In Denver there is a love affair with sports that people new to the area don’t always understand. Sure, every city can make that claim but Denver introduced the hockey and baseball teams well after the love affair began.
The Denver Broncos hold the attention of young and old fans and men and women have spent years passionately rooting for them since 1960.
In the American Football League merger in 1970 they came to the attention of the rest of the country. Back in those days the AFL represented a high flying, high scoring brand of football that brought excitement back into the game. Passing for an insane number of yards was the calling card for many of the AFL teams but the Broncos earned their fame through the efforts of a running back from Syracuse.
It was not Jim Brown who was the gold standard of running backs in the 1960’s...though he did go to Syracuse…it was Floyd Little.
In the 1960’s the team struggled with a less than super winning record and there was the threat that the city would not keep their team. New ownership in 1965 stabilized things and in 1967 Floyd Little arrived.
Fast forward to 1977 when quarterback Craig Morton (formerly of the Dallas Cowboys) provided veteran leadership and led the team to the Super Bowl.
Back in those days Denver sports fans were crazy about their Broncos and their Orange Crush defense. How did that name come about?
The popular orange drink was a household name for many years and in the 1970’s the Denver Broncos had bright orange uniforms…the defense was a cast of characters like Lyle Alzado and Randy Gradishar and the ever popular Tom Jackson.. who went on to ESPN fame.
The 1980’s became the era of John Elway and soon a Denver sports legend was born!
5 trips (2 wins) to the Super Bowl and winning their first one in 1997 the Broncos solidified their place in the hearts of Denver sports fans.
The 1980’s was also the time of the ‘run and gun” style of the Denver Nuggets, a high scoring basketball team that featured Dan Issel, Fat Lever, Alex English, Kiki Vandeweghe and Calvin Natt…Lever/Natt came in a trade for Kiki. Doug Moe was the popular coach of this scoring machine.
The 1990’s brought more good Nuggets teams as well as successful college football teams.
Things changed when Denver became a popular destination and many new transplants came to Denver and fewer and fewer people born here were steeped in the traditions that natives were…and sports free agency meant that players would come and go.
The 1990’s also brought with it the Colorado Rockies in 1993 and Colorado Avalanche in 1995.
Baseball in Denver was a popular attraction despite the controversy surrounding the large number of home runs at Coors Field. The baseball purists cried foul due to the spike in scoring and blamed the high altitude in Denver.
Hockey also enjoyed popular support when the Colorado Avalanche arrived…formerly known as the Quebec Nordiques, they came in 1995 and with their Stanley Cup win in 1996 they became the toast of the town.