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Day at a Glance
Denver knows its hockey
Posted: Saturday February 03, 2001 6:00 PM
Updated: Sunday February 04, 2001 11:49 AM
By Robert Rodriguez, CNNSI.com
DENVER -- This city knows and loves its hockey.
A taxi driver, who was from India and only in the United States for six months, asked if I was in Denver for the game. Without waiting for my answer, the driver began talking about his views on the second half of the season in the best English he could muster.
"You know, the Avs look very good this season," he said. "They could win the Cup if they don't get hurt. Look at St. Louis, they are not doing so well because they are hurt."
Still in a daze from the man's hockey knowledge, I could only agree with him. Then he asked where I was from. "Atlanta," I said.
Without hesitation, the driver went off. "Atlanta was doing well before January," he said. "They looked like a playoff team before they began to lose. That Donald Audette is having one great season."
I was not the only one who came away impressed the fans of Denver. "This is a great hockey town," said Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. "I was here in Denver while in the minors and I always wondered why this town got the worst end of the stick when it came to hockey organizations. Then the Avalanche came here and they're the perfect franchise for this city."
Even local restaurants can't get enough of All-Star fever. Workers working at pizzarias, Mexican and Chinese restaurants in the 16th Street Mall area all were decked out in Avs or All-Star attire.
The Heroes of Hockey and SuperSkills competition are set for 6:30 EST tonight. The NHL Heroes will take on the Heroes of the Colorado Rockies and Quebec Nordiques franchises. The World All-Stars will be looking for their fourth straight win in the skills competition.
Among those playing for the NHL Heroes team are Marcel Dionne, Darren Pang, 2000 Hall of Fame inductee Neal Broten and Doug Wilson. Those skating for the Colorado/Quebec team include Pierre Lacroix, longtime enforcer Dale Hunter and current St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville
The North America team took a recent hit in the skills competition recently when the Blues' Al MacInnis was forced to miss the weekend festivities with an eye injury. Who is the frontrunner to take MacInnis' title? Try Tampa Bay's Fredrik Modin. The World team could fall to the North Americans in the Breakaway Relay competition because of the two rookie netminders on the World team, Philadelphia's Roman Cechmanek and San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov.
The St. Louis Blues coach will have a busy All-Star weekend as he will play on the Colorado/Quebec franchise team in the Heroes of Hockey game. The next day, he will lead the North America team in the All-Star Game.
But things could get a bit harrier for Quenneville come playoff time. If the Avalanche play the Blues in the playoffs, especially in the conference finals, it will be interesting to see how Colorado fans will greet the coach. Will they still applaud him as the great Colorado player and former Avalanche assistant coach or will they boo him as the leader of the enemy?
Boston's Sergei Samsanov arrived in Denver early this morning to replace the Penguins' Jaromir Jagr in the All-Star Game. However, it is still unclear who will take Jagr's place as the starter.
Also, look for Washington's Sergei Gonchar to get the unthinkable task of shadowing Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux on his shifts. Gonchar said he'll be ready for the task, but yet others probably have said that too this season to no avail.
The Kings' Rob Blake, not Vancouver's Ed Jovanovski will get the start at defenseman tomorrow. Blues' defenseman Chris Pronger was elected by the fans to start in the All-Star Game, but was forced out because of injuries.
Quenneville said he will let the players play and shoot at will, rather than instilling his favorable defensive approach.
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