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Super Four teams to play in the World Cup

The University of Denver hockey team has a rich record on the ice, it is a Frozen Four institution that holds the top spot for the most NCAA championships in history with nine.

"It was such a myth to say that Denver was a new hockey market," Frei declared. "We had hockey going back through DU and minor league teams and the [World Hockey Association]." "There were hockey roots, there were hockey fanatics."

We were generally criticized globally for having to go through the hardships of of waiting for the Stanley Cup," said Terry Frei, whose tenure as a journalist in Denver sports media goes back to the latter part of the 1970s. "And I'm here to tell you that there's no way. You must understand the context in this.'"

We spoke to Frei to gain this background, which includes the extensive story of triumphs and failures on skates, and of Denver-based hockey teams that are starting and then folding.

Denver's first championship for professional sports was in 1972, thanks to the Denver Spurs hockey team which was an affiliate of the Western Hockey League. The team later transferred into the World Hockey Association before making an attempt to be a part of to the NHL to become an expanding team. The negotiations would end in a stalemate however, and the Spurs would break up.

An 22-year old Frei is one of the Denver Post beat writer assigned to the Rockies team - "a real carnival act I really enjoyed covering," according to his words. "There was always something going on with that team, whether it was crazy things happening on the hockey rink or crazy things happening in the ownership area."

The Rockies saw three owners during their six-year run in Denver and failed to record an unbeaten season, while shocking fans with their ticket price of $14.

"I've always felt that when Jack Vickers bought the team and moved it to Denver, he was told all you have to do is open the doors and turn on the beer taps and Denver will sell out to the NHL," Frei explained. However "he quickly found out he was being led down a primrose path, so to speak."

"They would be better off, according to me beginning from scratch and building an expanded team instead of trying to fix those Kansas City Scouts' mistakes. The Scoutshave] created the franchise into a pit which I'm not convinced the Rockies ever managed to get through."

The experiment failed The experiment didn't work, which is why they were eventually sold to investors in New Jersey. Rockies became the property of investors from New Jersey, where they changed their name to the Devils and eventually won 3 Stanley Cups in the late 90s and in the early 2000s.

The Denver Grizzlies were also a part to the hockey community in Colorado and played one season in Denver before making the move to Utah after the arrival of the Avs into town.

They took home four division titles, including one during a lockout-shortened 1994-95 season that was to the final season of the franchise before financial difficulties forced them to transfer to Colorado in the form of the Avalanche. This group, Frei said, had an entirely different feel about it than the failed tests that preceded it.

"Somehow, in 13 years, the veneer of incompetence had been kind of stripped away and we knew that we were getting a ready-made, NHL championship-contending product," he said. "We were ready for something big and, in accompaniment to the Nuggets."

The Avs would sell out every game during the first season, with an average of 16,017 fans for each game in McNichols Sports Arena, a stadium that only had 16,091 fans. Colorado was immediately an established contender for the Cup winning the Cup in the first year.

The players like Sakic, Forsberg and Roy became household names, and a third Stanley Cup in 2001 cemented the Avs position as local heroes.

A different aspect of the Avalanche However, the Avalanche had an unwavering front office. The team's then-GM Pierre LaCroix, Frei said was able to keep the team afloat even though the team was going through a long-winded ownership change that was rife with uncertainty and legal actions.

"The one thing that's been underestimated is the job Pierre LaCroix did as the general manager, the architect, and he's been honored for that," the former manager stated. "For keeping the franchise together through ownership changes that were so bizarre, it almost seemed like I was covering the Rockies."
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