalry to reveal itself from the shadows in the near future in Denver sports. Competition makes you better by default and there’s something truly special about two competitive teams, that just simply hate each other, going at it for the same goal.
That’s what defines a rivalry after all. Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field. Hatred is a strong word, but that’s the emotion that fuels a great rivalry. Here’s hoping the superiority of Denver sports, rises with their opponents, to deliver once more another special run to enjoy.