Within every NHL team, you will find that throughout their years of contribution, a select few players have become cornerstones of their organization. They fill the roles needed for a club to reach greatness. Whether they be flashy goal-scorers, intimidating enforcers, or brick wall like goaltenders, a small group of players steal the hearts of the hometown fans and go down in history as the team’s most beloved.
Throughout the history of the Colorado Avalanche, hundreds of players have come and gone. For some, the time spent as an Av was short-lived. Others donned the snowcapped “A” on the front of their jersey for their entire NHL career.
No matter how big or small of an impact a player has had in Colorado, each one has left their mark on the franchise in one way or another.
But there are undoubtedly a few whose jerseys will be worn in the Pepsi Center and around the city of Denver for decades after their time in the league has passed. These players not only made a name for themselves during their career, but helped put Colorado on the map as a contender year in and year out for a long stretch of time.
I give you the top five most adored Colorado Avalanche players of all time:
5. Milan Hejduk- No player has ever played in as many games in a Colorado jersey than Milan Hejduk has ( Though Joe Sakic played more in Quebec/Colorado combined). Competing as an Av his entire 14 year NHL career in 1,020 games, Hejduk was the epitome of consistency putting up big points totals year in and year out. In the 2002-2003 season, Milan led the NHL in goals scored with 50. He wore the “C” for a short period of time, deservedly leading Colorado as team captain before the organization started it’s move towards rebuilding a roster full of youth and new talent. The three time NHL All-Star was a key contributor in the team’s 2001 campaign that ultimately saw the Avalanche hoist the Stanley Cup.
4. Adam Foote- Foote also spent the majority of his time in the NHL as a member of the Quebec/Colorado franchise, playing only with Columbus as their team captain for three years between 2005-2007. When the only man who had ever served as Avalanche team captain retired (Joe Sakic), Adam Foote was named his successor. #52 skating onto the ice for a shift was always a welcome sight to the burgundy faithful, as his work as a shut down defenseman was paired with a gritty, physical presence who wasn’t going to let anyone past him without getting hit. And hard. His jersey was retired by the Avalanche on November 2nd, of 2013, forever preserving his legacy as one of the hardest working players to sport a Colorado jersey.
3. Peter Forsberg- Widely regarded by hockey fans around the world as one of the best players of his time, Peter Forsberg racked up numerous awards throughout his NHL career such as the Art Ross Trophy, the Calder Memorial Trophy, and The Hart Memorial Trophy to go alongside his three NHL All-Star selections. Forsberg is the 8th highest point scorer in NHL history, to put his name in the company of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Mario Lemieux. He will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later this year, and is already a member if the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. Winning both Stanley Cups with the Avalanche, Peter (Foppa) Forsberg served as long time Assitant Captain next to team captain Joe Sakic. His highlight reel style of play is one that many players have grown up trying to emulate.
2. Patrick Roy- “Saint Patrick” is arguably the greatest NHL goaltender of all time. The four time Stanley Cup winner is the only NHL player to have ever recieved the Conn Smythe Trophy three times (the award given to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs). Already a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the player that widely popularized the butterfly style of tending the net also has won more NHL playoff games than any other goaltender ever, with 151. Now the head coach of the Avalanche, many credit him in mentoring Semyon Varlamov into the top-tier goalie he has become over the past year.
1. Joe Sakic- Master of the wrist shot, Joe Sakic spent all 21 seasons with the Nordiques later-turned Avalanche. He broke the 100 point mark in six seasons and also was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Super Joe amassed 1641 points in the NHL, making him one of the most effective and productive centers in hockey history. The 13 time NHL All-Star now resides in the organizations front office, acting as Vice President of Hockey operations and has been key in bringing in new talent to Colorado. Will anyone ever top Sakic as being more beloved among fans of the Avalanche? I shudder to think what such a player would have to accomplish, as Sakic holds nearly all franchise records.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay, Rob Blake, Adam Deadmarsh, Valeri Kamensky, Uwe Krupp, Ray Bourque among many.