Colorado Grit: A Rivalry Revisited Through History


From the glitzy skylines of New York City to the charming towns of New England, hockey has always been an integral part of North American culture. But in recent years, the rugged beauty of the mountain state of Colorado has emerged as a new force in the hockey world. The Colorado Avalanche, the state’s professional team, has been a dominant force in the National Hockey League (NHL) since its inception in 1995. And with the recent success of the University of Denver’s hockey program, the state’s passion for the sport has only grown stronger.

But what makes Colorado’s hockey scene truly unique is the intense rivalry between its two most prominent teams – the Avalanche and the University of Denver (DU) Pioneers. For decades, these teams have battled it out on the ice, creating some of the most iconic and memorable matchups in hockey history. In this article, we’ll take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most important and defining moments of this historic rivalry.

The Early Days – A Tale of Two Cities

To truly understand the roots of the Colorado hockey rivalry, we have to go back to the early 1990s. In 1995, the Quebec Nordiques of the NHL relocated to Denver, becoming the Colorado Avalanche. The team quickly became a powerhouse in the league, winning their first Stanley Cup in their inaugural season in Denver. This success immediately put them on the map and captured the hearts of Colorado’s sports fans.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, the University of Denver’s hockey team was steadily building its own legacy. The Pioneers have been a dominant force in the college hockey world, winning eight national championships and consistently ranking among the top teams in the country. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that a true rivalry began to form between these two teams.

The 2004 NCAA Frozen Four

In 2004, the Pioneers made their first appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four – the ultimate goal for any college hockey team. And in true underdog fashion, they faced off against the heavily favored Colorado Avalanche in a scrimmage game before heading to the national championship. The game may not have counted in the record books, but it was anything but a friendly exhibition.

The Pioneers came out swinging, playing with a fierce determination and refusing to be intimidated by the professional team. And in an intense and hard-fought battle, they beat the Avalanche 6-2, shocking the hockey world and solidifying their place as a formidable force in Colorado’s hockey scene.

The Burgundy-White Scrimmage Series

In the following years, the two teams continued to play each other in preseason scrimmages, dubbed the Burgundy-White series. These games provided a glimpse of the upcoming seasons for both teams, and also served as a way for the fiercely competitive players to settle old scores and reignite their rivalry.

In 2005, the Pioneers avenged their defeat from the previous year, defeating the Avalanche 5-4. However, the professional team would not be outdone, winning the next four scrimmages in a row and showcasing the intense level of talent and skill on both sides.

The Red Cross Charity Game

In 2016, the rivalry took on a more charitable side when the Denver Cutthroats of the Central Hockey League (CHL) challenged the Colorado Avalanche to a charity game. The Cutthroats, who were formed by a group of former DU hockey players, were looking to raise money for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. But they were also looking to settle a score with their former college team.

In a thrilling game that ended in a 6-5 win for the Cutthroats, both teams showed their grit and determination, even in a charitable setting. But more importantly, the game brought together the two sides of the Colorado hockey community – the professional and the amateur – for a common cause, highlighting the true spirit of this rivalry.

Looking Ahead – A New Chapter

As the years have gone by, both the Avalanche and the Pioneers have had their ups and downs, but their rivalry has remained as strong as ever. And with the recent success of the Pioneers, including a national championship in 2017, the rivalry is continuously being reignited and renewed.

In upcoming years, we can only expect this rivalry to grow even stronger as new chapters are written and new memories are made on the ice. And as the passion and dedication of both the Avalanche and the Pioneers continue to inspire and unite the Colorado hockey community, this rivalry will continue to be a defining aspect of the state’s rich hockey history.

The Colorado hockey rivalry between the Avalanche and the Pioneers is a testament to the passion and dedication of both professional and college hockey in the mountain state. With a history filled with iconic matchups and memorable moments, this rivalry is more than just a simple competition – it’s a symbol of the spirit and strength of the Colorado hockey community.