Colorado Avalanche Celebrates 20 Years


Today to the day marks the 20-year anniversary of the Colorado Avalanche. COMSAT Entertainment bought the Quebec Nordiques with the intention of removing the franchise from its cash-strapped state of existence. On Juy 1, 1995, the deal that brought the franchise from Quebec to Colorado became official.

In that time, the team has seen a lot of milestones and a lot of memorable moments. Let’s look at some of both.

Stanley Cups

The Colorado Avalanche has won the Stanley Cup two times.

The first time was at the conclusion of the team’s first season in Colorado, 1995-96. That year the team won the Pacific Division. They went on to win the Conference Quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks, the Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Conference Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. Colorado played out the Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, sweeping them. Defenseman Uwe Krup scored the Cup-winning goal.

That was also the series that saw then-goalie Patrick Roy declare “No more rats” in response to Panthers’ fans habit of throwing rats onto the ice every time the team scored:

He backed that up but not allowing another goal against in Game 3 or Game 4 of the Finals.

The second Stanley Cup came at the conclusion of the 2000-2001 season. The team won the Northwest Division. They beat the Vancouver Canucks (again) in the Conference Quarterfinals, the LA Kings in the Conference Semifinals and the St. Louis Blues in the Conference Finals. Colorado played out the Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils, going a full seven games. Winger Alex Tanguay scored the Cup-winning goal.

I remember that series so well because for awhile the momentum was clearly with the Devils (who, ironically, were the original Colorado franchise, the Colorado Rockies of the 1980s). However, when Colorado won Game 6 at 4-0, I remember thinking “No one but the New Jersey Devils and their fans actually believes the Devils are going to win.” Sure enough the Avs won Game 7 with a score of 3-1, with Tanguay scoring two of those goals.

That was also the series that saw the great Ray Bourque win his one and only Stanley Cup:

Hall of Fame

The Colorado Avalanche has played a part in six Hall of Famers’ careers:

Of those six players, the Colorado Avalanche did not play a large part in the histories of Bourque, Selanne and Kuri. Well, I should say those three players were not a part of the franchise for long. All three spent only a single full season with the Avalanche. However, of course, Bourque won his one Stanley Cup with Colorado.

Patrick Roy split his time as a player almost evenly with the Avalanche (1995-2003) and the Montreal Canadiens (1984-1995).  Patrick Roy retired as an Avalanche player, and the team retired his number first, in 2003. He is, of course, the current head coach.

Forsberg spent 12 years of his 15-year career with the Avalanche. He retired as an Avalanche player in the 2010-11 season. His number is also retired by the Colorado Avalanche.

Joe Sakic spent his entire career with the franchise. He was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987 (15th overall). He became sole captain in the 1992-93 season and stayed in that capacity until he retired in 2009. The Avalanche retired his jersey right away. Sakic, of course, currently operates as the GM of the team.

The Colorado Avalanche also retired defenseman Adam Foote‘s number.

High Draft Picks

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Nathan MacKinnon puts on a jersey after being introduced as the number one overall pick to the Colorado Avalanche during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

In the early years, the team was too good to have many high draft picks. The team did pick Alex Tanguay 12th overall in 1998, but in the first decade the first-round draft picks tended to be in the 20s.

The team took a sharp decline about the mid-point of the first decade of 2000. That led to the team’s first-ever single-digit draft pick in 2009, #3. Colorado chose Matt Duchene with that selection.

The struggles continued so that Colorado had the #2 draft pick in 2011. The team used that selection on Gabriel Landeskog.

As the woes continued, Colorado finally earned its first-ever #1 overall pick in 2013. The Avalanche chose Nathan MacKinnon.

Those three players currently serve as the core of the team.

Noteable Memories

Avalanche fans all have our own favorite memories of the team.

For me, my first memory of the Avalanche came when the IHL Denver Grizzlies were busy winning the Turner Cup. It had been rumored for awhile that Colorado was getting another NHL team, but the rumor became official announcement about that time. Amidst my own excitement I remember feeling bad for the Grizzlies because their great accomplishment was being overshadowed.

Even more than winning the two Stanley Cups — and needless to say I adore those memories — the acquisition of Patrick Roy is a cherished memory. Prior to that I remember talking to hockey fans about what would get the great Roy out of Montreal, and the general consensus was “nothing.” So, when it was announced on December 6, 1995, that Roy was being traded to my new love, the Avalanche, I was over the moon. That will always be my favorite moment in Avalanche history.

That said, I was at the debut game for Duchene, Landeskog and MacKinnon. I’m looking forward to their careers being so great that those memories somewhat rival the coming of Patrick Roy.

Next: Roy to Panthers: No More Rats

More from Mile High Sticking