Colorado Avalanche: A History of All-Star Appearances

ST. PAUL, MN - FEBRUARY 8: Defender Sheldon Souray
ST. PAUL, MN - FEBRUARY 8: Defender Sheldon Souray /

The Colorado Avalanche sent star center Nathan MacKinnon to the All Star Weekend, but let’s look back at some of the more memorable All Star moments.

Despite the appearance of Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, I didn’t tune in to the 2018 NHL All-Star Game.

Maybe it’s that most of the players — including the Avalanche’s own Nathan MacKinnon — should have been preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympics around this time. Or perhaps it’s the NHL’s once-again-lackluster attempt at proving they’re hip with Kid Rock featuring as the entertainment. Whatever the case, I’m not interested in whatever turd the league polishes this year, so I figured why not re-visit the real gems of old?

Believe it or not, the NHL used to be pretty rad at putting on an All-Star Game. Although the game’s origins date back to a couple of unfortunate incidents — benefit games for the injured Ace Bailey, and two for the deceased Howie Morenz and Babe Siebert — the event started as a contest between the defending Stanley Cup champ and a team of NHL All-Stars. This unique matching lasted until the expansion, upon which the league settled into the familiar Conference vs. Conference matchup, save for those few years they did that North America vs. World thing.

In an attempt to forget a time when Kid Rock is All-Star Game entertainment, and the NHL bungles every opportunity it has to promote itself, let’s look back at some great Avalanche franchise All-Star moments.

The Goal That Spanned Decades

We go back to the Quebec Nordiques days in 1980 with this one, as we focus on centre Real Cloutier. Cloutier played 11 seasons in the WHA and NHL, most of them spent with the Nordiques, where he excelled in the WHA, having four consecutive 50+ goal seasons. This success translated in his debut season in the NHL, netting 42 goals and 89 points, good enough to make him the first player in franchise history to be named to the NHL All-Star Game.

This year’s game in Detroit was noteworthy for a number of reasons. A look at player introductions is a list of Hall of Famers and guys you’ve never heard of, but it’s also the All-Star debut of a 19-year-old by the name of Wayne Gretzky. Although Gretzky recieved loud cheers from the crowd — likely by some fans from his Soo Greyhounds days — the loudest were saved for the return of Mr. Hockey, at the not-so-young age of 51. Howe’s rookie season coincided with the first official All-Star Game, and he would play in its second, so he was no stranger to All-Star Games. But it would take the help of Cloutier to give Howe one last All-Star moment.

The Wales Conference was already up 5-3 in the third, having regained the lead early in the period, and an impatient Joe Louis Arena awaited something from Howe. With under four minutes to go, Howe forechecked a Campbell opponent, then threaded the puck to Cloutier, who sniped it past opposing goalie Pete Peeters to give the hockey legend his final All-Star point.

While Cloutier’s career would decline after a few years, forcing him out of the game at 28, the Avs’ All-Star history starts with a pass headed his way. It just happened that pass was from one of the greatest of all time.

Showing Off To The Home Crowd

Some 21 years later, the Nordiques had since become the Avalanche. They’d get their chance to host an All-Star Game in Denver in 2001, obviously not being the biggest thing to happen to the Avalanche that year. There was no shortage of Avs on the All-Star rosters, with five players — Sakic, Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, and Milan Hejduk — selected to the starting lineups of both teams, as well as Rob Blake, who would join the team a month later via trade.

Sakic would score once in North America’s 14-12 victory, while Forsberg would walk away with 3 points. Not a bad showing for the Avs.

Rad In Boston

What’s not to love about the 1996 All-Star Game? From the mullets, to the purple and teal All-Star (literally) jerseys — to the laser shows, but most of all, the debut of the glorious FoxTrax.

That year, the Nordiques would become the Avalanche, and its two faces of the franchise — Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg — would be front and centre for the Western team. Although this game has no real place in this article, who wouldn’t include it? This is everything an All-Star Game is supposed to be.

Editor’s note: Watching that video brought back so much nostalgia. And let me tell you firsthand, that hair, those jerseys, that laser show were all super hot stuff.

Roy-t a Save

Patrick Roy had done about everything a goalie could do by 2002. To his name, he had four Stanley Cups, 3 Conn Smythe Trophies, 3 Vezinas, 4 Jennings Trophies (he would add a fifth that summer), and he would make his 10th All-Star Game appearance that year.

There was really no goalie who matched up with Roy in that era. Well, except for Dominik Hasek.

That All-Star Game, the two would face head-to-head in another chapter in the Avs/Red Wings rivalry, as part of the Goaltender Competition for the Super Skills Competition. However, while both stood on their head, they would end up tied with 8 saves each.

While Roy would win his Jennings and earn a First Team All-Star voting that season, there would be one notable absence for him that Hasek did do: play in the Salt Lake Olympics that year.

However, Roy would once again take part in the Super Skills competition the following year, his final — and would walk away victorious with 9 saves. A fitting way to close his career.

Sakic Trick

The next year, 2004, the Avs would have a trilogy of players in the game in Rob Blake, Alex Tanguay, and obviously Joe Sakic. Sakic was no stranger to All-Star Games: this would be his 12th going back to 1990, being the consistent Avs player along with Forsberg.

More from Mile High Sticking

That year, the Avs had seemingly bought the Stanley Cup, adding Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya that summer. People were so sure the Avs were going to do well that season, that ESPN — back when they cared about hockey — filmed the Avs for a documentary entitled The Season. As we all unfortunately know, things didn’t turn out that way, as injuries plagued Selanne and Kariya, as well as Forsberg. However, all hope was turned to Super Joe, and at the All-Star Game, he wouldn’t let the (first time) suffering Avs fans down.

Playing in eventual enemy territory in Minnesota, Sakic wouldn’t waste time getting things done.  At 6:23 in the 1st, Markus Naslund, recieving a pass from Todd Bertuzzi would thread the puck straight to Joe, who’d get it past the Eastern team’s Brodeur. Of course, this was a good month before tensions between the Canucks — particularly Bertuzzi — and the Avalanche would sour.

But Naslund and Sakic’s unlikely partnership was far from over. Bertuzzi would once again get the helper, as the Canucks captain would send it to Sakic’s way, who launched it past Jose Theodore to tie the game 2-2.

The next period, the East had a sizeable 6-3 lead with Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo now in net. However, Sakic would clinch the hat trick — and All-Star MVP honours — with 12:38 to go in the game, again assisted by Naslund.

Next: MacKinnon's Fun at All Star Weekend

While Sakic would only make one All-Star appearance for the rest of his career, it’s his unlikely partnership with Naslund that will always take the cake. But it’s one Colorado Avalanche fans would fiercely forget a month later.