DENVER — Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook were toddlers. Cale Makar was 3 years old. Nathan MacKinnon was 6 years old.
How long has it been since the Colorado Avalanche hung a Stanley Cup banner in Denver? Wednesday ended that drought, with the team lifting the third championship banner in franchise history at the Ball Arena ahead of the Avs’ 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fans stood up as Avalanche mascot Bernie skated across the ice while waving a giant “Hockey is Back” flag as he has done time and time again over the years. Players and coaches were introduced and all received loud ovations. The noisiest were reserved for Pavel Francouz, Erik Johnson, MacKinnon, Makar and Mikko Rantanen.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who is on injured reserve, was introduced to the surprise of many fans. Landeskog received a standing ovation as he skated across the ice wearing his full gear.
The players remained on the ice as Blink-182 bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus took to the ice to rock the crowd. Hoppus led the crowd in singing his band’s 2000 hit, “All The Small Things,” which became an anthem among Avalanche fans. The crowd sang as the arena’s video panel played a montage of fans celebrating the team’s championship.
Landeskog then grabbed the Stanley Cup, lifted it above his head and then received what might have been the loudest reaction of the evening. He then dropped the trophy before joining his teammates so they could get into position to watch the banner enter the rafters.
One player sitting in the distance was Blackhawks defenseman Jack Johnson. He was part of last year’s team that won the title. He remained on the bench for most of the ceremony before taking his place with his former teammates. They all stood arm in arm to see the banner take its place alongside the team’s previous titles from the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons.
“It’s going to be cool to figure it all out,” Newhook said before the game. “But we also know it’s the end of the celebrations and we know we have to be ready.”
Each banner-raising ceremony comes with its own level of anticipation. For the Avalanche, it started in morning practice. The players walked into a new dressing room and were immediately faced with questions about a night that had taken years to prepare. It continued as the players arrived in the arena and then took part in a ceremony which saw them parade down a red carpet surrounded by fans.
This is also around the same time that Hoppus arrived at Ball Arena. He pulled a few double takes from arena workers and anyone else who was there when he walked down the aisles while wearing a blue Los Angeles Rams hoodie. Hoppus then met with the arena’s entertainment and production team, who explained their role in the ceremony.
The classic hit of Blink-182 began to become an in-game lore at the start of the 2019-20 season. It would be played between sequences and eventually the crowd kept singing long after the song ended and the game continued.
Hoppus said he first became aware of this after seeing a tweet from a fan saying he should check out how the Avalanche were using Blink’s signature song.
“It’s crazy. We wrote this song in 1999 and here, 23 years later, people are still singing it,” Hoppus said. “People imitate [guitarist/singer Tom DeLonge’s] voice. It is a whole. It took on a life of its own beyond us and our group. It fills me with joy.”
Hoppus said he didn’t get a chance to watch the Avalanche’s entire playoff series. But he got to watch Game 6 when they won the title against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We tried to get out at one point during the Stanley Cup Finals and our plane had mechanical problems and we couldn’t get off the ground,” Hoppus said, a day after the band announced they would was getting together and was going to release a new album. .
A few months later, everything is fine. NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer told ESPN on Wednesday that the decision to contact Blink-182 was an easy one for the league after seeing how much of a connection Avalanche fans have with the song. Mayer said the league had a previous relationship with the group and was instantly on board until travel issues interrupted plans.
Originally, Travis Barker, DeLonge and Hoppus were all supposed to fly to Denver for Game 5 and lead the crowd in singing the song — similar to what Hoppus did on Wednesday.
“We then got a phone call that afternoon, they were all on the plane, but the plane was having mechanical issues,” Mayer said. “We tried desperately to find another plane. It turned out we couldn’t find one. We hadn’t announced it. But we were so disappointed. We were so upset.”
There was a plan, however, for Blink-182 to try again if there was a match 7. Once that wasn’t in the cards, the strategy turned to the opener. Mayer, in fact, said Blink-182 reached out to see if there was a way to do something about the fall.
“It turned out today that not all of the band members could be here,” Mayer said. “But Mark is the song’s biggest advocate. … When we reached out, he wanted to do it. It turned out to be a really cool moment.”
Planning for the ceremony began shortly after the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, said Steve Johnston, executive producer and head of games presentation for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
Johnston said his team immediately got to work after the Avs won the Stanley Cup. He started producing the videos that were shown during the ceremony while working on other details like getting a special winch that allowed them to lift the banner onto the net along the glass and into the rafters. next to the other banners.
But some details were worked out much later. One of them being how active Landeskog would be in the ceremony considering he is still recovering from an injury. Another detail was finding time to rehearse the ceremony. Johnston said Ball Arena had such a busy schedule that his team only had one banner-raising rehearsal. He was able to rehearse once again Wednesday afternoon hours after the Blackhawks wrapped up their morning practice.
“We used the 2001 banner to lift because we didn’t want anyone taking pictures of the new banner just in case,” Johnston said. “The whole summer has been spent planning this special night.”