The riot will have to wait.
The Tampa Bay Lightning stopped the Mile High Celebration Friday night as thousands of Colorado residents gathered in downtown Denver in hopes of celebrating the city’s first major professional championship since the 2016 Super Bowl. Instead, the Colorado Avalanche will head back to Florida in hopes of bringing back the Stanley Cup.
When the last buzzer sounded, thousands of people who had gathered in Tivoli Quad for the official party poured out, if not blatantly disappointed, then defiantly with certain fingers pointing at the screen.
Faced with a loss to the Avs, 28-year-old Kat Cordova described herself as “a little disappointed, a little sad, a little apprehensive about going back to Florida and their bad ice.
“But I believe in our Avs and I know that they will bring the cup home,” she finished.
Friday’s party started before the puck even dropped. Ten thousand fans shrugged off raindrops on Friday afternoon to keep their seat at Tivoli. Others have found refuge and friendship in downtown Denver.
“I’ve never seen our first cup, so it’s crazy for me,” Jordan Manning, 21, of Denver, said during a pre-game party in McGregor Square. “Everyone is very excited – longtime fans are thrilled, new fans because we made it.”
When asked if there could be chaos after the victory, he said, “I sincerely think there will be riots,” adding, “I hope the damage isn’t too great.”
The excitement surrounding the game also coincided with thousands of marches from the State Capitol through downtown to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against the constitutional right to abortion. The singing drew visitors to the 16th Street Mall. away from TV screens and food.
In Tivoli, the crowd erupted as the Aves equalized 1-1 midway through the second period. Thousands applauded, threw beer cans into the sky and embraced. Elsewhere, fans were crowd-surfing. The DJ entertained people during commercial breaks.
When Denver equalized again at 2-2 at the start of the third period, the fans at Tivoli and Ball Arena erupted into chants of “We want the cup!” A rainbow has just erupted over the city center. Ten thousand fans teetered on the blade of a hockey skate, ready for each game to lead to heartbreak or ecstasy.
“I think we will win,” said Isaiah Barnes, a 23-year-old Denver resident. “We’ll break through.”
Ten minutes of playing time later, and a lightning-fast shot on goal took the lead and the air lost its electricity. Heads heavy and faces drooping as fans tried to redouble their hopes for a comeback that never came to fruition.
“I think we’re a little hesitant,” Lindsey Sovic, 18, said in her last minutes. “Hopefully they can score and it can go into overtime because they are really good in overtime. We saw the last game.”
Fan Devin Ruff, 24, made a replica of a Stanley cup out of PVC pipe and a kitchen bowl and brought it to the one-hour party.
“I wanted to make one so I could have that same cup when the Avs win,” Raff said during the game. “(Winning) means everything to me and my family. We are diehard fans of Avs. My sisters were in the ’96 cup, I was just born during the 2001 cup. If we win this, our entire family can share in the victory.”
The last time a major franchise brought home a championship in Mile High City — the Denver Broncos’ 2016 Super Bowl victory — police arrested more than a dozen people as thousands took to the streets. The damage reportedly included breaking the window of a police car, as well as overturning trash cans and garden furniture at the 16th Street Mall.
The alleged offenses included throwing objects at officers, arson, and criminal acts. Riot police dispersed several crowds with pepper spray and pepper balls.
Before Game 5, Denver Police, Gov. Jared Polis, analyst and former Avalanche player Mark Rycroft, and others asked fans to celebrate without ruining things.