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Best Of 2002

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Sports Team -- College

It's been quite a year at the ice rinks, what with the Avs winning the Stanley Cup and George Gwozdecky's resurgent University of Denver Pioneers hockey team reviving memories of former DU stars like Peter McNab, Keith Magnuson and Craig Patrick. After breezing to their first Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship since 1986 and a WCHA tournament win behind great defense and a pair of superb goaltenders, the DU team stumbled against underdog Michigan in the NCAA playoffs. But the club's 32-8-1 record and strong roster of returning starters bodes well for the future of a program that had been in decline.


Best Mascot

It's no easy task to buoy up the spirits of fans whose on-floor heroes are always getting their butts handed to them. But Rocky the Mountain Lion does it every night -- with astonishing acrobatics, the occasional no-look swish from half court (including one recently with a ball he boldly had Michael Jordan autograph) and a mischievous playfulness that captivates kids and grownups alike. Rocky's three-foot-long lightning-bolt tail is a triumph of the costumer's art, and even if every Nugget now on the roster goes the way of Dikembe Mutombo, the most entertaining pro-sports mascot in the country will endure: He made his debut way back on December 15, 1990, and hasn't lost a step since.

Best New Mascot

Who says white men can't jump? Not those wags on a University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team who saw white folks jump all over their idea when the UNC hoopsters named themselves "The Fighting Whites" in protest of the mascot -- a big-beaked caricature of an Indian -- used by nearby Eaton High School's "Fightin' Reds." The Whites' copyright T-shirt designs, including a white male dressed in a suit, soon became red, er, white hot, with orders pouring in to their Web site. Charles Cuny, a Native American, hadn't planned on making a statement when he assembled the multi-racial team. "I just wanted to play basketball on Tuesdays," he explained. White on!

Best Minor-League Mascot

He's got a squirt gun, a knack for doing handstands, and an attitude, and that makes the Colorado Springs Sky Sox mascot, Sox the Fox, now entering his third year, the best minor-league mascot around. In fact, aside from Rocky (whose creator trained one of the two men who don the foxy costume), Sox is the most entertaining mascot in the state. "We love that guy," says Gabe Ross, assistant general manager and public-relations director for the Sky Sox, a Colorado Rockies farm team. "Major-league teams are a little more handcuffed by public opinion, but wobbling around and patting kids on the head can get old pretty quick." Sox has been played by two people, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student Phil Monday and former Sky Sox grounds-crew employee Chad White, and both will be back next year. Fox in Sox, indeed.

Best Old Mascot

For a school whose students make most Ivy Leaguers look like dopes, the Colorado School of Mines takes a decidedly low-brow approach to its home football games. And even though the Mines eleven once thrashed the University of Colorado (a century ago) and went undefeated as recently as the late 1930s, nobody seems too ambitious on fall Saturdays in Golden. But Mines surprised fans this year, winning more than losing, and normally blasé students had something to kick about. Even though the school's jackass mascot was retired years ago, school spirit's made a comeback. Bray to go!

Best Appearances by Santa

As if to prove that Santa is everywhere in December, Ocean Journey treated folks to daily underwater Santa shows featuring the jolly one, with beard and hair flowing wildly, flip-flapping his way around in the deep. But we were wondering: Now that the aquarium is treading water, will Santa sleep with the fishes?

Best Second Coming of Santa

Not to be outdone by anyone, the Northern Aurora Business Association ships its Father Christmas in by helicopter, in wind-whipping style, stirring up a racket that no number of flying reindeer could ever hope to make. Each December, Aurora's Santa Claus arrives from the heavens by chopper, with Mrs. Santa in tow, before heading over to Fletcher Plaza to confer with his eager young constituents. Next thing you know, the old guy will be flying a stealth bomber.

Best Second Coming of a Sports God

Most fans -- and ticket scalpers -- had given up on the idea of a bonanza for the head Washington Wizard's sole visit to the Pepsi Center this season. While the hapless Nugs limped into oblivion, MJ was hobbled following mid-season arthroscopic surgery on his 39-year-old right knee. Still, he suited up on March 20, and while he publicly said he treated the contest like a practice, flashbulbs lit up the return of the twice-retired Airness. Jordan didn't score much, but "ticket brokers" did. Any bets on a third coming next year?

Best Way to Feel the Breeze

Bikini skiing has been around for awhile, but on March 30, Telluride unwrapped its male version in tandem with its Bikini Slalom. Men dressed in thongs competed for awards while letting just about all of it hang out.

Best Place to Become a Peak Cross-Country Skier
Frisco Nordic Center

Americans cheered not just Olympic medalists, but those overachievers who ventured where no American ski or blade has gone before. In the latter category: the American men's Nordic relay team, including Coloradan Matt Dayton, whose fourth-place finish brought the team closer to a medal than ever before. For years, Dayton's family has run the Frisco Nordic Center, which offers 43 kilometers of groomed trails for potential Olympians. While the Daytons can't guarantee international glory, they can give you plenty of room to roam.

Highway 9, Frisco, 80443
MAP
970-668-0866
Best Colorado Peak Performance at the Olympics

John Williams's American Journey, a CD on the Sony Classical label, was released in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Olympics; it's kicked off by "Call of the Champions," the official theme of the Winter Games, and the disc features the Olympic insignia on a cover distinguished by a snow-covered mountain. However, the lovely scenery pictured is Mt. Wilson, a crag that can be found in Colorado (near Telluride), not in Utah. According to an article in Salt Lake City's Deseret News, officials from Sony mistakenly believed the photo depicted a portion of the Wasatch Range, but Internet gossips were able to prove otherwise. Give that mountain a gold medal.

Best Way to Bag Two Fourteeners in a Day

Summiting Colorado's fourteeners -- the 55 peaks that rise above 14,000 feet -- has become so trendy that the Saturday crush up a Front Range trail can sweep a hiker along, boots barely touching the ground. So even if you aren't Sir Edmund Hillary's nephew, you can bag two peaks in one day by heading to Grays Peak and Torreys Peak, mountains named for a couple of Harvard dons. Located three miles south of Exit 221 on I-70, the 14,267-foot Torreys is linked by a saddle with Grays, just three feet taller. Depending on the season, it's a fairly easy hike and a fine way to double your bragging rights.

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Best Sports Team -- College: DU Pioneers

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