Sunday, February 28, 2016

NHL Stadium Series - February 2016

On February 26-27th, 2016 my wife and I attended the Avs/Red Wings outdoor games at the home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team.  At first I was skeptical of how hockey would come across in such a big stadium as Coors Field, but I was to discover the two events were very entertaining.

From our travel business we were invited to sit in the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau suite for the weekend.  As you can see we were a bit far from the rink in Suite S02 (along the first baseline near the right field foul pole).  We were prepared, though, bringing binoculars to view the action.  The suite was wonderful, with complementary food and drink and access to all the amenities of the Coors Field club level.

First up - the Avs/Wings Alumni game on Friday night, featuring players from this intense rivalry from 1995-2002.  It was fun to see these former star NHL'ers, like the Avs Joe Sakic and the Wings Steve Yzerman competing, and brought back memories of the many great Avs/Wings games I attended in the past. The best player on the ice this night was current Avs coach and former goalie Patrick Roy, who looked to be in top form making several outstanding saves.  In fact I thought he played better than the Avs starter in goal for the regular game on Saturday night! (Semyon Varlamov)

I was surprised these old alumni played a full 60 minute game, with 20 minute periods.  Though there were some adjustments - like the clock running continuously and penalty shots (as pictured above) on any penalty.  Still it was close enough to a real NHL game to be enjoyable, and unlike Saturday night the Avs won!

Any hard feelings between the teams seemed to be forgotten after the game as the Avs/Wings alumni did a handshake line and posed for pictures on the ice.

Time for the real NHL game on Saturday night!  We arrived early and I took this stadium shot from behind home plate on the lower level.

While the alumni put on a good show the night before, the pace of the real NHL game was much faster.  This game meant something in the standings, too, as both the Avs and Wings are battling to make the playoffs as the season winds down.  I found myself more focused on the game, and less on the surroundings, for the real Avs/Wings matchup.

Saturday night featured more than just the game, like this pre-game concert by Andy Grammer, complete with fireworks.

Between periods was another concert, from Denver-based rock band The Fray.  I thought the light effects in the outfield were even more spectacular than the fan card show I saw at the Super Bowl earlier in the month.  Very creative!

Saturday night ended in disappointment as the Red Wings broke the tie with one minute remaining, and then added an empty net goal to win 5-3.  I was hoping to see a 3 on 3 overtime so I was disappointed with the Wings last minute goal.  Still the whole weekend was very enjoyable.  The outdoor venue was great for a one time special event. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Broncos are World Champions! Attending the 2016 Super Bowl

On the first weekend in February 2016 I attended the second Super Bowl in my life - and oh what a weekend it was!  Here I am with my son Andrew in downtown San Francisco near Super Bowl City on Saturday night.

Thanks to the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club I won the opportunity to purchase a pair of tickets at list price to the game.

We arrived at the San Francisco airport at noon on Saturday.  As we walked to the baggage claim we saw scenes from the previous 49 Super Bowls on the terminal walls.  Naturally I was drawn to this picture of Super Bowl XXXII and the Broncos big win over the Packers that day.

There were displays of memorabilia from all 32 NFL teams.  Here's a picture of the Bronco display.  The jersey was worn by Floyd Little in his last game for the Broncos.

A closer look at the Broncos display revealed the shoe that Jason Elam wore to kick his record tying 63 yard field goal.  To the left was the draft card the Broncos turned in to select Demaryius Thomas.

The Super Bowl committee was very well organized, with volunteers throughout the airport available to answer questions from visiting fans.

We checked into our San Francisco airport hotel (the Holiday Inn) and we soon were off to the downtown area.  Our plan was to go to Super Bowl City but long lines prevented that (a 2 hour wait to get in!).  Instead we went to the NFL store inside the Moscone Center.

More crowds inside the large NFL store.  We saw far more Bronco fans than Carolina fans (in fact we saw more fans from other teams than Panther fans).  Lots of interesting NFL merchandise here but I resisted the urge to buy at the store's inflated prices.

Instead of battling the crowds at the NFL venues we enjoyed walking around downtown San Francisco and having a delicious seafood dinner on the waterfront.  We heard some residents were not thrilled with all the tourists descending on their city for the Super Bowl, but it surely must have been a boost to the local economy.

Game day!  We rode to the stadium in style with a friend who had arranged limo transfers.

Our excitement grew as we approached the stadium.  We were directed to an outdoor plaza where we went through security and had our tickets scanned.  No outside food or drink was allowed to be brought in - a couple of protein bars I brought had to be thrown out.

Even though it was three hours before kickoff the plaza area was packed with fans.   Here we saw Terry Bradshaw telling fans of his Super Bowl playing days and answering questions from the fans.  In another area we saw the CBS set with Boomer Esiason and others on the CBS broadcast team doing a pregame report.  A stage was setup for pregame concerts. 

Bronco fans were given free orange rally towels at this stand.  We got a couple of these keepsakes but we didn't see many fans waiving them during the game.  Rather than stay in plaza area too long we were anxious to get to our seats to get a bite to eat.

 At our seats at last!  We were very happy with our view - even with the 10 yard line in the second row of the upper deck.  This was a similar angle to my season ticket seats I have back home at Sports Authority field.

We sat next to Jim and Marilyn from the Bronco QB Club.  They have been to every previous Bronco Super Bowl dating back to the first one in 1978.  Thanks to the Bronco QB Club they were able to keep their streak alive!  My seats were much better than the ones I had at the only other Super Bowl I attended (Super Bowl XXI featuring the Broncos/Giants at the Rose Bowl)

The game is finally here!  Lady Gaga appeared as a small dot far on the field below as she sang the National Anthem.  The Blue Angels flyover, timed perfectly as the anthem ended, was an amazing sight to see.  The pregame ceremonies were well done - I also liked the introduction of the previous 49 Super Bowl MVPs.

Kickoff!  Not an empty seat at Levis Stadium as the game started.  Our section was almost all Bronco fans and we were loud!  Overall there seemed to be many more Bronco fans in attendance than Panther fans.

There's nothing like being at a Super Bowl game, but the halftime show is really better watching at home.  I thought the show was just OK, and then I was more impressed when I watched the replay on TV the next day.  Fans in attendance were given cards to display with instructions on the scoreboard as to when to lift them up.

Hold on, Broncos, hold on!  The defense gave Denver the early lead.  The intensity grew in the second half as Carolina threatened to get back into the game.  No worries as the Bronco defense was dominant on this day.

Broncos win!!!!  There is nothing like seeing your team win a Super Bowl in person.  I was so glad to be able to experience this once in my lifetime, and be able to share it with my son.  A day we will remember forever!!!