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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Av

Because the particulars of the NHL's 2005 collective-bargaining agreement forced the Avalanche to say so long to several fan favorites, the team needed newcomers to step up this year -- and Paul Stastny has done just that. A hometown hero thanks to his play on University of Denver championship squads, Stastny has gotten progressively stronger as the season's gone on; his efforts culminated in an astonishing twenty-game scoring streak that set a league record for a rookie. Along with Peter Budaj, who's all but replaced high-priced goalie/sieve Jose Theodore and fellow phenom Wojtek Wolski, Stastny is both an exciting part of the Avs' present and a key element of the team's future.

Best Mascot

If Miles, that weird horse-head guy who trots the field during Broncos games, was sent to the glue factory, and Dinger, the Rockies' pathetic faux Barney, sank into a tar pit, many sports lovers in these parts would cheer. But were Rocky, the Nuggets' coolest cat, to head for the hills, all of Denver would go into mourning, and rightfully so. For years, Rocky was pretty much the only reason to attend a Nuggets game, thanks to his athletic stunts, crowd-rousing antics and wicked sense of humor -- and even though the team has been playing better recently, on a night-in, night-out basis, Rocky's performance is still more consistent than that of the hottest players. When he shoots, he scores -- even if the ball doesn't go through the hoop.

Best Sports Announcer

The worst thing that's happened to the radio broadcasts of Avalanche games is also the best thing that's happened to television coverage of the team. The irrepressible Mike Haynes, who's now a permanent fixture in the TV booth after establishing himself in the older medium, brings the same elements to Altitude that made him such a favorite among the Fan's listeners: seemingly bottomless enthusiasm, an inimitable style and a knack for saying (and, often, screaming) the very thing that Avs boosters are thinking but can't quite articulate. Most announcers merely call games. Haynes brings them to life -- and now he does so in living color.

Best Rockie

The Rockies' "Generation R" advertising campaign smacked of desperation. At least, it did until Matt Holliday, the team's exciting young left-fielder, smacked 34 home runs last season -- a real accomplishment in the humidor era. But Holliday's more than just a long-baller. He maintained a .324 batting average in 2006 by hitting all over the park, and he's got better-than-average wheels for a guy who stands six-foot-four, even managing to beat out five triples. At 27, he's about to enter the prime of his career, and if the Rockies want to convince understandably dubious fans that they really mean to compete in the National League West, they need to find a way to lock up both Holliday and outstanding third-bagger Garrett Atkins for the long haul. Otherwise, the stand-alone letter in "Generation R" will stand for "ripoff."

Best Bronco

How many Broncos are the best at their position in the NFL? Precisely one -- and he wears number 24. Although the term "shut-down cornerback" is overused by TV commentators, Champ Bailey comes closer than anyone in the league to making it mean something. Any time the ball is thrown to his half of the field, odds are good that he'll get his hands on it one way or another. When Bailey came to the team in a trade for running back Clinton Portis, there were plenty of naysayers -- but those folks are mighty quiet now. In the unlikely event that the Broncos become champs in the next few years, they'll have Champ to thank.

Best Nugget

Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson have gotten all the attention this year, since both are capable of setting the scoreboard ablaze. But the underappreciated Marcus Camby truly anchors the Nugs. For one thing, he plays great defense every time he hits the court -- something that's all too rare on this squad. For another, he's the team's most reliable rebounder and shot blocker, and he's got a deceptively deadly outside shot. And, most important, he's a stabilizing force in a lineup that desperately needs one, not to mention a true team player who's willing to subjugate his own stats if it means the difference between victory and defeat. Melo and A.I. can't make that claim -- but the Camby man can.

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Best Av: Paul Stastny

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