Will Denver ever love the Avs again?

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A quick visit to the Denver Post’s website and it’s clear what the Colorado Avalanche is up against. There, above a huge picture of a football player that’s done nothing in the NFL, sits the headline: “An insider’s take on Tim Tebow.”

Tucked underneath the giant image is the story about the Avalanche’s 3-2 OT win over the Maple Leafs last night in Toronto. The win was Colorado’s fifth straight road victory. The Avs (5-1-0) are the only team in the NHL with 10 points. First place in the league. Prior to the start of the season, many had them pegged for last. Pretty remarkable, even if it’s still early.

To be fair, Tebow is big news across the country, not just in Denver. The former Heisman winner will start at quarterback for the Broncos on Sunday in Miami. Suffice to say Tebow will be the only reason to watch that game. Well, that and gambling. The point is, the Broncos are terrible. (Thus, the Tebow start.)

It’s a tough time to be a sports fan in Denver. It’s not just the Broncos. The Rockies were bad. The University of Colorado football team stinks. The Nuggets were decent, but now they’re locked out.

So, is now the time for the Avs to get back into the city’s spotlight?

It’s been a while since the NHL got much attention in Denver. Remember the Avs’ famous sellout streak (487 games) that began in the first year of their existence after the franchise moved from Quebec City in 1995? Yeah, that streak ended five years ago. Colorado finished 24th in league attendance in 2010-11, drawing just 14,820 per game in the 18,007-seat Pepsi Center.

If you’d like to watch the Avs host the Oilers next Friday, you can get four tickets, four family meals and four Pepsis, all for $99.

Yep, Colorado is one of those markets now.

It’s not like the Avs are the Blue Jackets or the Panthers either. Columbus has made the playoffs once in franchise history. Florida hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2000. You’d excuse those markets for their apathy. But Colorado? The Avs have won two Stanley Cups since 1996 and missed the playoffs just three times. Only twice have they finished the regular season with a losing record.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s exactly why the fans have stayed away in recent years. They got spoiled. Joe Sakic. Peter Forsberg. Patrick Roy. Rob Blake. Ray Bourque. Claude Lemieux. All played and won Cups in Colorado. All are Hall of Famers. Those are some tough shoes to fill.

The 2011-12 Avs will eventually come back down to earth. (Just ask Halford.) They might make the playoffs like they managed two years ago, but they’re still a long ways from contending for the Cup again.

Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see if Denver sports fans take notice of the young, exciting hockey team that’s playing for cheap at the Pepsi Center. Because once Tebow proves once and for all he’s not an NFL quarterback, that hockey team will be all they’ve got.