Colorado Avalanche: Celebration of Hockey Rivalry with Coors Light

NHL Alumni Adam Foote and Larry Murphy discuss Colorado Avalanche vs Red Wings feud at Coors Light Center Ice Beer Summit. Jeremy Roenick officiates.

As part of the entire Stadium Series, Coors Light hosted an event called the Coors Light Center Ice Beer Summit at the View House. The main topic of conversation was the storied rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings of the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Coors Light Stadium Series is the culmination of the special events surrounding the Colorado Avalanche’s 20th anniversary season. The first-ever Avalanche game was against those Red Wings, and bad blood eventually grew to a boiling point. It was a rivalry celebrated in all of sports, not just hockey.

The two teams were so competitive during the Colorado Avalanche’s first years in Denver. Indeed, they knew they’d have to get past each other to get to the Stanley Cup. The two teams met five times in the playoffs over seven years.

The rivalry is pretty much over now, with the Detroit Red Wings having moved to the Eastern Conference while the Colorado Avalanche staying in the Western Conference. However, for those of us who were fans of either team in those days, you’ll always have a natural hatred for the other.

Turns out, the memories run deep with the players as well. Chicago Blackhawks alum Jeremy Roenick served as master of ceremonies for a summit between Detroit alum Larry Murphy and our own Colorado Avalanche alum, Adam Foote.

Adam Foote on the Colorado Avalanche Rivalry

Adam Foote and Larry Murphy were congenial about the rivalry. Foote said that Coors Field was a “great venue” but he couldn’t stand Murphy’s jersey. Murphy admitted that he’d been affected by the booing during player introductions at the Alumni Game, but it was all in good fun. Indeed, he would have been disappointed if there hadn’t been any booing.

Foote admitted that there was more chirping during the game than he’d expected. At one point he skated by the Red Wings bench, and the players asked, “What are you going to do with that puck?” referencing that he was known as a stay-at-home defenseman in his playing days.

Foote further related that Mike Ricci was renowned for trash talking in his day. He kept up the banter during the Alumni Game, chirping an apparently pudgy Steve Duchesne with, “Why don’t you throw in a salad once in a while?”

Larry Murphy wasn’t playing with the Detroit Red Wings at the beginning of the rivalry. He was with Detroit from 1997 to 2001. In fact, one of his first games as a Red Wing was against the Avalanche — it was the legendary game that featured The Brawl. He hadn’t known how intense the rivalry was prior to that game. However, he got an inkling when the dressing room even before the game was silent.

Here’s Foote talking about the rivalry:

Notice how he remarks that the Montreal Canadiens would have never traded goalie Patrick Roy to the rival Quebec Nordiques. It’s also interesting to note that Quebec and Detroit hadn’t been in the same conference at the time — the great rivalry wouldn’t have been possible.

Hockey Memories

During the talk, all the men related practical jokes they’d played on each other. Murphy talked about a practical joke gone awry when a Wing broke into a room with hockey players who’d been sent to the minors and instead pranked a pair of 80-year-old ladies. Roenick talked about removing all the furniture from a teammate’s room and setting it up right outside the elevator.

Foote told a funny story about Paul Kariya. When Kariya came to the Colorado Avalanche in 2003, he’d already become a legend. However, he was having to contend being on a team with greater players such as Forsberg and Sakic, not to mention the also new-to-the-Avalanche Teemu Selanne. This was a little uncomfortable for Kariya.

So, for the joke, Rob Blake and Adam Foote invited Kariya to dinner. They kept him waiting long enough to make a couple changes to his room. Once the group returned for dessert and a movie, they discovered an overheated room with a baby crib instead of a bed in the center. Foote laughed, “We got out of there fast.”

A little something you may not have known about Hall of Famer Ray Bourque:

Well, congratulations on his 45-pound weight loss anyway!

Before the recent inception of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all players had to share rooms with one other, not just the youngest one. Foote shared a room with Patrick Roy for eight years. During that time, he was able to scare Patrick Roy numerous times by jumping out of the closet. Foote joked:

“I don’t know how you get the same guy over and over. That’s how focused he was on his own game.”

Indeed, Foote also related an anecdote about his former roomie. Apparently he returned to the room earlier than expected one evening. He found Roy on his bed uber-focused and dropping down into the butterfly again and again. Foote laughed. “He jumped down right away and flipped his hair out of his eyes — he was pretty embarrassed.”

Roenick, not to be outdone, related that he had a teammate during his Chicago Blackhawks days who went through a horrible scoring slump. For some reason he decided to try wearing his wife’s underwear during a game. He scored. He tried again the next game and earned an assist. Roenick laughed, “He kept wearing that same pair of underwear for a long time. He wouldn’t even let his wife wash them.”

Work Ethic

colorado avalanche

Adam Foote, Jeremy Roenick and Larry Murphy at the Coors Light Center Ice Beer Summit. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta

“Superstars practice the hardest.” ~Adam Foote

Adam Foote said his father instilled his work ethic in him. He preached, “Every day you have to keep your job.” In fact, Foote, who played with Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy in their heydays, noted “Superstars practice the hardest.”

In fact, as a conclusion to the Roy butterflying on the bed story — and it’s not like we didn’t already know he was the most hyper-focused hockey player on the planet — Foote related that he’d told his father the story. The elder Foote had remarked that superstars never stop working.

At the end of the Coors Light Center Ice Beer Summit, attendees got an opportunity to speak with the greats. I observed that during the Alumni Game that he got cross checked twice by the same player, and that it angered him. Foote said that it had been Kris Draper who cross checked him twice: “I reacted or my kids would have.” However, he was laughing as he said it.

Foote was asked if he had planned out his final shift — one of the greatest final shifts in hockey, during which time he assaulted everyone on the opposing team the way he had his entire career. Foote says he didn’t plan it — when he heard how the crowd was cheering, he was inspired to go intense during that last shift.

Foote had a lot to say about work ethic — he was renowned for being one of the hardest workers on a hard working team. He especially had some insight into grinding through the playoffs:

“You start the first series in a canoe as a team, and it’s tippy. If you can get it to the final series where your European players aren’t going home and the young guys aren’t worried about how hard it is, you’re playing on a cruise ship together. No one’s going to jump over. And it’s not tippy.”

Everyone knows getting through two months of NHL playoffs is a grind. It can be harder for the superstars than anyone else because they’re constantly under attack. However, as Foote noted, when the stars stick with it, “People just jump on board.”

That’s the way it was with the Colorado Avalanche in the glory years. As Foote put it, “Guys wanted to play playoff hockey.”

He also said something that really resounded with me:

“Believe it or not, not everyone likes that taste. It’s tough.”

It’s a lot of extra hockey — as much as 28 games. These are games in which overtimes are a full period, and teams can play two or even three full extra games — not periods, extra games. And these are nasty games with every level of compete represented.

Stanley Cups

At the end of the day, the rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings existed because both teams were so hyper-competitive. Both teams were good. They had to get through each other on the way to Stanley Cup victory.

Speaking of Stanley Cup victory, the players at the Coors Light Center Ice Beer Summit had six Stanley Cups between them — two for Foote and four for Murphy. (Sorry, Roenick.)

And Speaking of Stanley Cup rings…


That’s right, Jeremy Roenick was enough of a showman to acknowledge the most legendary exchange between two NHL hockey players, at least in the 1990s.

Roenick asked the players about their Stanley Cup memories in particular. Both Foote and Murphy agreed that “The first is always special.” Foote went on to say something he repeated more than once, that in 1996 the players were young and didn’t know how good they were. However, he acknowledged that watching Joe Sakic hand the Stanley Cup to Ray Bourque was a shining moment.

That said, when asked which team he thought would beat the other for the Cup, the 1996 or 2001 Colorado Avalanche, he admitted it would have been the 1996 team:

“We had younger legs. Roy was younger, and we had more depth.”

Earlier in the summit, Foote remarked that playing in the NHL was an “incredible ride, and I never took it for granted.” And he thanked the fans.

I don’t have so many memories of Larry Murphy, not like I do about Adam Foote, of course. Foote was our captain at one time and a true warrior of the sport. My hope is that the young Colorado Avalanche superstars of today heed his wisdom.