Patrick Roy

Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy is carried off the ice on the shoulders of teammates Ray Bourque, left, and Adam Foote after he became the winningest goalie in NHL history in 2001.

The blast from the past still resonates in Colorado.

Nothing else is quite like the first Cup, but the third one absolutely would be an elusive, exhilarating, exquisite experience for the new ice age.

On June 10, 1996, the Avalanche won Lord Stanley’s Silver Chalice at the end of the franchise’s inaugural season in Colorado and at the end of 104 minutes and 31 seconds of the fourth and final Final game.

Defenseman Uwe Krupp’s shot heard round the hockey world from just inside the blue line, hard by the boards, at 1:07 a.m. in Miami determined the NHL championship.

1-0, the sweep of success.

After so long it was Cup skateth over in an instant.

More than 17,000 Florida Panthers partisans, an ESPN national TV audience that had stayed up late, the players and the coaches of both teams and mediarites were stunned, stupefied, and silenced.

I certainly was.

Two hours later, Mike Keane sat atop the lockers in the dressing room in his uniform pants, with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a cigar in the other as he shouted: “We are the best there is.’’

The Avalanche owned the first title of Colorado’s four major professional sports franchises. The Broncos would become world champions the next two seasons, and again in 2015. The Avs would duplicate their championship achievement in 2001. The Rockies and the Nuggets still wait.

And here the Avs are again in 2022.

Strangely enough, against another Florida team — the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are attempting to clutch the Cup for the third sequential season. These Avs are searching for their first.

However, before Wednesday night’s first Final faceoff, savor for a few moments memories of 26 years ago.

A dozen players on the Avalanche postseason roster weren’t alive when Joe Sakic hoisted Colorado’s first trophy. Another eight weren’t old enough to walk or skate. Nate MacKinnon was 9 months old.

Back in that day, the Avalanche had become the third major league hockey franchise to play in Denver. The city has had a rich minor-league hockey history with nine different teams.

Denver was awarded a World Hockey Association expansion team in 1975. The Spurs didn’t last long enough to let the ice harden. They were moved in the darkness of New Year’s Eve and folded soon after. The Kansas City Scouts, before their second season in the NHL, came to Colorado as the Rockies in 1976, but departed for New Jersey in 1982 — and became the Devils, the team the Avalanche defeated in the Stanley Cup Final in ’01.

In 1996, the Quebec Nordiques were sold and transferred to Colorado.

Unlike the Spurs and the Rockies, the Avalanche were a playoff-potential power that would be centered on two of the brightest young superstars in hockey: Sakic and Peter Forsberg. And shortly into the first season, the team’s general manager, the late Pierre LaCroix, pulled off one of the most magical acquisitions ever in Colorado sports. Think John Elway, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Larry Walker, Alex English.

Patrick Roy, who won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens, was the gift goalie who kept on giving.

The Avalanche became one of the league’s two greatest franchises with the Red Wings. The rivalry became legendary immediately.

After dismissing the Canucks in six games to begin the playoffs, the Avs were challenged to the brink by the Blackhawks in four games that reached overtimes. The Avalanche prevailed in two extra periods in Game 6 and advanced to the conference finals vs. Detroit.

The Avalanche survived — barely, again in six games.

That series truly was for the Stanley Cup. Either team would be an overwhelming favorite vs. the Panthers. The Avs showed why. In Game 1, they scored three goals in five minutes — sounds like the current Avs — and cruised. The second game was nolo contendre, (8-1), but the Avs were pressed in the next game in Florida before winning 3-2.

Game 4 was one of the longest marathons in NHL postseason history. Roy stopped all 63 Florida shots, and Sakic received the Conny Smythe Award. Forsberg had a hat trick in the blowout, and Krupp scored The Solo Goal.

That was then. This is now. The 2021-22 Avalanche can make their very own history.

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Game analysis and insights from The Gazette sports staff including columns by Woody Paige and Paul Klee.

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