Found March 14, 2012 on Race Review Online:

Over the years, I have followed the Colorado Avalanche's Annual Charity Brunch via avalanche.nhl.com and the segments they do on it on Avalanche All Access, Altitude TV's weekly Avalanche show. This year however, I finally got to attend the event live, in-person due to a 2011 Christmas gift from my wonderful wife. :)

The event was very elegant and well-put-together as hosted by the Avs Better Halves, the wifes and girlfriends of the players. The event began with a silent auction of the Avs "Favorite Things" baskets. Each player put together a gift basket of his favorite things and they were all auctioned off. Many included autographed jerseys, sticks, their favorite movies, video games, and even some of their favorite beverages. Paul Stastny went with a Mad Men theme in honor of one of his favorite shows. He had a shirt and tie from the show as well as a bottle of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey and seasons 1-5 of the aforementioned cable show. Most of the baskets sold for around $500-$1000. I had a couple introductory bids on baskets, but didn't end up winning anything.

The Better Halves also sold mystery signed pucks. I got Chuck Kobasew's and Assistant Coach Sylvain Lefebvre's. One lucky kid got the golden-signed Milan Hejduk puck which entitles him to a suite for the upcoming game against Vancouver.

Next up was the lunch. There were seven lines with four players and coaches in each line. Although each line had the same food, I made sure to go through each and every line in order to meet every player. By the time I was done, my plate probably weighed seven pounds and could have fed an entire family!

Now I'm sure the event was a mandatory one for all the players, but to a man, it certainly did not seem so. Each and every player made the impression that they wanted to be there and that they were having just as good of a time as we, the fans were. Every single player was willing to talk to you when you came through his line, have a laugh or two and really show you how down-to-earth, cool guys they are. I was nearing the end of my run when I approached Ryan O'Byrne and Paul Stastny and O'Bryne asked if I wanted some more eggs. Stastny, laughing, turned to O'Byrne and said, "look at how much he's got! He doesn't need any more." O'Byrne grinned and said I could fit a bit more on there. I graciously accepted and moved along with my massive plate. Seriously, it put Thanksgiving plates to shame!

Matt Duchene, who was not hobbled by crutches, but was sporting a soft walking boot, was in very good spirits although I'm sure his latest injury has added much frustration to an already frustrating season. I asked him about his ankle and he said that it's doing better and I told him that I hope to see him back on the ice very soon. He sincerely thanked me and said that he hopes to be back soon too!

Duchene also got himself into a bit of a pickle the other night when he literally lost his driver's license. He asked his Denver fans on Twitter to help find it saying that it likely fell out of his pocket at Cherry Creek Grill or the Buell Theater. One fan humorously said that he found it and posted a picture of the infamous McLovin' ID from the movie Superbad. Duchene tweeted a follow-up yesterday that he went out and got a new one, but still let him know if you find the old one.

Gabriel Landeskog, who is quickly becoming one of Colorado's most popular athletes, endeared himself to his fans even further last Friday night by posting a trivia question on Twitter and rewarding the person who got the correct answer with a pair of tickets to a game. The question was what number did his brother wear when he played hockey. Turns out, it was a trick question and his brother did not play hockey and therefore did not have a number.

I mentioned to David Jones that he gave me a retweet for my wedding a couple weeks ago and he instantly remembered me and congratulated my wife and me again. He mentioned that he too got married just last summer.

The brunch concluded with the fashion show. Special Ambassadors from The Children's Hospital were paired up with the players and coaches and they all had a blast walking down the runway. The stories of the children were very heartbreaking and truth be told, I may have shed a tear or two. It was very heartwarming however, to see the players with the kids. Giguere came out with a baby who manages to stay asleep the entire time and McLeod came out with a youngster donned in a mask and a sporting a blowup sword. Cody Mac let the kid cut him down with the toy sword which drew a massive ovation.

To a man, every single player seemed like the kind of guy who, if you ran into him at a bar, he'd be willing to shoot a game of pool with you, have a beer and talk some hockey (except for Landeskog who still has a couple years to go before his 21st birthday). No one seemed larger than life or with an ego that professional athletes can be infamous for. I have talked to several employees of Kroenke Sports and they all say the Avs are much easier and much more fun to work with than another Kroenke Sports-owned team who plays their games at the Pepsi Center *cough* *Nuggets*

The Avs may not get the recognition of other teams in the NHL or even here in Denver, but in Colorado or throughout sports, I believe that you would be hard-pressed to find a better group of guys. Sure, I'm not without bias here, but it seems all too often you hear of players getting into trouble with the law and not really living up to the expectations of a role model. In the 16 and a half years the Avalanche have been in Colorado, there have been very, very few instances of players getting in trouble with the law. Most of which were minor and I cannot even think of one that occurred within the last decade. Never do you hear of an Avalanche player and very seldomly a hockey player being accused of murder, rape or anything like that. I'll reiterate that the Avs are a first class organization all the way around.

This year, the charity brunch raised over $75,000 and it has raised over $900,000 since its inception in 1997. Obviously, it is a great cause, I had a great time and I am glad to be able to be a part of such a wonderful event put on by such a wonderful organization.

Now, on to hockey. After sweeping a home-and-home with Minnesota, the Avs lost to Nashville last Thursday, bringing their season record against the Preds to 0-2-1. They will get their final shot to beat Nashville during the final game of the regular season next month. The Avs rebounded nicely however, with wins against Edmonton, in which Semyon Varlamov once again displayed his shootout dominance by keeping both Oilers' shots out of the net and Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller both beat Edmonton Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin high glove-side. Last night, rookie sensation Gabriel Landeskog almost saw his season-long games played streak end as he was hampered with the flu. That morning, his temperature was over 100 degrees, yet he persevered and played in the game against the Ducks. He had a big hit against Ducks' defenseman Ľubomír Višňovský early on and he broke Peter Stastny's all-time franchise record for most shots by a rookie. However, his biggest feat of the night came in overtime when he took a pass from defenseman Matt Hunwick and ripped a slap shot past goalie Jonas Hiller for the win! Varly played another huge game stopping 38 of 40 shots. He is 7-2 in his last nine starts, with a 1.32 GAA and .955 save %. If he continues to roll like that, the Avs will have a very good shot of making the postseason. The Avs are a cool 4-1 in their last five games, 8-3 over the last 11 and 11-5-1 over the last 17. While those stats are certainly nice, the other teams in the logjam to make the playoffs continue to win and keep themselves alive as well. The Avs need to keep their collective foot on the gas and keep racking up 2 points a night!

In both the Edmonton and Anaheim games, the Avs could not hold a 1-goal third period lead, which subsequently sent both games to extra time. While the Avs did manage to win both games eventually, this is not a trend the Avs would like to continue and need to play good hockey all around for 60 full minutes to keep, build upon, and maintain leads. Bottom line though is that the wins must continue.

The Avs have 11 games remaining, fewer than any other team in the league. Only four of which are at home with the other six on the road. The Avs will embark on a three-game road trip with their final set of back-to-back games of the season tomorrow night in Buffalo and Thursday in New Jersey. The Avs will conclude their east coast swing on Saturday against the New York Rangers, a team that has been among the league's best all season long. The Avs will see three very good goaltenders on this trip including U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller, future hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur, and Henrik Lundqvist who is the likely favorite to win the Vezina this year. Needless to say, the Avs will need to bring their A-game and both Varly and Jiggy will have to be good when called upon. I imagine Giguere gets one of the starts either tomorrow or Thursday.

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