If it been up to Charlie Lyons, the Colorado Avalanche would instead have been named the Rocky Mountain Extreme.
That was the vision of the team’s first owner, Lyons and his company, Comsat Video Enterprises. A one-time Colorado ski bum who never forgot his “extreme sports” days skiing down the moguls and back trails of the state’s biggest mountains, Lyons thought the name was perfect for a team in the go-go mid-‘90s.
Why did that name never happen, despite the fact logos were designed and other marketing materials all drawn up? Well, I’ll take my share of credit for that. Or, the blame, if you still think that’s a better moniker.
To sum it up in a nutshell: I got the early scoop on the new hockey team’s name, and wrote a late-summer, 1995 story in The Denver Post exposing it to the world. Other than getting the actual scoop that the team would be sold and moved to Denver from Quebec, this was going to be my next-biggest exclusive of my early career, and I can’t tell you the excitement when I picked up the same day’s Rocky Mountain News, our bitter rival at the time, and DIDN’T see anything about it.
Believe me when I tell you that it was a real newspaper war back then, where every little morsel of news was fought over like a scrap of meat by two hungry lions. All day long, I reveled in the scoop, accepting literal and figurative pats on the back from colleagues and readers.
And then, the Dave Logan Show happened. A former NFL wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos, Logan hosted a popular sports talk radio show on the state’s biggest AM station,850 KOA.
The day of the story, Logan fielded call after call from fans just ripping the hell out of the hockey team’s new name. It was just an, ahem, avalanche of negative public opinion. Everybody hated it.
But what did I care? I had the scoop, and so who cares how bad it was? It’s in the books. Except, it wasn’t.
“Hey Adrian, it’s Shawn Hunter,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. He was the president of the new team.
“Hey Shawn, what time is it?” I remember mumbling, at what I think was about 6 a.m. or so.
“Hey, I don’t think what you had in the paper is going to be accurate,” Hunter said.
And then I knew right away what was going to happen. Burned by all that bad publicity the day before, the “Extreme” would get cold feet and pull the whole concept, then deny it ever was a possibility. And that’s exactly what happened. As I woke up and grabbed that day’s Rocky Mountain News off my apartment front stoop, I suddenly felt like I’d been whacked in the head by a 2×4.
Stripped across the top of the front page of the sports section was a story by News columnist Bob Kravitz, the gist of which can be summed up as: “Extreme? What Extreme. There was never going to be any Rocky Mountain Extreme. That other inconsequential paper got it all wrong.”
It’s a bad feeling when you get scooped by the other paper. It’s an even worse feeling when the other paper has a lead story saying yours was all wrong. I felt like I wanted to dig a hole in the front yard, jump inside, cover up and never come out. I had just gotten the full-time beat of the new team, just a couple months removed from covering prep and some college sports on an ad-hoc, freelance basis. Now, I knew people around the office had to be wondering: Did we make a mistake on this kid? Maybe that other story was just a fluke. It went from a great day to a really bad day in a hurry, and remember, I’m still a rookie, nervous as heck about everything, trying to make good impressions everywhere.
I doubled back to my sources, wondering what the hell happened? “How could you let me hang out to dry like that?” I sternly said (OK, I yelled) to a couple people.
I quickly came to realize: They hadn’t hung me out to dry. The story was right. At the time, anyway. But the early scoop and the horrible fallout from it with the fans made it so the team could still scrap the idea and still just blame it all on me. Would I have liked to have had someone from the team say “Yeah, the story was right, we were going to go with that, but we now see the light. Adrian Dater is a hero for his scoop, for stopping the train wreck before it happened!”
Yeah, I would have liked that, but of course it didn’t happen. All I could do was take one snarky “Nice scoop pal, way to get it all wrong Woodward and Bernstein” remark after another, along with the News for several days keep saying in stories something to the effect of “As erroneously reported in another Denver daily the other day…”
All I could do was say “But, it was true at the time, they were going to be called the Extreme! Really, they were!” But what I lacked was any visual proof. That was always the problem with the story. Somewhere around that time, I did find a new team advertising logo that showed a hockey player on a sign with the words “Extreme Caution” on it. I said this was part of the visual proof, but I’d never gotten my hands on the actual logo designs that would go on the uniforms.
But the man who designed those logos, a man named Michael Beindorff, released them in an ebook on his Facebook page. Beindorff, along with Dan Price, designed the subsequent Avalanche logo, the team name that was chosen by fans in a “Feedback Forum” where they could choose that or seven others – Black Bears, Rapids, Cougars, Outlaws, Renegades, Storm and Wranglers.
So there, nearly 20 years later, is your visual proof. Thanks to Beindorff for publicly showing them, and for allowing us to show it here.
And, YOU’RE WELCOME for doing that original story when I did. It caused me a lot of grief, but we can laugh about it now. Otherwise, you would have been stuck with an EXTREME-ly bad team name!