Best Sports Team -- Professional 2002 | Colorado Avalanche | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
While Denver's pro football, baseball, basketball and soccer teams looked up from the bottom of their leagues, the Colorado Avalanche continued to make history. Last spring Bob Hartley's troops knocked off powerhouses like Los Angeles and St. Louis en route to a Stanley Cup finals showdown with the New Jersey Devils. Longtime Boston Bruin Ray Bourque won the nation's heart by winning his first Cup here in Denver; goalie Patrick Roy showed again why he is the best in the history of the game; Joe Sakic shone, and the Avs' solid defense handily shut down the New Jersey attack. Is there another Cup in the offing this year? The guys in the $300 seats on the blue lines think so.

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.

The latest Australian import to beef up coach Mike Dunlap's national-championship basketball program at Metropolitan State College, 6-4 sophomore guard Luke Kendall averaged 15.2 points per game this season and stole the ball 77 times in his first thirty games while snagging 91 rebounds. Dunlap had five Aussies on the roster when the Roadrunners won their first NCAA Division II national championship in 2000; Melbourne native Kendall was invaluable in this year's second title-winning effort.

No one personifies the resurgence of DU hockey like goalie Wade Dubielewicz. For much of the regular season, he and teammate Adam Berkhoel were the most effective "two-headed goalie" in the college game, but at crunch time, coach George Gwozdecky turned to "Dooby" to seal the nets. His .943 saves percentage led the nation as he won his second straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association goaltending title and was named to the all-WCHA first team. A 5'10" junior from Invermere, British Columbia, he idolized Avalanche star Patrick Roy as a child and was delighted when his hero paid a surprise visit to the Pioneers' locker room in February. Dubielewicz is one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which honors the nation's best collegiate player.
In the ultra-tough Big 12 Conference, only two basketball players averaged a rare "double-double" in points and rebounds during the regular season. The first was consensus All-American Drew Gooden, star of the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks; the other was Colorado's Stephane Pelle, a 6'9" junior forward from Yaounde, Cameroon. The Buffaloes had another bad hoops year (15-14; 5-11 in the Big 12), but Pelle scored 12.8 points per game and grabbed 10.8 rebounds to put himself in elite company. He shot 48 percent from the floor and sank 77 percent of his free throws; best of all, he's got another season left in Boulder.

The last remaining player from the great 1998-99 CSU team that went 33-3 and reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, senior forward Angie Gorton was the captain and undisputed leader of this year's tournament-bound club and the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year. Her 81.3 free-throw percentage was the envy of the league, and this season the Eufala, Oklahoma, native gained second place on CSU's career-steals list (260) and ranks all-time third in blocked shots (67). Next up for Gorton: pro ball in Europe.

While University of Colorado men's hoopsters turned into wallflowers, CU's women cagers went on a rampage. Their strong season allowed them to host an opening NCAA tournament game -- which they won handily -- and gave them the Big Mo' to rock and roll to an upset of Stanford. Forget the fact that they stumbled against Oklahoma, turning the ball over 29 times on the way to a 94-60 loss that kept them from the Final Four; Coach Ceal Barry's squad still took big steps this season.

Everyone knows salsa is muy caliente, so it makes sense to use it to burn off calories. At her studio, Barbie Novoryta offers Cardio Salsa workouts that really make you feel the burn. And for those who'd like to learn more traditional Latin dances, Novoryta offers private lessons.

For a state that has a fairly low profile in roundball, things get springy in March, when the girls' and boys' Elite Eight move onto the court normally moped upon by the Nuggets. Look! There's the guard nailing a fifty-footer to send it into overtime! And there are the girls bravely bidding to upset the unstoppable Highlands Ranch squad! This spring basketball orgy is sport at its purest; the 2002 edition went a long way toward exorcising the baleful ghost of Nick the Sick Van Exel.

Best New Performance-Enhancing Beverage With Enhanced Tie-Ins

Go Fast! Sports Energy Drink

Last fall, Denver-based Go Fast! decided to put some fizz in its extreme-sports line of clothing. So they introduced Go Fast! energy drink to compete with picker-upper drinks such as Red Bull, and the new drink is more exotic sounding if you check the ingredients: Australian honey, Siberian ginseng and milk thistle are in the mixture. A company spokesman says that athletes the company sponsors in mountain biking, skydiving and snowboarding are already bullish.

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