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Rough night for Avalanche, Grubauer, too many fans

February 16, 2020, 7:47 PM ET [1 Comments]
Rick Sadowski
Colorado Avalanche Blogger •Avalanche Insider • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It was a rough Saturday for the Avalanche, for goalie Philipp Grubauer and for the fans, so many of whom had problems getting into the U.S. Air Force Academy for the outdoor game at Falcon Stadium, getting to their seats once they found a parking spot, and leaving after the 3-1 Los Angeles win.

But first some news: the Avalanche recalled goalie Hunter Miska from the Colorado Eagles on Sunday, not a good sign for Grubauer, who sustained a lower-body injury early in the third period.

Here’s my story from Saturday night on GRUBAUER’S LATEST INJURY.

Sunday was an off day for the Avalanche, so we expect to get an update Monday morning. They play Tampa Bay that night at the Pepsi Center.

Oh, here was a PRETTY COOL MOMENT Saturday.

The official attendance was 43,574 (Air Force averaged 27,084 for six home football games) and I’ve been reading dozens of horror stories on Twitter from fans who experienced nightmarish problems getting into and out of the Academy.

I learned from a previous experience attending an Air Force/Notre Dame football game with my wife several years ago just how difficult it is. We stayed at a hotel in Colorado Springs the night before the game, which drew a record crowd of 50,000-plus, figuring it’d be fairly easy to drive in, park, and have a couple beers for a mini-tailgate party.

Uh, no. It was a nightmare, as we had to listen to the game on radio as the car finally crawled to a spot. We missed the entire first quarter and part of the second before getting to our seats.

I don’t remember what it was like leaving, will assume it was a rough exit.

Knowing that, and having driven to the Academy from our house in metro Denver (about 60 miles each way) several times before Saturday to do various Stadium Series stories for nhl.com, I left at noon on game day – six hours before the opening faceoff. I had purchased a general admission parking ticket on-line for $20, knew where I hoped to park (as close to the media entrance as possible) and lucked out because I parked in a muddy, slushy spot by around 1:30 – 4 1-2 hours before face-off.

I used some of the time -- wearing boots for the snow, ice, slush and mud – walking around the FanFest area, and spotted one NHL merchandise site with lines that looked 100 yards long. I wrote a Nathan MacKinnon story for the program a month ago and wanted to purchase a copy (did so later at a smaller booth closer to the stadium).

I had work to do starting around 3:30, trudged back to my car to grab my laptop bag and found my seat in the press box. I was fortunate that it was workday for me.

Most people, including me, drove south from the Denver area on Interstate 25, which seems to have been under construction for 10 years and apparently will take another 20 to complete. There’s a stretch of about 20 miles that’s in terrible condition with concrete barriers on each side of narrow lanes. Frigid temperatures and snowstorms the past couple weeks made conditions even worse.

Anyway, I sympathize with everyone who had traffic issues. The Academy is an active military installation north of Colorado Springs on a massive tract of land in a fairly remote area with two entrances in and out manned by Air Force security. You have to show a driver’s license and they’ll ask to take a peek inside your vehicle. That’s obviously going to take time when thousands of cars are arriving (and later, departing).

The concession and bathroom lines were incredibly long, and some folks were told the food and/or beverages they hoped to purchase were no longer available by the time they got to the front.

I had to get interviews and write after the game and I won’t trouble anyone with the difficulty of getting to the Avalanche locker room (never made it) and interview area (barely), which are separate from the stadium.

Once I got back to the press box to transcribe, write and file, I stayed for about an hour, watching all the lines of red lights in massive traffic jams. The place was pretty much empty by the time I chose to leave and I exited without incident, drove up I-25 (busy but not jammed) and arrived home by 1 a.m.

It's just so sad that what should have been such an enjoyable experience turned out to be anything but for so many.

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