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As the 1995-’96 NHL season began, the Detroit Red Wings made a curious decision. Despite not having won a Stanley Cup in 40 years, the franchise filed an application for the moniker of “Hockeytown.” Perhaps, the team thought, if it couldn’t win a title on the ice, it’d get one at the federal trademark office.
Nevertheless, Detroit seemed destined to deliver on its new appellation, cutting through the 1996 NHL playoffs—that is, until the Red Wings encountered the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference finals. The Avs, which had relocated from Québec City before the season, beat the Motor City in six games and went on to win the Stanley Cup, igniting a bloody rivalry: Between them, the Avalanche and Red Wings won five Stanley Cups from 1996 to 2002.
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The Red Wings took home three of those titles, so, yes, we admit that Detroit may have been Hockeytown at the time. But today? Listen, we know there’s not much moral height in ribbing down-on-its-luck Detroit, but the Red Wings haven’t sniffed playoff hockey since 2016, and they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 2008. Things have gotten so bad that the franchise scrubbed the Hockeytown logo from center ice at Little Caesars Arena a few years ago.
Meanwhile, the Avs, who will open their season on October 12 at home against the Chicago Blackhawks, are on a run of five consecutive playoff appearances, capped by last season’s Stanley Cup victory. In fact, hockey titles abound in the Mile High City right now: Denver is home to the NHL champion, the NCAA champion (University of Denver), and a prep national champion (Denver’s East High School). It’s the first city in history to hit that trifecta.
So, Detroit, we want your trademark. It’s only fair: First off, we have the history to support it. DU won its first national championship in 1958 and is tied for the most ever (nine) with the University of Michigan. The Denver Spurs of the Western Hockey League delivered the city its first professional sports championship in 1972 and were set to become an NHL team until negotiations fell apart. (We did get an NHL franchise from Kansas City, the Rockies, in the late ’70s, but like KC’s barbecue, the transplanted team never sat right with us. We sent it packing to New Jersey in 1982.)
We also have a promising future to ensure our Hockeytown status endures. Over the past several decades, youth hockey in the Mile High City has grown steadily and is now producing a stream of NHL-caliber players—such as Troy Terry, a Denver native who helped the Pioneers win an NCAA title in 2017 and is an All-Star for the Anaheim Ducks.
Perhaps the best argument, however, rests with our citizenry. Avs fans packed Ball Arena to near capacity at every game last season, and the team’s 2022 playoffs run helped revitalize downtown businesses still struggling from the pandemic by pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. When the Avalanche finally hoisted the greatest trophy in pro sports, accidentally dented it on Tampa Bay’s ice, and made the cross-country journey back to Denver, half a million crazed fans attended the parade.
Start packing it up, Detroit. We’ll even give you till March, when the Avs visit Little Caesars Arena for the first time this season, to say your goodbyes. And, please, don’t take the loss too hard: You’ll always be the Motor City to us.
Meet the Mayor
All hail the chief executive of Hockeytown, Joe Sakic, who became the Avs’ general manager in 2014. —Spencer Campbell
Seasons Sakic, originally from British Columbia, played in the NHL—all with the same franchise. (Hint: It’s the Avalanche.)
Points (goals plus assists) current Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon would need to score to tie Sakic’s career mark of 1,641. Sakic is the Avs’ all-time leader in points, goals, assists, and awesomeness.
People, including Sakic, who have won Stanley Cups as players and general managers for the same franchise. This summer, the Avs promoted Sakic to president of hockey operations.