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The Real Winners of Game 1? The Fans

The Ball Arena crowd didn't need any prompts to get pumped up for Game 1. They knew the drill: scream loud, proud and create the best atmosphere the NHL has seen since before the pandemic. And they succeeded in every way imaginable.

The 17,000 fans at Ball Arena didn't need much convincing to get hyped for the first Stanley Cup final game the building has witnessed in over 20 years.

They didn't even wait until puck drop to kick the "We Want the Cup" chants into full gear.

Everything in attendance on Wednesday evening knew the game plan. Loud, proud and wild. And thus began a final series with full capacity in both arenas for the first time since St. Louis and Boston dueled it out back in 2019.

Tampa essentially had a full building to close out its second consecutive Stanley Cup run last year, but it took a while. Montreal was allowed just over 3,000 fans at the Bell Centre, typically one of the stimulating buildings in the NHL with the ability to sit over 21,000 fans.

It didn't feel right. Not to mention no fans got to witness the Stanley Cup final the year before that. 

This? This feels as close to a normal championship atmosphere as we've seen in what feels like forever ago. And it feels so darn good.

From 10 minutes until warm-ups to the overtime winner, the Ball Arena crowd never seemed to die down. Even when the Bolts scored a pair of quick goals midway through the second, the Avalanche faithful quickly bounced back and got the building rocking.

Personnel from both teams gave credit to the crowd credit for their energy. Even some Lightning players smiled when talking about how crazy of a crowd it was. Even though most American teams played to full arenas this season, restrictions were still in place, and some teams were forced to still play games in front of empty buildings from time to time.

And this is just Game 1. Imagine if the Avs take Game 2 and force Tampa into a corner.

"I've never seen the crowd like that before," said James Randolf, who attended early Avalanche games at the McNichols Sports Arena. "Everyone there knows how special Wednesday was. And there are just three more wins to go.

And don't get me started on the crowd's rendition of All the Small Things by Blink 182. That was magical. Having never witnessed that before, it was awesome seeing one of the best trends in the NHL today. Near-full crowd participation at the levels you rarely see anywhere else across the league.

The energy was everything hockey fans, NHL management and the players themselves were hoping for. We're just getting started. If hockey fans get their wish, this series will go the distance and reward the faithful ticket-buyers with more of this great matchup. 

After two years of not celebrating the game we love the way we all hoped, it's time to let loose.



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