THERE USED TO BE AN ARENA – McNICHOLS ARENA
In 1976 the Kansas City Scouts moved to Denver, Colorado, and became the Colorado Rockies of the NHL. The Rockies played in McNichols Arena, completed in 1975 at a cost of $16 million and it seated 16,061 for hockey.
The L.A. Kings’ first game in McNichols Arena was on November 28, 1976, and the game ended in a 6-6 tie in front of only 5,697 fans. Tommy Williams and Lorne Stamler each scored two goals for the Kings who built a 6-3 lead. Denis Dupere had two of three unanswered goals for the Rockies to force the tie.
The radio-TV and press facilities at McNichols were not ideal to say the least. A makeshift pressbox was set up for writers at one end of the arena behind the goal. It was a terrible view of the play at the opposite end over 200 feet away. The television booth was located at center ice but it also had its flaws. Once we were seated the only way for my partner, Nick Nickson, to leave the booth for an interview was to crawl through an open window frame out into the crowd. He was fortunate there was no glass in the frame.
During the intermission I would go on camera to give out of town scores and comment on what went on in the period. To go on camera, either at the open of the telecast or between periods, we had to stand on folding chairs with the danger of collapsing. To prevent falling, I would hold on with one hand to a railing in front of us. It was not viewable on camera so I don’t think viewers ever knew how precarious the situation was. Of course, they would have if we suddenly fell out camera view, which fortunately never happened.
The Rockies played six seasons in Denver and made the playoffs one time, losing in the first round. The Rockies then moved to New Jersey to become the Devils, starting with the 1982-83 season. The NHL was absent in Denver from 1982 until 1995 when the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.
In their first season in Denver, 1995-96, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. Former L.A. King and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk and I broadcast a playoff game for NHL Radio between the Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings that season. When the Nordiques arrived in Denver at the start of the season very few people were familiar with the players, but by playoff time almost everyone in Denver was wearing an Avalanche jersey with a players’ name on the back. I went into the gift shop at the hotel in which I was staying, and an elderly woman working there asked me in her faltering voice, ‘Do you think the Avalanche can win the Stanley Cup?’ I answered, ‘Oh, I hope so, you’ve been waiting so long, what is it now, six months?’
During the pre-game warm-up for that playoff game all the lights went out on our side of the arena but not over the ice or the opposite stands. Olczyk and I started our broadcast on the telephone, passing it back and forth to make comments. That lasted through two periods before the lights returned on our side of the arena.
McNichols Arena was demolished on January 24, 2000, after the Avalanche moved into the new Pepsi Center in 1999. I don’t believe any broadcasters were sorry to see McNichols fade into history.