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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Denver Hails Its First Champions

LOS ANGELES -- When the Colorado Avalanche swept the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup early Tuesday morning in Miami, fans in Denver had plenty of reason to celebrate.


The Avalanche, a newcomer to Colorado after 16 NHL seasons in Quebec as the Nordiques, had done what the NFL Denver Broncos and NBA's Denver Nuggets could not achieve, what the hockey Denver Rockies (who later moved to New Jersey) failed to approach in six seasons and what the baseball Denver Rockies see only in their dreams.


The Broncos have been to the Super Bowl four times and lost each time. The baseball Rockies have made the playoffs once, and the Nuggets have made the playoffs but have never gotten to the finals.


No wonder thousands of fans thronged to Larimer Square in downtown Denver, honking their car horns, shouting and cheering.


"They didn't have to wait 50 years for a championship like fans of some other teams," Avalanche forward Mike Ricci said. "But that will make them better hockey fans and keep them fans for a long time."


However, the revelry turned ugly shortly after midnight, when fans set bonfires in the street, climbed lampposts, broke a store window and threw bottles at mounted police. Mace and tear gas were used to disperse the crowds, and police made more than a dozen arrests. Three people were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.


An estimated 1,000 fans greeted the Avalanche when its charter flight from Miami landed at Denver International Airport at about 6 a.m. A parade will be held Wednesday night through downtown Denver, ending with a rally at City Hall.


"For all of us that have been waiting to say that we're the world champions of something, we finally can say it," Mayor Wellington Webb said. "We're very proud of it, and we're going to celebrate every aspect of it."


Webb invited former Quebec Nordique fans to the celebration, which is only appropriate. Denver's first professional sports championship would never have come about if the group that owned the Nordiques, after failing to get government subsidies it had sought, hadn't sold the club to COMSAT, an entertainment group that also owns the Nuggets.


In the hectic moments after Colorado's 1-0 triple-overtime victory, Coach Marc Crawford remembered to thank Quebec fans for their support. "I would like them to feel included in our victory," he said. "We lived in a marvelous hockey town, and we've been lucky to be welcomed in another. We had a great home in Quebec City, and now we have a great home in Denver."


About 200 fans celebrated in the streets of Quebec City after the Avalanche's victory, and goalie Patrick Roy -- a native son -- promised to bring the Cup there this summer when he plays in a charity golf tournament.