The Colorado Avalanche are celebrating their 25th anniversary season in Denver. With direction from Colorado fans, The Gazette gathered 25 of the most memorable moments from a quarter century of Avs hockey.
1 - The first Cup
On June 10, 1996, the Colorado Avalanche became the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in the season following a relocation and instantly endeared themselves to a new market. Four minutes and 31 seconds into the third overtime, Uwe Krupp's unassisted goal gave the Avalanche a 1–0 win and a series sweep of the Florida Panthers. Goaltender Patrick Roy stopped 63 shots in the shutout and Joe Sakic won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP.
2 - Handoff to Bourque
While the first Cup Final was quick, the second went all the way. It took seven games to defeat the New Jersey Devils in 2001 with Alex Tanguay scoring the clinching goal. Sakic took the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and immediately passed it to defenseman Ray Bourque, who had played 1,612 regular-season and 214 playoff games without winning hockey’s ultimate prize. Bourque ended his record-setting career after that game.
3- Roy vs. Osgood
In the continuing fallout of Claude Lemieux’s 1996 Western Conference final hit on Kris Draper, which broke Draper’s jaw, the rivalry between the Red Wings and Avalanche grew nasty. Another famous duel between Roy and Mike Vernon left Roy bloodied, but his fighting days were far from finished. A year later, midway through the third period and with Detroit leading 2-0, gear littered the ice as the teams duked it out. A referee tried to hold Roy back, but he called Chris Osgood to center ice and they exchanged punches. Roy lifted his fist to the crowd before heading down the tunnel.
4 - Rings in his ears
“I can’t really hear what Jeremy says because I got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears,” Roy said in response to trash talk from the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jeremy Roenick during the 1996 postseason. The Avalanche went on to beat the Blackhawks 4-2 in the series and give Roy more Cup rings than he had ears for. Roy certainly backed up the antics, becoming the NHL’s all-time winningest goaltender in 2000.
5 - First overall
The Avalanche announced their intention to take Nathan MacKinnon, a 17-year-old from Nova Scotia, with the first overall pick in 2013 if they couldn’t make a trade. That decision transformed the team for the modern era. As hoped, MacKinnon transformed into a franchise player and perennial MVP candidate.
6 - 'The score-settling has gone too far'
The most infamous hit in Avalanche history took place on March 8, 2004. Late in the game, the Vancouver Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi grabbed the back of the jersey of Avalanche center Steve Moore and punched him in the back of the head before landing on him. Other players piled on top of the unconscious Moore, who had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher. Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck and a concussion, injuries that ended his hockey career. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm and a civil suit took a decade to resolve. If you had the naivete to wear a Bertuzzi jersey to the Pepsi Center, you could expect a beer in your lap. Avalanche fans wore prison costumes to Pepsi Center in support of harsher punishment. Boos roared through TV speakers every time Bertuzzi touched the puck for years.
7 - Montreal to Denver
Canadiens coach Mario Tremblay left Roy in as he surrendered nine goals during a 1995 game. "It's my last game in Montreal," Roy announced after he was finally pulled. Four days later, one of the biggest names in hockey was traded to the fledgling Avalanche, shocking the league. Roy went on to play for the Avs until 2003 and his larger-than-life persona on and off the ice inspired a generation of Colorado kids to try on borrowed goalie pads.
8 - 1996 Cup parade
Police estimated 450,000 people — a quarter of the area population — lined Denver's 17th Street in beautiful weather to celebrate the Avalanche’s first title. "On behalf of my teammates, we're proud to be members of the organization that brought this city its first world championship," Sakic reportedly told the crowd.
9 - 'Forget the rats, throw the hats!'
Peter Forsberg’s hat trick against the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the 1996 Stanley Cup finals was capped by an incredible off-the-glass, batted-out-of-midair goal.
10 - First game
The Avalanche won their first game after the relocation 3-2 against the Detroit Red Wings at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver on Oct. 6, 1995. Valeri Kamensky scored the team’s first goal and also the game-winner in the third period.
11 - Sakic’s jersey retirement
On Oct. 1, 2009, the same year he retired, Sakic’s No. 19 was raised to the rafters to plenty of tears. The longtime captain and his quick-release wrist shot spent their whole career with the franchise and he was the face of it for two decades. Two years later Sakic joined the Avalanche’s front office, where he remains in 2021.
12 - 2001 All-Star Game
On Feb. 4, 2001, the Pepsi Center hosted the NHL All-Star Game. Forsberg and Milan Hejduk represented the World Team and Sakic, Roy, Bourque and assistant coach Bob Hartley were on the North America team, which won the game 14-12. Bourque won the accuracy shooting competition for the eighth and final time with four hits on six shots.
13 - Rob Blake trade
The L.A. Kings traded Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Rob Blake to the league-leading Avalanche for Adam Deadmarsh, a first-round pick and more in February 2001. General manager Pierre Lacroix’s wheeling and dealing paid off and Blake became the final piece on that title-winning team. His hip checks and slap shots endeared him to the fan base over four more seasons.
14 - ‘C’ for Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history on Sept. 4, 2012 at 19 years and 286 days old. He guided a young team through lean times and back to relevance.
15 - MVP! ... MVP!
With 118 points — not even his career high — Sakic became Colorado’s first Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 2001. Peter Forsberg (29 goals, 77 assists) followed two years later.
16 - Hejduk goes swimming
Hejduk won a March 26, 2000, game against the Dallas Stars in overtime, then had one of the Avs’ stranger goal celebrations when he pumped his arms before plopping onto the ice and pretending to swim freestyle.
17 - 51-save playoff shutout
During a stretch where the Avalanche made the playoffs twice in nine seasons, Craig Anderson gave fans a performance to remember. On April 18, 2010, San Jose outshot Colorado 42-7 during the second and third periods of Game 3 but Anderson held his team in it. A chance deflection off Ryan O’Reilly’s stick during the first minute of overtime ended the game.
18 - Drafting Duchene
It might not have worked out in the end. Fan expectations may have been unreasonable. But drafting Matt Duchene third overall in 2009 signaled Colorado was turning its attention to assembling young talent and gave form to the rebuild. The Avalanche parted ways with Duchene in a three-way trade in 2017 that brought in several pieces they still have.
19 - Makar’s NHL debut
Cale Makar’s long weekend to remember began April 12, 2019, a Friday, when he won the Hobey Baker. His UMass team lost in the Frozen Four final Saturday. On Sunday, he signed an entry-level deal with the Avalanche. On Monday’s Game 3 against the Calgary Flames he scored on his first shot 16 minutes into the first period, putting his name in the NHL history books.
20 - 'He’s out of his mind'
With his team trailing 4-1 on Nov. 16, 1997, Roy took matters into his own hands. He took the puck, deked none other than the Rangers' Wayne Gretzky, did a spin-o-rama and passed. Roy then objected to the penalty he drew by crossing center ice at Madison Square Garden.
21 - Game 7 stray skate
Colorado’s game-tying goal in San Jose was overturned after Landeskog’s skate was seen on the blue line as he went off on a line change. The team never recovered after the controversial call and was eliminated from the 2019 playoffs.
22 - A fiery beginning
In Roy’s very first game as Avalanche coach on Oct. 2, 2013, he sent out his tough guys on the final shift and wound up in a screaming match with Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. He nearly shoved down the stanchion between the team’s benches.
23 - Roy resigns
After three seasons behind the bench, Roy resigned as Avalanche coach six weeks before training camp ahead of the 2016-17 season, reportedly due to a lack of input in personnel decisions. This caught many by surprise, including general manager Sakic.
24 - Bubble buzzer beater
The most memorable goal of a truly strange mid-pandemic postseason came when Nazem Kadri put the puck over the line with 0.1 seconds remaining to beat the St. Louis Blues on Aug. 2, 2020.
25 - Under the lights at Coors Field
The Avalanche and Red Wings squared off at the home of the Colorado Rockies on Feb. 27, 2016. Detroit won the first NHL outdoor game to be played in Colorado.