Denver’s next great sports rival is Las Vegas

You’re from Denver, so you must hate Las Vegas, right?

Okay, that’s not what you’re thinking now. It makes no sense. Vegas is great!

But that hate may eventually come.

Right now, Vegas only has one major professional sports team. NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights are in the Western Conference Finals and hope to win the Stanley Cup in their first year of existence. For now, Vegas is the fun team to root for—they have showmanship, a band of players that were turned away by their old teams, and an exciting sense of newness.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Who’s on First? The Rockies Are Open to Suggestions

For 17 years, the Colorado Rockies never questioned who played first base. It was No. 17 — Todd Helton. Helton’s glove made everyone, including Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki, better defenders. He hit into the gaps at Coors Field better than anyone—smacking 592 doubles for his career.

Todd Helton was first base for the Rockies. He’s the only Rockies player who has had his number retired by the team. The Rockies even gave him a horse when he hung up his spurs for good.

Since Helton left, the Rockies have filled his old job with veterans Justin Morneau and Mark Reynolds.

Last offseason, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich decided to go in a different direction. When Bridich signed Ian Desmond to play first base, we all fell into the trap.

Just imagine ‘Family Feud’ host Steve Harvey asking the question: “Who’s on first base for the Colorado Rockies?”

By and large, the Rockies’ community was the ‘Family Feud’ team whose crazy uncle shouts out a terrible answer.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

As Colorado Avalanche reach for new heights, more peaks ahead

For Game 3 and 4 of the Colorado Avalanche-Nashville Predators series, Pepsi Center in Denver was a tough place for the visitors to play. The crowd was in hysterics. It propelled the Avalanche to victory in Game 3 and almost pulled them back from behind in Game 4.

The thing I missed most about playoff hockey during much of the last decade was the atmosphere at a home game. There’s really no other experience in sports quite like the end-to-end intensity of a consequential hockey game. With the fate of your season resting on a small black disc, every bounce of the puck is mesmerizing. In the playoffs, each save is a close call and goals are either blessings or curses.

The Pepsi Center crowd during the last couple of games had an intensity and optimism for a new era of Avs hockey. After years of being an NHL afterthought, the crowd took over the game. The crowd seemed to know they were part of the event — more self-aware of their influence on the game.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Nuggets must give Nikola Jokic the keys to the franchise

The television cameras captured the growth during a timeout huddle. The moment came near the end of the Denver Nuggets’ 112-106 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, an all-or-nothing game that finished their season without a playoff appearance for the fifth straight year. There was Nikola Jokic, engaged in an intense conversation with his teammates.

He was not goofy or stoic. He was zoned in. It was the moment that should erase all doubt. Jokic is ready to be a star.

It’s been coming for weeks. There were reports that Paul Millsap talked to Jokic about needing to lead the team. It was clear that the coaching staff wanted this from Jokic. Everyone watching the Nuggets knew the potential was there. We were all just waiting on Jokic.

And he arrived.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

New Denver and its culture is built around Coors Field

My first Colorado Rockies Opening Day was a decade ago. Thinking about the Denver of the late-2000’s compared to now, it feels like a different place entirely. Lower Downtown is more than a couple of streets—it’s now a couple of neighborhoods. The ballpark district has joined LoDo as the place to be around baseball.

My first opening day, 10 years ago, was the year after the Rockies won the National League Pennant. My friend Aaron and I attended the 2007 play-in-game and found ourselves back at Coors Field for Opening Day 2008. We skipped classes our junior year of high school and headed to the ballpark.

The Rockies lost that day, but we made the memories you seek at a big event like Opening Day. We have been patrons in the Opening Day crowds several times since then, ready to ring in another baseball season.

Little did we know how much the ballpark area we were walking around would change. The Democratic National Convention took place in Denver later that summer. Some cite the event as the beginning of modern growth in Denver. Our identity as a well-kept secret hidden by the mountains was out.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

A season of improvement — with or without playoffs — will help youthful Avalanche

If the season ended today, the Colorado Avalanche of 2017-2018 would be defined by their improvement. No longer the laughingstock of the league, they have improved their place in the standings by over 40 points. Nathan MacKinnon emerged as an elite star, and the promising supporting cast of rookies and youthful Scandinavians have the Avs set up for future.

With this team, a 20-point improvement in the standings (10 more wins) would have seemed like a positive step in the right direction. The accumulation of young talent and prospects (helped by the Matt Duchene trade at the start of the season), is fun to watch develop.

This team would not stand pat with just being exciting. Propelled by shooting star MacKinnon, the Avs worked their way into playoff contention. The defense started playing far better than anyone expected. The veterans provided leadership on and off the ice. Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier stole some games in net. And the playoffs didn’t seem like a thing that can only happens in other basketball/hockey arenas.

About a month ago, they finally hooked me to the possibility that they might be a playoff team. I started dreaming of the 300 MPH anxiety that accompanies playoff hockey (scientists have yet to find a measurement for the stress of playoff overtime hockey).

After three losses in four games, the walls are closing in on the Colorado Avalanche’s playoff chances. With five games remaining, it might take four wins to enter the playoffs this year.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Nuggets must remove all barriers around Nikola Jokic while helping him grow

The Denver Nuggets remain in “development” this year as their playoff dreams continue to spin away like an errant pass that won’t stay inbounds. There is one question above any other that needs to become the franchise motto. Every personnel, coaching and development decision needs to answer this question: “How does this make Nikola Jokic better?”

Right now, Jokic is a potential NBA star waiting in the wings. Denver hopes he ascends to great heights—more than his 6’10” frame. His unstoppable offensive game, at its best, is more than other teams can handle. Unfortunately, Jokic and the Nuggets are inconsistent, with Jokic sometimes disappearing altogether from games.

Thus, this team is still just about potential. Now, to be fair, it’s a lot of potential. Jokic, triangulated with guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, all but oozes a series of tantalizing glimpses of what might become.

Potential, however, goes in two directions. It is either actualized into results or erodes and becomes wasted potential.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports