‘We always support our fellow Newfoundlanders,’ says Avalanche superfan

Paul O’Leary with his father in Denver for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. (Submitted by Paul O’Leary)

With the Stanley Cup finals between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning underway, one superfan from Newfoundland and Labrador felt simply watching the series on TV was not enough.

St. John’s resident Paul O’Leary is a lifelong fan of the Avalanche, often reminiscing about the glory days when Patrick Roy, Joe Saakic and Peter Forsberg hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug in 1996, and again in 2001.

When the Avalanche punched their ticket to this year’s final, O’Leary jumped on the first plane to Denver to take in the opening games. 

A man in a Colorado Avalanche jersey raises his arms while standing in front of a hockey stadium.
Paul O’Leary is in Denver for Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. (Submitted by Paul O’Leary)

“I can remember the 2001 Stanley Cup finals like it was yesterday,” said O’Leary.

“As I got older, I always said when the Avs made it to the finals again, I would go. The last few years, I’ve kind of been prepping for it because we’ve been pretty good.”

O’Leary, who brought his father with him on the trip, calls walking into the arena an emotional moment.

“It was indescribable, really. The atmosphere in the building, we haven’t seen anything like it,” O’Leary told Here & Now.

“My voice is not 100 per cent, and it’s not even because I was yelling. It was just trying to talk to my dad sitting next to me. You couldn’t hear anything,” he said with a laugh.

For O’Leary, the opportunity to share the experience with his father is a once in a lifetime experience that he wouldn’t trade for anything.

Of course, O’Leary isn’t the only one from Newfoundland and Labrador with a vested interest in Colorado’s success: Alex Newhook, also of St. John’s, is a center for the Avalanche, notching four points in seven playoff games.

A hockey player swings his stick while skating on ice.
Colorado Avalanche center Alex Newhook tips a shot Friday during a hockey practice ahead of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. (John Locher/Associated Press)

O’Leary is proud to be in the stands to support Newhook, who is playing in his first NHL final series. 

“We always support our fellow Newfoundlanders in the NHL, no matter what team they’re on,” said O’Leary.

“So it’s really nice to have other people ask me how Newhook is playing, because it just brings everyone together. It really adds to the fandom for me.” 

Newhook and the Avalanche lead the series 1-0.

Game 2 will be played Saturday at 8 p.m. NT.

A street in Denver is decorated with hanging hockey jerseys.
Paul O’Leary is in Denver to support the Colorado Avalanche. Fellow Newfoundlander Alex Newhook is a center for the team. (Paul O’Leary)

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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