With the Colorado Avalanche one win away from securing the first Stanley Cup in more than two decades, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen is encouraging fans to celebrate responsibly.
“Stay out of the penalty area. We can do this. We’ve been here before. We’ve won the cup before. We’ve won championships before. The best way to do that is to stay stylish and show our support for the team and do it responsibly,” Pazen said at a June 23 press conference in the Denver Crime Lab auditorium.
Specifically, Easter asked fans not to drink too much alcohol or consume too much marijuana during game five between the Avs and the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 24 at Ball Arena. And if they overeat, he asked them not to drive if they had a disability.
Whether the Avs win that game and thus the championship or not, there will be a “significant number of emergency services” downtown, he said. And the DPD is coordinating with local, state and federal partners on how to handle the crowds and public safety during victory celebrations that take place.
In addition to the tens of thousands of fans who will be in Ball Arena for game five, there will be thousands on the Tivoli Quad for the official Colorado Avalanche watch party and in McGregor Square for another watch party. Add to that the hordes of people hanging out in bars in the LoDo, Ballpark, and RiNo neighborhoods, and there could be quite a crowd in the city center after a win (fingers crossed).
The chief noted that it can be difficult to get to downtown by car after an Avalanche win, as law enforcement will aim to get cars and fans out of the Ball Arena area. However, residents of the center should still be able to drive home.
Pazen said his department is prepared to handle the crowds and has learned some lessons since the George Floyd protests in 2020. “I have great confidence in our team, our local state and federal partners,” he added. . “We’ve worked really hard to make sure we’re doing things in the safest way possible. Additional training has also taken place.”
The chief declined to say how many officers will be at the center on June 24 in case the team wins, but did confirm officers will be deployed on overtime.
Pazen also declined to say whether the city will smear light poles to prevent fans from climbing on them, a tactic that has been used by other municipalities to avoid serious injury. “We’ve been paying attention to what many other cities have done as well, without giving away specific tactics,” he said.
Pazen, the chief since 2018, started out as a Denver police officer in 1995. The following year, the Avs—the transformed Nordiques franchise that had just moved from Quebec City to Denver—won the Stanley Cup. Since that was the first time an NHL, MLB, NFL or NBA team from Mile High City has ever won a championship, fans went crazy. The police, dressed in riot gear, used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to kill thousands of revelers who had lit newspapers (including copies of western word) to start fires, knock over benches and climb lampposts. Some of these fans threw rocks and bottles through downtown bar and shop windows.
Police officers even pepper sprayed reporter Charlie Brennan, who covered the celebrations for the Rocky Mountain News† “I was immediately and completely disabled. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t see,” recalls Brennan. “I still remember that as the most physically uncomfortable thing I’ve ever been in my adult life.”
Asked what he remembered of the chaos that followed after the Avalanche won in 1996 and then again in 2001, Pazen had little to offer other than some platitudes about the DPD as a “learning organization.”
“We certainly remember events from the past,” he said, “and we will continue to work to ensure the safety of our community as we take the Cup home.”