Avalanche faithful will just have to wait for Stanley Cup victory in downtown Denver

The revelry will have to wait.

The Tampa Bay Lightning stopped a Mile High Celebration Friday night, even as thousands of Coloradans gathered in downtown Denver hoping to mark the city’s first major professional championship since the 2016 Super Bowl. Instead, the Colorado Avalanche will head back to Florida, with hopes of bringing back a Stanley Cup.

As the final buzzer sounded, the thousands gathered at Tivoli Quad for the official watch party poured out, if not visibly frustrated than illustratively so with certain fingers pointed at the screen.

When faced with the Avs’ loss, Kat Cordova, 28, described herself as “a little disappointed, a little sad, a little apprehensive about going back to Florida and their bad ice.

“But I have faith in our Avs and I know that they’ll bring the cup home,” she finished.

The party Friday started before the puck dropped. Ten thousand fans brushed off sprinkles of rain Friday afternoon to keep their spot at Tivoli. More found refuge and camaraderie throughout downtown Denver.

“I never saw our first cup, so this is insane for me,” Jordan Manning, 21, of Denver, said from a watch party at McGregor Square before the game started. “Everyone’s super hyped up — longtime fans excited, new fans because we made it.”

When asked whether mayhem might occur after a win, he said, “I genuinely think there’s going to be a riot,” adding, “Hopefully, there’s not too much damage.”

The excitement around the game also coincided with thousands marching from the state Capitol through downtown to protest the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the Constitutional right to an abortion. The chanting drew 16th Street Mall patrons away from their TV screens and meals.

Inside Tivoli, the crowd erupted when the Avs tied it up, 1-1, midway through the second period. Thousands cheered, chucked beer cans into the sky and embraced. At other points, fans crowd-surfed. A DJ kept people hyped during commercial breaks.

When Denver tied it again, 2-2, at the start of the third period, fans at Tivoli and inside Ball Arena broke into chants of “We want the cup!” A rainbow had just broken out over downtown. Ten thousand fans balanced on the edge of a hockey skate’s blade, ready for every play to lead to heartbreak or ecstasy.

“I think we’re going to win,” Isaiah Barnes, a 23-year-old Denverite said. “We’re going to pull through.”

Ten minutes of game time later, and a Lightning strike of a goal to take the lead, and the air lost its electricity. Heads hung heavy, and faces forlorn, while fans tried to redouble their hopes of a comeback that wouldn’t come.

“I think we’re a little hesitant,” Lindsey Sowitch, 18, said in the final minutes. “Hopefully, they can score and it can go into overtime because they’re really good in overtime. We saw that last game.”

Fan Devin Ruff, 24, made a replica of the Stanley cup out of PVC pipe and a kitchen bowl and brought it to the watch party.

“I wanted to make one so I would have the same cup when the Avs win,” Ruff said during the game. “(A win) means everything to me and my family. We are die-hard Avs fans.  My sisters were around for the ’96 cup, I was just born during the 2001 cup. If we win this our whole family can share the win.”

The last time a major franchise brought a championship home to the Mile High City — the Denver Broncos’ 2016 Super Bowl win — police arrested more than a dozen people as thousands poured into the streets. Reported damage included a police cruiser’s window being shattered, and trash cans and patio furniture on the 16th Street Mall being turned over.

The alleged offenses included throwing things at officers, starting fires and criminal mischief. Riot police dispersed some crowds with pepper spray and pepper balls.

Before game five, Denver Police, Gov. Jared Polis, analyst and former Avalanche player Mark Rycroft and others asked fans to celebrate without destroying things.

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