Kyle Gustafson grabbed a green lawn chair, pounded all four legs into the tallest snowbank within shouting distance, and plopped down like it was the Fourth of July.
“One of the highlights of the year,” Gustafson chuckled, adjusting his grey DU Pioneers stocking cap as darkness fell, right along with the temps, in a parking lot 150 yards north of Ball Arena.
“Every time we play Colorado College, we beat up on them, you know? It’s all good fun.”
The best fun, now that you mention it. In its Ball Arena debut, the Gold Pan Series looked and sounded like the Avs never left.
“Country roaaaaaad, take me home …” a capacity crowd — 17,952 strong, rocking to the rafters — sang in unison with 7:10 left in the tilt and the Pios leading, 2-0, en route to an eighth consecutive win in the rivalry.
DU students locked arms and swayed. For a few hours on a frigid Friday night, Chopper Circle was Magness North.
“Give me a C!”
“Give me an O!”
“Give me an N!”
“Give me a D!”
“Give me an O!”
“Give me an M!”
Stop! Stop! Stop!
Family newspaper, people.
“Hockey was kind of that thing we would rally around in college,” Paul Sherman, DU Class of ’17, had explained earlier in the night, pointing a yellow temperature gauge that looked like a Star Wars prop at a portable brick pizza oven. “And this is my first game since college.”
So to celebrate, Sherman and a half-dozen of his closest pals — including one yet to arrive who’d attended Colorado College — set up a tailgate outside Ball Arena in a 36-degree chill. The menu: Pizza and whiskey.
“It was so much fun to go to hockey games then,” Sherman said. “And it was cheap.”
He nodded to the giant arena over his shoulder.
“I mean, here, it’s not as cheap.”
Nope. But it rocked anyway,
At the end of the first period, CC’s Stanley Cooley boarded DU’s Aidan Thompson just before the horn sounded for good measure.
With 4:44 to go in the first stanza, all heck broke loose, with at least two separate donnybrooks bubbling up just outside the Pios’ crease. Once order was restored, the Tigers (Hunter McKown, Noah Laba) and Pios (Justin Lee, Rieger Lorenz) each had two guys in the box.
The visitors’ sin bin got even more crowded 26 seconds later, when CC’s Nicklas Andrews joined his teammates.
So, yeah, new venue and all, it’s still personal.
It’s personal. It’s pizza. In the dark. In a parking lot. In the dead of winter.
Earlier, another of Paul’s pals, fellow DU alum Izzie Raitt — yes, she’s related to music great Bonnie Raitt — walked me through her favorite Pios student chants. All of them were hilarious. None of them were printable.
“I flew in this morning for this game, because I just love the team so much,” said Raitt, who’d zipped in from Portland. “I’m always scared to be a little too cocky before the game.”
It wasn’t long before Maddie Schmidt arrived in a CC sweatshirt and carrying a satchel with multiple whiskey bottles inside. She was roommates in Denver back in the day with Paul’s friend Katie and they’ve been friends ever since. She’s also a Tigers alum, Class of ’16, which either makes her a traitor or extremely forgiving.
“It’s all good,” Schmidt shrugged. “I mean, they’re going to come for me, too.”
She then recalled another DU student chant, this one about a very specific piece of the anatomy and also very, very not printable. Her rebuttal?
“I honestly drink a lot of whiskey,” she laughed. “That’s the solution.”
Friday was only her second Gold Pan game, all-time.
“I definitely remember (the first one) being very, very rowdy,” she said.
Gustafson, a DU grad school alum and one of those rowdies, drove up from Alamosa to cook in the cold and relive old memories. His favorite?
“Probably the tears when we beat them,” Gustafson replied. Then he leaned back in the snowdrift and laughed. “That’s always a good memory.”