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Dynasty on Ice

Characters in soap operas have phony first names like Blake and Krystle and Fallon and Caress--names no one else has. Real people have real names like Sandis and Uwe and Sylvain--you know, everyday names.

The characters in soap operas are always trying to screw other characters in the bedroom or the boardroom. Real people like Sandis and Uwe and Sylvain are always trying to put other real people in the emergency room.

So then, there's a world of difference between the fictional creations of Dynasty, the cheesy/ glam Eighties TV show that was set in Denver, and the real-life dynasty that might be in the making this fall over at McNichols Sports Arena.

Lord Stanley, the sixteenth Earl of Derby and a pretty plucky old bloke, if you ask us, never got the chance to catch Alexis Carrington Colby on the boob tube as she schemed and plotted against her former husband's new wife and insinuated herself into the affairs of everyone within a slapshot of her ex's big-deal oil empire.

But we'll bet the Earl was watching the Big Set in the Sky when the Denver Avalanche won the silver cup with his name on it in this spring's National Hockey League finals. After all, he didn't want to miss the first episode of what could become a very popular series.

Can the Avs repeat as NHL champions and really give Denver's championship-starved sports fans something to crow about? Beyond that, can Patrick Waaaah and the boys create the equivalent of the old New York Yankees, the current Chicago Bulls or--we're on hallowed ice here--the Montreal Canadiens of yore?

Can the Avs bring Dynasty, Part II to town?
First, here's the case for NO:
Ten hours after losing big to Toronto, Colorado head coach Marc Crawford (who in reality is a deposed South American dictator named Antonio D'Allessandri, disguised in a black wig) is discovered in a king-sized bed at the Brown Palace with two pounds of cocaine...and Linda Evans.

Just kidding. The real case for NO begins with the fact that five different teams have won the Stanley Cup in the past five years. In the past eight seasons there have been seven different winners. League parity, rampant free agency and a brutal game of musical chairs among coaches have all conspired to engrave a new name on the Cup each spring. Major injuries and illnesses haven't helped, either. Prime example: Without their star, Mario Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the champions in 1991 and 1992, dropped out of finals contention.

Here in Denver, the Avalanche has re-signed its head coach and kept the best team in hockey essentially intact. But some potential problems still loom:

1. Crisis between the pipes. If the emotional heart of the club--goaltender Patrick Roy--were to get hurt or, say, be abducted by Middle Eastern terrorists eager to get their hands on the Carrington oil fortune, that could leave the Avs with an open net. In the off-season, the team traded back-up goalie Stephane Fiset away to the L.A. Kings, at his request, and now there's no sure replacement for Roy. Marc Denis, the Avs' top 1995 draft choice, is the likely candidate, but as they say in Quebec, a Ford Taurus ain't a Ferrari.

2. Politics and attitude. In return for Fiset, the Avalanche acquired L.A. left-winger Eric Lacroix, who just happens to be the son of Colorado general manager Pierre Lacroix. On Dynasty, young Eric might turn out in reality to be a major stock swindler disguised in a size 44 housedress, start sleeping with his great-aunt, Dominique Deveraux, and be found out socking his teammates' meal allowances away in a numbered Swiss bank account. In reality, the Avs just hope the presence of the GM's kid in a dressing room full of huge egos doesn't cause too much friction. Crawford and company must also keep their talented team strong and focused through another arduous regular season while holding overconfidence at bay: A celebration parade with big cigars and 400,000 people screaming love in your face has a way of distracting some guys.

3. Claude Lemieux. It's probably time NHL fans stopped referring to the combative right-winger as "the other Lemieux." While making enemies all over the league with his rough play--his hit on Detroit's Kris Draper in the playoffs raised eyebrows even on Claude's own bench--he's now played on three Cup winners (Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado) and often inspires teammates with his brand of dark adrenaline. In the process, though, some of his former Canadien and Devil teammates came to despise him almost as much as his opponents do. If that happens here, look out. The whole club could self-destruct--or have an affair with Ufgar, a dashing horse breeder in the picturesque European principality of Moldavia.

4. An angry and ambitious Detroit Red Wings club, turned out of the playoffs by the Avs after putting together the league's best regular-season record.

5. The New York Rangers, led by reunion boys Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky.
Okay, then. After a word from our sponsors--thank you, Big Mike Naughton; thank you, Ivory Snow--here are the arguments in support of an Avalanche dynasty. The YES talk:

1. Waaaaaaah! Pretty obvious plot twist, isn't it? The homme whose nom no one at this altitude could pronounce only last December has grown into a local icon as beloved as John Elway, Dante Bichette or Buffalo Bill. That's the kind of thing a Stanley Cup in the Year One can do. By all accounts, Patrick Roy's hunger for glory is insatiable (just like Blake Carrington's, n'est-ce pas?), so in addition to keeping the biscuit out of the basket, he takes on extra duties as the team's chief motivator and designated scold. Some complain the league's best goalie thinks he's a second coach out there. But when it comes time to hand out the gold rings and fill that oversized champagne bucket, every teammate Roy has ever played with has been glad for his efforts. This year, he spends the entire season as an Av. The key? Good health.

2. Peter Forsberg ascendant. Last pre-season--which is to say pre-Patrick--the young Swedish center was touted as the Avs' best player, a star for now and all time. Instead, Joe Sakic emerged as the Avs' offensive star. In 1996-97 Crawford could face an embarrassment of riches--Sakic playing with more confidence than ever, a seasoned Forsberg (last season's assist leader, with 86) fulfilling his potential at age 23, and former San Jose Shark Sandis Ozolinsh again overseeing one of the best power plays in hockey.

3. DEE-fense. Unless Uwe Krupp turns out in reality to be Uta Hagen or Hardy Kruger and is secretly married to Joan Collins, it seems likely the Avalanche "D" will be even better than last year's version, which was so crucial to the four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers that earned Colorado the Cup. Last season Krupp wrecked his knee on opening night and was lost for the year. That he returned for the playoffs was a minor miracle; that he'll be joining the likes of Alexei Gusarov, Sylvain Lefebvre, Curtis Leschyshyn and Craig Wolanin means big trouble for opponents--as well as an added challenge for all the spelling champions at McNichols.

4. Fan fury. Think the south stands at Mile High Stadium qualify as an asylum? How about those sell-out crowds jamming every railing over at Coors Field, even when the pitching goes in the tank? When the 'Lanche takes the ice this season, having given a hungry city its first-ever world championship, what do you suppose the, uh, level of enthusiasm will be like? Think it'll be a little bit higher than when Alexis Carrington's long-lost daughter Amanda made a pass at her mom's husband? Absolutely.

5. Claude Lemieux. Hey. Remember "soap opera amnesia"? Of course you do. How can anybody forget it? Soap opera amnesia is that mysterious affliction, dreamed up by harried scriptwriters trying to get their conveniences in a row, by which characters wake up in their lavish 48-room mansions unable to remember their own names. Or the person they're married to. Or who they murdered last Wednesday. Or the combination to the safe where they've just stashed the crucial stock certificates. Okay, then. Let's try it. Forget Claude Lemieux's bad rap. Forget the Kris Draper mugging and the two-game playoff suspension. Forget the guys in the New Jersey locker room who wanted to dump their evil teammate in the Hudson.

Claude Lemieux is an inspiration, pure and simple. Okay?
6. The Detroit Red Wings (no way).
7. Messier/Gretzky (ditto).

That about does it for the Dynasty, Part II watch. Now that the script is all written and the characters are in place, it's time to get on with the season premiere. Unless, of course, Mike Ricci is in reality the illegitimate son of Fallon Carrington and her father's arch rival, Cecil Colby, only disguised in a red jersey and a pair of skates. That might change everything.