Obscure Colorado Avalanche Series: Stephane Fiset

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Stephane Fiset #35 of the Colorado Avalanche skates in warmup prior to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL preseason game action on September 27, 1995 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Stephane Fiset #35 of the Colorado Avalanche skates in warmup prior to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL preseason game action on September 27, 1995 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) /

In the fifth instalment of an offseason series, Mile High Sticking takes a deep dive into the 25-year history of the Colorado Avalanche, and celebrates the most obscure, brief, and forgotten players. In this edition, almost 25 years after the Patrick Roy trade, we remember the goalie he supplanted, Stephane Fiset.

When the Avalanche got Patrick Roy, it was a huge deal.

Twenty five years ago, it solidified a team that had never really had a star goaltender. From Dan Bouchard to Mario Gosselin, the Avs never had goaltending that really stood out. The day they got Roy, especially in a time when goaltending — and defense of any kind — was key, it was the final piece to the Avs organization’s puzzle. Sure enough, the team went all the way and won the 1996 Stanley Cup.

Amidst all the celebration, days later, Stephane Fiset, the man supplanted of his job, was shipped out to Los Angeles.

“He was coming to steal my job,” Fiset told La Presse in 2015. GM Pierre Lacroix called the Montreal-born goalie into his office that day, offering him a chance to ride the season with the Avs, or find a team that wanted a starting goalie. “I decided to stay. I was with all the guys I grew up with at the Nordiques before the move.” At the end of the 1995-96 season, Fiset found himself, surrounded by the Nordiques players he grew up with, wearing a Cup ring.

But hold on, why does Stephane Fiset, a man who played 188 games as a goalie with the Nordiques/Avalanche organization, have his own Obscure Avs Series article? The series is called Obscure Avs Series. And while, in that sense, it would give leeway to players like Owen Nolan and Jocelyn Thibault to have their own articles — being that they as well were longtime Nordiques but very brief Avs — Fiset is a case of his own.

Let’s revisit that, yeah?

How He Got Here

The Nordiques. That’s how.

Drafted in the 24th overall in the 2nd round of the 1988 draft, Fiset had spent the 1987-88 QMJHL season on a first-year Victoriaville Tigres team. While they had 20 year old Ron Tugnutt in their system, the 6″ tall Fiset put up a 3.94 GAA in a league where others were getting around 4.00 or 5.00. His height certainly played a part as well, as with the introduction of Roy, goaltending was becoming a job for the bigger guys.

Fiset took his time to develop in the Nordiques system, eventually making his NHL debut in the 1989-90 season, playing six games, and amounting to 5 losses and 1 tie. He would be the seventh goalie to play for the Nordiques that season. It wasn’t exactly a great season.

After a more brief 1990-91, Fiset finally got a full-time NHL spot when Tugnutt was shipped out to Edmonton. Playing 26 games behind Jacques Cloutier, Fiset had solidified his spot as the Nordiques’ goalie of the future.

Until a certain trade happened. A certain blockbuster trade, that happened to include one of the NHL’s dynamic goalies the last decade.

With Ron Hextall as the starting goalie, Fiset managed to get 37 games in, and his first playoff game. After Hextall was shipped out the next year, Fiset took his place as the Nordiques’ starter, a position he held, with rookie Jocelyn Thibault backing him up, when the Nordiques moved to Denver.

The Stint

More from Mile High Sticking

When the Nordiques came to Denver, they finally had a great core. In the first few months, moves. which saw Wendel Clark and Owen Nolan out in favour of Claude Lemieux and Sandis Ozolinsh only solidified the team.

For Fiset, he would start nine times the month of October 1995, winning six of these, four of them the beginning of an 11-game defeatless streak, in what would be a 10-0-1 record from his win against the Capitals on October 18th, to his win against the Blackhawks on November 22nd.

The next three games would be started by Thibault, with Fiset back the next three, earning another win against the San Jose Sharks on December 5th.

The next day would change Fiset’s time with Colorado Avalanche.

Thibault, along with wingers Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko, would be shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for Patrick Roy and Mike Keane. Roy, as the story goes, was unhappy with his old team, especially former teammate and coach Mario Tremblay, culminating in a game where Tremblay left Roy to get shelled by the Red Wings. The star, who walked past the bench into the Habs locker room, informing Montreal president Ronald Corey he would never play for the team again, bounced at the opportunity to be traded to Denver, who finally had a star goalie.

For Fiset, the number of games would dwindle. With players like Thibault and Hextall, there was room for him to get some games, but this was Roy. Patrick Roy. Patrick Roy who changed NHL goaltending and led the Canadiens to 2 Stanley Cups and was now the Avalanche’s starting goalie.

Fiset played 18 more games in the Avs’ regular season. Most of them were to give Roy off-nights, or in relief, as in the iconic March 22nd brawl against the Red Wings. On April 11th 1996, the Avs played their final away game of the regular season, a 3-2 win against a Wayne Gretzky-led Blues. It would be Fiset’s final win in the beautiful reddish burgundy.

Other than 40 seconds in the Avs’ Game 5 victory against the Vancouver Canucks, Fiset rode the bench for the entire 1996 playoffs. While Roy was trading zingers with Jeremy Roenick, and players like Valeri Kamensky and Uwe Krupp were entering Denver sports lore, the man drafted to be the Nordiques’ goalie of the future watched it all happen.

On June 10th 1996, Fiset finally took the ice again. This time, it was to lift the Stanley Cup he hoped for all these years. Ten days later, the Avalanche acquired Eric Lacroix, the GM’s son, and swapped 1998 1st round picks with the LA Kings, sending Fiset in exchange.

Did It Work?

It did. But the Avs weren’t going to pass on Patrick Roy.

Although Fiset finished the Avs season with an .898 save percentage, he was still as good as a goalie could be in the months before Roy found his way south.

By the time Fiset arrived in Los Angeles, Gretzky and Robitaille were gone, and the team was now led by defenseman Rob Blake, winger Dmitri Khristich and future TSN icon Ray Ferraro. While Robitaille would return the next year, Fiset found himself putting up good numbers with the Kings, splitting duties with Byron Dafoe and Jamie Storr. It was a 90s goalie bonanza.

Eventually, Storr, and Felix Potvin, would supplant him. By 2000, he had began to slow down, and would only start 7 regular season games, and one playoff game. After spending most of the 2001-02 season in the minors, Fiset would finish the season back in his hometown, after Montreal acquired the goalie for future considerations. Backing up Hart winner — and future three year Avs alumni — Jose Theodore, he would fail to put up a win, being put in relief in Montreal’s round 2 elimination by the Carolina Hurricanes. It would be his final NHL game.

Fiset would never play hockey again, and the team that traded him had since won another Cup, mainly from the heroics of the man they replaced him with.

25 years after the trade that cemented the Colorado Avalanche as a Stanley Cup frontrunner, there will be a ton of articles on what Roy meant to Denver. With good reason. In the opinion of this journalist, he was the greatest person to play the position of goaltender.

dark. Next. Avs Blue Themselves

But while the Colorado Avalanche brought in Roy, there’s a forgotten piece to what made the Avs the way they were. Fiset might not be obscure as a Nordique, but he’s the goalie that started everything.