The Denver Pioneers

Last Weekend, I attended the American Meteorological Society’s Annual Conference as our company was exhibiting at the Student Job Fair. The site was Denver and of course I started scanning sports schedules way back months earlier. We got in a day early and instead of seeing the Nuggets Friday Night, I opted for a visit to the #1 Ranked and defending National Champion University of Denver hockey team. Couple reasons….With pro buildings, if it’s shared between and NBA and NHL team, I always go with making the visit for the NHL squad since I follow that league way more than the NBA. Secondly, I’ve fallen in love with college rinks as there is way more character than usually generic pro large arenas.

The timeframe would be tight as our plane was to land in Denver at 3 PM local time. The airport is quite far from downtown and with the frequency of airline delays (especially in Newark), I was nervous. Weather cooperated, but of course when we got to the gate, a half-hour delay occurred. Then another 30 minutes. We get on the plane and I’m feeling a little better until a somber and clearly annoyed pilot tells us that we have to wait because during a safety check after the last flight, there was a slight malfunction on the back bathroom door. FAA regulations forced them to fix despite it having nothing to do with the safety of the aircraft. As the New York crowd offered up their handy-work to fix this small defect (it was to the effect a screw fell out), we waited for the airport maintenance crew, who of course were in the middle of a shift change. As my blood boiled, we finally got out of there 2 hours and 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The crew made up a little time in air and we landed at 4:45 PM. Because I didn’t check luggage, my amazing co-workers let me hightail it out of there and grab an Uber to get to the arena while they headed to the hotel. Very thankfully, I made it to Magness Arena at 6:00 PM, with an hour to spare for checking out the place. My hunger and exhaustion quickly gave way to that familiar feeling of enjoyment at a sporting event.

It was such a great welcome when I arrived as Williams Tower is attached to the arena, this glowing bell tower was playing music as the 65-bells come together to make beautiful sound. Located within the multi-purpose Ritchie Center, Magness Arena is a very classy hockey venue. as the frequent use of maroon paint and gold lettering makes for a great look. Logistics and walkways around the concourse are a little funky, especially since the front ticket office was closed and I was walked by an usher to the side one. That was fine though as the usher was pleasant and not annoyed by lack of familiarity. Inside the rink is great as the overall look and sightlines are excellent. Despite the crisp, clean look, Magness is not cookie-cutter and there is character to the design. I also was impressed with the turnout. Yes, being #1 and the defending champs helps bring in fans, but consider that Denver has plenty of other entertainment options and the Pioneers were playing a non-conference game against Alaska (Fairbanks). The house was about 75% full for this one and they witnessed one of the biggest upsets this season. While Alaska has been playing well this year, Denver has not lost in 27 straight non-conferences games at Magness. That ended Friday Night as the Nanooks scored a pair during a 5-minute power play and Denver was sloppy throughout the contest. Alaska shut them down in the 3rd period and it was pretty cool to watch both Nanook players and a couple dozen fans celebrate after the game.

I left the building happy after a great college hockey experience (see the detailed review here) and the rest of the trip went well. Between time at the conference, we explored Denver a bit and also made it to Boulder, where we took in some gorgeous panoramas from Flagstaff Mountain. This was my second time in the Centennial State and to the surprise of no one, I can see why so many want to live here.

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