If there was a unit to measure fandom, David Puchovsky’s dedication to the Colorado Avalanche would reach into the thousands – as in thousands of hours, dollars and miles.
Puchovsky, a native of Bratislava, Slovakia, is the founder and president of Eurolanche, an Avalanche fan club that was born in 2007 and boasts more than 530 members from 36 countries and keeps supporters connected to the team. And it’s no wonder Puchovsky is so dedicated to keeping followers up to date. “I became a fan in 2000, but I watched my first game three years later because there was no way for me to watch,” said Puchovsky, 25. “I had no internet connection – nothing. I just followed the text recaps and results on TV.”
Eurolanche.com publishes stories, interviews and analysis in nine languages, and Puchovsky acts as the site’s president. It’s his unique background in journalism that has helped build the site into a go-to source for information. During his days as a writer for one of the best-selling Slovakian daily newspapers, Novy Cas, Puchovsky helped locate three children who had been kidnapped and had them returned to their parents. It was a covert operation, with Puchovsky using fake identities and piecing together what little he knew about the kidnappers to track down the children, including two who had been missing for more than four years. “I located them and their abductor in Panama, Central America,” Puchovsky said. “We went there and it was a two-week stay. We had to fly (the kids) secretly. Now it’s OK, because the kids are home and the abductors are in jail.”
Puchovsky will release a book about the kidnappings, called Unesene (Slovakian for Kidnapped), later this year.
He also maintains his adventurous spirit, which is exemplified by the “Eurolanche Invasion,” a North American tour put together in Eurolanche’s second year of existence. The goal was for members to travel to Denver to watch the Avs play live. After significant planning, Puchovsky and two fellow members made the first official trip in 2008. To get there, the trio travelled from Austria to Germany to Houston to Denver. All told, it took 30 hours. Thanks to a call to Colorado’s PR department, the “invaders” had secured a few free tickets and the chance to meet and greet the team post-game.
Puchovsky recalls his first live game like it was yesterday – a 4-3 victory for Colorado Dec. 27, 2008 over the rival Detroit Red Wings. Ruslan Salei scored the opening goal and the Avalanche blew a 3-0 lead before countryman Petr Budaj helped Colorado win in a shootout.
The Eurolanche have since been back several times. One trip saw the group at a game against the Oilers in Denver before piling into a car and making a non-stop trip to Minnesota to watch a road game against the Wild. But for Invasion VIII, Eurolanche are preparing for their biggest trip yet: a two-week excursion that will include the Stadium Series game against the Red Wings. Twelve members will make the trip, a Eurolanche record.
The Invasion will be special for Puchovsky, too, as he’ll hit a milestone and surpass his 40th live game. They won’t be his last games, though, and he’s got one special set of contests in mind. “If they make the Stanley Cup final, we will come back,” Puchovsky said. “If I know I will have a job when I come back, I will definitely go for at least two games.”
This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in the November 23 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.