Oct. 10, 2007
Stars of Today, Tomorrow Shine At Burgundy/White Game
By Craig Stancher
Avalanche Gameday Magazine
On Sunday, September 16, the Colorado Avalanche took to the ice for the organization's eighth annual "Burgundy/White Game." This year's game was held at Cadet Ice Arena on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Burgundy/White Game featured Avalanche players in a three-period intra-squad scrimmage, where a standing room only crowd cheered on 45 players representing both the present and future of the Colorado Avalanche organization.
Avalanche stars such as Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny were joined on the ice by free agent signings Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan and prized prospects such as T.J. Hensick and Chris Stewart.
The contest also held a special meaning in the history of Air Force Academy, as it marked the first time the Cadet Ice Arena had hosted a professional hockey game. There have been several professional hockey camps at the Academy, but this year's Burgundy/White Game was the first time the pros have laced up their skates for an actual game.
"We were honored to be associated with the Air Force Academy for a great cause," said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. "Colorado Springs has always been a strong base of support for us going back to our early days in Colorado. This event allowed our fans in the area to see all of our players in action." The contest surely didn't disappoint the Avalanche faithful in attendance. In fact, the game wasn't decided until the closing seconds when an empty-net goal assured a 7-5 victory for Team Burgundy over Team White.
The pace, enthusiasm and competitiveness at Cadet Ice Arena rivaled that of a regular season NHL contest from start to finish. With crisp passing, a dazzling display of skill and even a bit of hard hitting, the game proved to be a back-and-forth contest from start to finish.
Burgundy took an early advantage and led by a 2-1 margin after the opening frame and later led by a 5-3 count heading into the final period.
That's when things really became interesting, as a flurry of goals in the final minutes of the third period kept the fans on their toes. First, Brent Kelly notched his second goal of the game for Team White to make it a 5-4 contest at the 17:35 mark, followed by Hensick's second tally of the contest for Team Burgundy at 18:24.
With Tyler Weiman - the Team White netminder - pulled for an extra attacker, Hejduk potted his second tally of the game to pull White within one goal of Team Burgundy at 6-5. Only twenty seconds remained on the clock at the time of Hejduk's goal, leaving hope for a miraculous finish. However, Burgundy's Ken Roche ended any hopes of a last-second Team White comeback by scoring an empty-net goal with only nine seconds left in the contest, accounting for the 7-5 final score.
Hensick led the victors with two goals and two assists, while Roche (2 goals) and veteran forward Ian Laperriere (1 goal, 2 assists) also had big days for Team Burgundy.
In the truest sense of giving the fans what they want to see, a shootout was staged between the two teams following the game. With the fans on their feet, Team White came out on top by a 2-1 count courtesy of goals from Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski. Hensick added Team Burgundy's lone goal in the shootout.
As Avs fans piled out of Cadet Ice Arena following the game, there was an unmistakable buzz of excitement about the upcoming season. Colorado fans already knew what Sakic, Hejduk, Stastny and the rest of the returning Avs were going to bring to the table, but it was the first chance many had to see Smyth and Hannan, two key additions to the team. Both players were welcomed to the Avalanche family with thunderous ovations during the game.
After factoring in the wealth of young talent the Avalanche have in their system and how well they performed during the contest, it was quite easy to understand where all of the optimism was coming from.
One of those young players was Hensick, who was undoubtedly the star of the Burgundy/White Game. After leading the nation in scoring during his senior season at the University of Michigan and being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, the forward seemed to enjoy his first taste of NHL action as much as those in the crowd enjoyed watching it.
"It was exciting being on the ice for the first time in an NHL environment with players like Sakic, Smyth and Laperriere," said Hensick. "To be around those guys and play in a real game setting was a dream come true."
While the game was certainly important from a hockey standpoint - with several players fighting for roster spots at both the NHL and AHL levels - it was just as much about helping out a great cause as it was the on-ice product.
Proceeds from this year's Burgundy/White Game went to benefit military families, as well as initiatives of the Colorado Avalanche Youth Hockey program. In the past eight years, the Burgundy/White games have generated in excess of $400,000 for various charitable causes throughout Colorado. "I would like to extend a special thank you to the Air Force Academy and its staff for their partnership and efforts in putting together today's event," said Giguere.
From a thrilling exhibition on the ice that pleased everyone in attendance, to lending a helping hand to those in need, the eighth annual Burgundy/White Game was a success on all levels.