Colorado Eagles celebrate Kelly Cup championship with fans at pep rally
June 9, 2017
Loveland — They came from Allen, Texas; Manchester, N.H.; and Calgary, Alberta.
They came as rookies and as 15-year vets. For 17 of the 22 Colorado Eagles, this was their first season in Loveland, and for many it will be their last.
For nine months, though, they came together and delivered something the Eagles hadn't celebrated as a franchise in a decade or at all since joining the ECHL: a championship.
Colorado swept the South Carolina Stingrays in the Kelly Cup Finals, winning the clincher 2-1 on Sunday in Charleston, S.C.
Friday night, the Eagles brought the Kelly Cup home. The team hosted a pep rally at the Budweiser Events Center at which players, coaches and team officials reveled in their title and thanked the fans for their support.
"Winning is the only option we have," general manager Chris Stewart said.
He turned to look at Aaron Schneekloth, the coach he hired less than a year ago.
"He got it done, though, didn't he?" Stewart asked.
Colorado joined the ECHL in 2011 after eight years in the Central Hockey League. The Eagles won two championships and appeared in three other President's Cup Finals during their run in the CHL, but until now such success had eluded them in the ECHL. Colorado had made the playoffs every season in the league but never won a round.
This year, the Eagles handled Idaho and Toledo in five games apiece and Allen in six before they swept South Carolina. They played six overtime games this postseason — an ECHL record — and won them all.
Eagles captain Sean Zimmerman found out Friday morning that he'd speak at the rally, and he was confident about his speech until he got to the podium, but he held it together long enough to praise the Eagles' staff ("…everybody wants to play here") and their 16-game winning streak in the regular season ("That doesn't happen, ever").
Then Zimmerman brought the whole team to the podium and started struggling with his words. Darryl Bootland, the most veteran player on the team, took the mic.
"He's going to cry," Bootland said, smiling, pointing at Zimmerman. Then he bellowed at the top of his lungs, "We love you Loveland!"
As red, yellow and blue confetti fell from the ceiling, "All I Do Is Win" blared from the speakers and the crowd roared its approval, it was obvious.
Loveland — along with the rest of northern Colorado — loves them, too.