The Colorado Avalanche are wrong not to respect numbers retired by the Quebec Nordiques
The Colorado Avalanche, like all teams, have retired the jersey numbers of their legends. Five numbers already hang from the rafters. Joe Sakic (19), Peter Forsberg(21), Patrick Roy(33), Adam Foote(52) and Ray Borque(77) will never see their numbers on another player in the franchise.
Unless the team relocates, and the new team treats their contributions to the franchise as poorly as the Avalanche do to Quebec Nordiques legends. Four Nordiques numbers have been un-retired by the Colorado Avalanche, and are free to anyone who wants them.
It’s a callous way to treat players who are big parts of the franchise’s heritage, and it’s one that should be rectified.
Imagine if the Avalanche relocated and someone of Joe Colborne’s calibre wore 19. Or a Jan Hejda type donning 52. Or any run of the mill goalie going out every night in Roy’s number.
Doesn’t really sit right.
J.C Tremblay, Marc Tardif, Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny all earned the same honour as Sakic et al. All their numbers are back in circulation and have been worn by current or former Avs.
That doesn’t sit right either.
The Kings in the Nords (WHA)
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Before joining the NHL in 1979, the Quebec Nordiques began in the rival professional hockey league the World Hockey Association. Unlike their time in the NHL, the early WHA Nordiques were a force, capturing the league championship in 1977.
Two guys from this era stand out as forging the Quebec Nordiques.
JC Tremblay was one of the best defenceman in professional hockey for a time. He was an all star four consecutive seasons, twice led the WHA in assists and finished 2nd on the all time assists list for the league. His #3 was raised to the rafters shortly after his retirement in 1979.
Now, guys like Ryan O’Byrne, Karlis Skrastins and Chris Bigras step onto the ice wearing the number of one of the most prolific defencemen in franchise history.
Marc Tardif had an incredible career, mostly in the WHA. He had seasons of 65 and 71 goals, and a WHA single season record 154 points in 1977-78. He was the league MVP twice in three seasons, and is first all time in goals scored, 2nd in points and third in assists. In 2010, he became an inaugural member of the WHA Hall of Fame.
His number 8 joined Tremblay in 1983. He’s had some good company with the Colorado Avalanche. Teemu Selanne (more for his play elsewhere) and Sandis Ozolinsh have worn 8 with pride. But they never should have.
These guys are in a weird spot, given that their contributions to the franchise occurred in a different league. However, the franchise opted to honour them, and the Avalanche should respect that.
There is no grey area with the next two.
The Kings in the Nord 2 (NHL)
Michel Goulet should be a familiar name to hockey fans. The first draft choice in Nordiques history was a four time NHL 50 goal scorer, and still holds the franchise’s single season record at 57 goals. One of the best players of the 1980s, Goulet was a fixture for the Nordiques. He’s 29th all time in goals scored, and is a member of both the WHA and the Hockey Halls of Fame.
Despite his number 16 being retired by Quebec (and also the Chicago Blackhawks), it’s been worn by 7 others, most recently Nikita Zadorov.
Last and certainly not least is Peter Stastny. Named one of the 100 greatest players of all time, the second highest scoring player of the 1980s had a profound impact on the franchise. Not only is he 38th all time in NHL points, he also helped turn Sakic into the player he was, and of course is the father of former Avalanche center Paul Stastny.
His accomplishments are staggering. Stastny hit the 1000 point milestone faster than anybody but Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy. He’s a six time all-star and will almost certainly always hold the franchise records for assists (93) and points (139) in a single NHL season.
While there was some nice symmetry seeing Peter’s son don his number 26, it should be pulled from circulation out of respect for one of the greatest players in franchise – not to mention hockey – history.
Do the Right Thing
The Colorado Avalanche need drop everything and fix this horrendous injustice immediately! No, of course honouring numbers from decades ago isn’t a priority. Not even close. Nor should it be, at least until more pressing issues like the Zadorov contract and Matt Duchene situation are resolved.
Honestly, the whole concept of retired numbers is a little bit silly. But they’re a nice gesture to the players and fans that were and are instrumental to a franchise’s heritage. To un-retire them is a glaring act of disrespect, albeit one the team can easily remedy.
There’s no need for extravagant ceremonies and tear filled speeches. Just quietly put the numbers in the rafters at some point soon, and remove them from active circulation. Make sure that the greatest players in franchise history are given their due.
All of them.
The Colorado Avalanche already have five numbers out of circulation. They should have nine. Simply moving to a new city should not invalidate the contributions of four of the best players in franchise history.
Colorado should follow the lead of the Dallas Stars and retire the numbers of the franchise’s previous incarnations. It’s a low priority, easy fix for a franchise that’s been generous in doling out accolades to players who contributed less.
Whether or not you agree with retired numbers, Tremblay, Tardif, Goulet and Stastny earned the honour. Their years of dedication, sacrifice and great play helped make the franchise what it is. Their numbers should go back where they belong.