News that the Denver Post's Adrian Dater is writing a book about the Colorado Avalanche-Detroit Subhuman Sleazeballs (I'm trying to swear less) rivalry prompted me to go look up Dater's recent writings. One of them, in conjunction with all the paint thinner fumes pervading my condo, brought back memories of ol' #13, Valeri Kamensky, my first favorite Av (favorite Avalanche? ten years on and I still can't get the grammar straight. Favorite Colorado player?).
He wasn't the most obvious choice for a favorite player -- constantly overshadowed by the Captain, the Best Player in the World, the Goalie, and the Nicest Guy on Earth. But during those heady years of the late '90s, when the sky was clear and we had laughter in our hearts, Val was one of the most exciting players on the team.
He was never consistent, which drove people mad and kept him on the second strata of Avs (Avalanches?). He wasn't terribly talkative. He wasn't terribly tough (though if anyone can find footage or a photo of Kamensky punching out Ulf Samuelsson, I'll adore you forever). But when he turned it on, he could produce goals like you'd never seen.
You didn't see many Kamensky jerseys at Avalanche games; one of my more frustrating memories is seeing a beautiful girl wearing one outside McNichols Arena, before a game in, oh, '98 or so. Our eyes locked. We noticed and appreciated the matching "13" on each other's shoulders. The lights dimmed. The music swelled. And then her boyfriend returned from the "Will Call" window. I hope he realized what a treasure he had.
Nothing lasts forever, of course. After years of trade rumors, he finally went to the Rangers as a free agent, where he was not popular, and then on to the Devils and Stars, where he was a spare part. He finished up his career in Russia last season, I think, and is now consigned to the annals of hockey history, living (I believe) somewhere in Connecticut.
The letter to Dater's column suggested retiring Kamensky's number -- while I can't see that being a remote possibility, I love lost causes. Maybe it's time to follow the lead of the Willie McGee movement. Retire #13!
If I've figured out YouTube, I leave you now with perhaps my fondest Kamensky memory:
update: I very belatedly realized that Angelfire's blocking system prevented the Forsberg photo from being visible. I've stolen it and put it up in a place that's visible to all.