DENVER (CBS4) – During his State of the City speech this week Denver Mayor Michael Hancock took a moment to talk sports, and in doing so he touched on CBS4’s first two choices for 2014’s most notable sports stories so far:
This is a town for sports fans like me. To the Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche, thank you for a wild ride this season. You have raised the bar, and we expect both teams to go all the way next year!
Fans of sports in Denver and across the state certainly had reason for excitement in the first half of the year, but that excitement fizzled into disappointment. The following are the picks for the Top 5 sports stories in the state in the first half of this year.
1. Broncos Suffer Heartbreaking Super Bowl Loss
No one saw this one coming — at least not in this lopsided fashion. Sure, the Broncos weren’t overwhelming favorites to win Super Bowl XLVIII (they were favored by just three) but a 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was a punch to the stomach of Broncos Nation.
The game started poorly. Just 12 seconds in, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning missed an errant snap from center Manny Ramirez that resulted in a safety, and the Seahawks never looked back. They snagged a 22-0 halftime lead, forced four turnovers, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and hassled Manning all game.
“We knew they were fast. It was still a matter of us doing our jobs better, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Manning said after the game.
The Broncos finished 13-3 and, in the playoffs, avenged earlier losses to the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. But runner-up status didn’t satisfy a team many expected to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.
They’ll have a chance at revenge soon, though: They travel to Seattle in Week 3.
2. Avalanche Stumble Early In NHL Playoffs
The Avalanche finished with the third-most points in the NHL last season with 112 and earned a No. 1 seed in hockey’s new playoff format.
But against the Minnesota Wild, the Avalanche couldn’t parlay regular-season success into a second-round appearance. The Avalanche lost the series to the Wild after dropping Game 7, 5-4 in overtime.
“It’s an emptiness you really don’t know how to handle,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said.
The Avs suffered another blow when star center Paul Stastny signed a contract with the St. Louis Blues in June. But the Avalanche’s season represented a huge turnaround from the 2012-13 campaign when they finished last in their division and with the second-fewest points in the league in a strike-shortened season. Credit first-year head coach Patrick Roy, the erstwhile Avalanche goalie and Stanley Cup champion, who instantly convinced the team it could succeed immediately.
3. Broncos Sign Several Top Free Agents
The Broncos got to work quickly in the offseason, and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway led the charge by picking up big-name free agents such as DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders.
“We got better, and if you look at paper — and that’s the key thing — when we got done with that Super Bowl, we had a great year, but it wasn’t what we wanted. So my goal, that’s where my job really starts is to try and make us a better football team, and with the additions … and the draft picks we have we’re going to get better as a football team,” Elway told CBS4.
He said it’s now up to the coaches and players to show that the team, which now moves forward without receiver Eric Decker and running back Knowshon Moreno, is better.
4. World Cup Craziness Hits Denver, Too
The day was July 1, and fans were packed into sports bars all across the city like sardines. Everyone was staring at the TVs. Even people on the street passing by couldn’t help but stop and stare.
No, the Rockies weren’t in the World Series. It wasn’t the Spelling Bee finals. It was soccer.
Soccer? You mean the boring-to-watch-on-TV sport where they just kick the ball around and there’s hardly ever a score? That’s right. The USA in the World Cup was must-see TV for sports fans across the country this summer, and that was definitely the case in Denver.
USA’s incredible goalie Tim Howard put on a show for most of the game against Belgium in the World Cup Round of 16, but it ultimately ended in a 2-1 loss.
Despite that, proud fans in LoDo were still heard cheering “U-S-A” afterwards.
5. Amy Van Dyken-Rouen Injures Spine
A story of tragedy and inspiration rounds out this list.
Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, the former Coloradan and six-time Olympic gold medalist, was driving an ATV on June 6 near her Arizona home when it crashed. The 41-year-old wound up suffering injuries that left her partially paralyzed.
Right before she underwent surgery that could have killed her, Van Dyken said she remembers having to say her goodbyes to her husband Tom Rouen, the former Denver Broncos punter.
“I look at what happened — when my husband found me, and I don’t remember, I was face down, not breathing and (my doctor) … told Tom and I to say our goodbyes,” she said. “There was a good chance I wasn’t going to make it out of surgery.”
Van Dyken’s surgery was a success, and she was transferred by plane two weeks later to Craig Hospital in Englewood. Now, as she continues her recovery here in Colorado, Van Dyken is showing the attitude of a champion and inspiring others to take life by the horns.