Colorado AvalancheSun, 08 Mar 2009 05:30
History of Colorado Avalanche
Information about the NHL team Colorado Avalanche.
1972 – 1995
The Quebec Nordiques were one of the original teams of the World Hockey Association when it was launched in 1972. The franchise was first awarded to San Francisco but was then moved to Quebec because of arena and financial problems. For seven WHA seasons, the team won the Avco World Trophy in 1977 and made it to the finals in 1975. In 1979, along with other World Hockey Association teams Harford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets, the Quebec Nordiques joined the National Hockey League.
From 1981-87, the Nordiques may be considered as one of the worst teams in the NHL. From 1987–1992, the team was last in their division for the seasons and for three times; they had the most disappointing record in the NHL. Because of this, the team was given the first for draft picks. Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros were drafted from 1989 to 1991, consecutively. After Lindros was drafted, he made it known that he doesn’t want to play for the Nordiques that he even refused to wear the team’s jersey and delayed the signing of his contract. In 1992, he was traded off to the Philadelphia Flyers in which the Nordiques got five players, two first round picks for the drafts, the rights to Swedish Peter Forsberg and $15 million. This trade off was said to be one of the most biased deal in the sports history. This trade off also led to the success of the team in the next ten years.
In 1992-93, just after the trade, the Nordiques were able to reach the playoffs for the first time in more than half a decade. Two years after that, they were the best in the Northeast Division.
Even though the team has been successful on ice, it suffered financially partly due to having the league’s smallest market, Quebec City. The team’s owner, Marcel Aubut asked the provincial government of Quebec for a bailout and a new public arena in 1995. Because his efforts were unsuccessful, he had to sell the team’s franchise to a group of businessmen from Denver. In July 1995, the COMSAT Entertainment Group signed the deal to purchase the Quebec Nordiques. In August, the team was presented as the Colorado Avalanche. That made the team the second franchise in the NHL to play in Colorado. The Colorado Rockies played in the city between 1976 and 1982 until they became the New Jersey Devils.
The Colorado Avalanche played and won their first game on October 6, 1995 in the McNichols Sports Arena against the Detroit Red Wings. The team continued to become stronger as the roster included team captain Joe Sakic, Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy from the Montreal Canadiens. They were also joined by former Montreal team captain Mike Keane, whom the Avalanche acquired during a trade. With the team being managed by Pierre Lacroix and coached by Marc Crawford, they won the Pacific Division of the season and ranked second during the Western Conference. They were able to play in the Stanley Cup finals against the Florida Panthers, who were also playing for their first Stanley Cup. The Avalanche won their first cup with Joe Sakic being the score leader with 34 points. He also got the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player. Because of their win during the Stanley Cup, Swede Peter Forsberg, and Russians Valeri Kamenski and Alexei Gusarov became part of the Triple Gold Club, a group exclusively for the ice hockey players who have won the Stanley Cup, the World Championship and an Olympic gold.
The season 1996-97 got the Colorado Avalanche their President’s Trophy and the best record for the NHL with 107 points. The team also had a high score average with 3.38 goals per game.
In 1997, the Ascent Entertainment, the subsidiary of COMSAT that handled the Avalanche, had to be sold to the Liberty Media Group of AT&T for the amount of $755 million. Liberty immediately put its sports assets for sale, including the Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets.
In the next season, the Avalanche won the Pacific Division with 95 points. It also had the largest delegation from the NHL to be sent to the ice hockey tournament in the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano, Japan. In June 1998, following Marc Crawford’s rejection of a two-year deal offer, he was replaced by Bob Hartley as the head coach of the team.
In 1998-99, due to the realignment of the teams in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche was included in the Northwest Division. Although they didn’t have a great start, the Colorado Avalanche still won in the Northwest Division and became second for the Western Conference.
The new Pepsi Center became the venue of the Colorado Avalanche home games in 1999-2000 season. The Avalanche won the season’s Northwest Division with 96 points. To strengthen their defense, in March 2000, they traded with the Boston Bruins for Ray Bourque and Dave Andreychuk. In turn, they gave Martin Grenier, Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, and a first round of draft pick. After the trade, they still lost the Conference Finals, just like in the previous season, to the Dallas Stars.
After several negotiations, Wal-mart heir and entrepreneur Stan Kroenke bought the franchises for the Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, and the Pepsi Center for US$450 million. Liberty still retained 6.5% of these franchises. The deal also includes a guarantee that the franchises will not be relocated for the next 25 years. Kroenke’s sports assets were then organized under the Kroenke Sports Enterprises.
The season of 2000-01 was the best season for the Colorado Avalanche. They won the Northwest Division and got the President’s Trophy for the second time. They also finished the season with 118 points.
On February 4, 2001, the Avalanche became the host of the 51st All-Star Game of the NHL. Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic were in the starting lineup of the North America team while Peter Forsberg was for the World team. The Avalanche won against the Vancouver Canucks in the Conference Quarterfinals and against the Los Angeles Kings during the seven-game Conference Semifinals. During the series’ last game, Peter Forsberg had to undergo surgery due to a ruptured spleen and would not be able to play until the next season. The Avalanche was still able to win the Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues with 4-1. They played against the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cups Finals and won 4-3 with the last game played at the Pepsi Center.
2001 – present
The Avalanche was not able to reach the Stanley Cup finals since the 2000-01 season. In 2001-02, they won the Northwest Division. The season was interrupted for the 2002 Winter Olympics with nine Avalanche players representing six countries. As Canada won the ice hockey tournament, Adam Foote, Rob Blake and Joe Sakic got gold medals. This qualified them to be part of the Triple Gold Club for players who won gold in the Olympics, Stanley Cup and World Championship. The Avalanche, however, lost the Western Conference Finals to the Detroit Red Wings.
In 2002-03, the Avalanche got their ninth consecutive division title, the highest in the NHL. Tony Granato was promoted from assistant coach to head coach by general manager Pierre Lacroix, which seemed to affect the team’s performance. The Avalanche lost the first round of the payoffs to the Minnesota Wild.
The season of 2004-05 was cancelled due to a lockout. Because of this, some of the Avalanche players went to the European hockey leagues. After the lockout, because of the salary cap for the players, the team lost some of its top players like Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg.
In 2006-07, with Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic the only ones remaining from the 2001 Stanley Cup roster, the team did not make it to the playoffs for the first time since they left Quebec.
In February 2008, the team reacquired free agent Peter Forsberg, and, defenseman Adam Foote who was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets. With Ruslan Salei joining from the Florida Panthers, the Avalanche was able to win the first round of the playoffs for the Stanley Cup against the Minnesota Wild. However, they lost the second round to the Detroit Red Wings.