Being a fan nets Mamula national exposure |

Being a fan nets Mamula national exposure

Jason Starr

“Eric Mamula is to Downstairs at Eric’s what Patrick Roy is to the Colorado Avalanche.”

True enough. But what are Mamula and Roy doing in the same sentence, and why is this line being uttered from time to time on a nationally televised sports show?

It’s because Mamula, owner of the Breckenridge restaurant Downstairs at Eric’s, has become buddies with some of the sportscasters at ESPN. One in particular, John Buccigross, is fond of using such obscure analogies while hosting the ESPN hockey show “NHL Tonight.”

Buccigross became aware that Mamula and his patrons are fans of the show when ESPN’s Chris Fowler, who owns a home in Breckenridge, told him a few years ago. Since then, Buccigross has intermitenly used the “Eric’s” references on the air, as a way of saying thanks.

“Chris told me how much they love the show and how much they love the references I do,” Buccigross said Wednesday while preparing for that night’s edition of “NHL Tonight.” “That was the first time I got any kind of feedback, so it made a big impression on me.”

Mamula had been friends with Fowler for years, but he was completely surprised when he heard his name and restaurant mentioned on the air for the first time.

“We were just sitting there and he mentioned us and it was pretty funny,” Mamula recalled. “It was pretty much a shock.”

With the Avalanche making a Stanley Cup run last year, the references got more frequent. But it wasn’t until last year’s All Star game at the Pepsi Center in Denver that the two finally met. Then, during last year’s finals between Colorado and New Jersey, Buccigross came to Breckenridge between games and played hockey at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena and ate at the restaurant he’d been referencing for three years.

“I fell in love with the town and their love for hockey,” he said.

Mamula met and hung out with other ESPN personalities during the finals after games at the Pepsi Center.

As the Avalanche continue in this year’s playoffs, Mamula’s name is sure to continue to be heard on the air. And 99 percent of the viewers will have no idea who he is.

“Once in a while I’ll get a phone call from someone I went to college with, and they’ll say, “Is he talking about you?'” Mamula said. “It just goes over a lot of people’s heads, and they don’t ever wonder what he’s talking about.”

If the Avalanche beat Detroit and move on to the finals, Buccigross said he’ll return to Breckenridge, to the Steve and to Downstairs at Eric’s.

“I would definitely go back to Breckenridge if I go to (Colorado),” he said. “I’d play golf, skate and have some dinner at Eric’s. It would be fun.”

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