Driven by a Dad-Lad Bond

The Unsers honor Father's Day with their shared passion for auto racing.

"If they don't want to be race-car drivers, that's fine," the 62-year-old former champion says. "Just as with my son. If he didn't want to be a race-car driver, he was still my son, and he didn't have to race. And my nephews didn't have to be race-car drivers. As long as they do in life what they want to do and they're successful, that's all that counts."

But every time Big Al watches his son slip into the seat, he still gets a chill. "Oh, yes," he says. "It pleases me very, very much, and I think it pleases him to know I'm there." Gentlemen, start your emotions.

Hey, there, hockey fan. Crack a cold one and enjoy the euphoria while you can. Because it may soon be time to wipe the tear gas from your eye, pull that flapping Avs pennant back into the car and get ready for a bitter dose of reality. The Colorado Avalanche team that fought so gallantly to win Lord Stanley's Cup this spring, the team that overcame the loss of Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic's sore shoulder and the New Jersey Devils' vaunted neutral-zone trap could vanish like the ice cubes in last night's champagne bucket.

Delighted rookie owner Stan Kroenke and deft general manager Pierre Lacroix aren't talking just yet because they still have parade-sore feet and their snoots full of Dom Perignon. Almost by necessity, though, the Avs will become the Av-Nots next season. Defenseman Ray Bourque (Have you heard? Guy's been in the league 22 years!) finally got to kiss the Cup Saturday night and thus can go the way of Elway in peace. Meanwhile, three key Avs -- all free agents now -- account for more than one third of the team's $58 million player payroll, which is the third highest in the NHL. Unless Kroenke is really Croesus, or the Avs jack the nosebleed tickets up to $150 per, somebody will have to go. Sakic earned $7.9 million this season, goalie Patrick Roy $7.5 million and former L.A. Kings defenseman Rob Blake got $5.2 million. If two of them aren't wearing new jerseys next season, most puckheads will be surprised.

Also consider the Forsberg Factor. Some other well-conditioned pro athletes have recovered from spleen-removal surgery to resume their careers, but there's no guarantee in this life. The team's fine younger players -- Milan Hejduk, Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay, Martin Skoula -- promise a great future for hockey at the Pepsi Center, but the Avs minus Roy, or the Avs minus Sakic and Blake, could well mean the Avs minus a spiritual heartbeat. The Avs minus Forsberg? Don't even think about it.

The best team in the game has won the game's ultimate treasure for the second time, but we might do well to remember that no party lasts forever -- regardless of how much Mace the cops are carrying. It's only natural, after all, for an avalanche to go downhill.

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