Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The Colorado Avalanche came into being when the COMSAT Entertainment Group purchased the financially strapped Quebec Nordiques and moved the team from Quebec to Denver, Colorado. The team played its first game on 6 October 1995 in the McNichols Sports Arena defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. Valeri Kamensky scored the first goal in the franchise’s history.
Taking advantage of a strong, skilled team that moved from Quebec, the Avalanche wasted no time in taking home a Stanley Cup in their first season. The team was led by superstars such as Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, as well as being able to trade for goaltender Patrick Roy after he had a falling out with the Montreal Canadiens team.
The 2000-2001 season saw the team win another championship, as Ray Bourque and Rob Blake were added to the team. Despite losing Forsberg to injury in the playoffs, they managed to defeat the New Jersey Devils for their second Cup.
A couple of notably ugly incidents have resulted in intense rivalries with the Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks. Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux hit Detroit forward Kris Draper head first into the boards during the 1996 playoffs, causing Draper to need facial reconstructive surgery and have his jaw wired shut for five weeks. The next season saw a brawl break out between these two teams, as Lemieux was singles out for his cheap shot.
Easily one of the worst displays hockey violence took place in 2004 when Avalanche player Steve Moore was singled out by the Vancouver Canucks team and, specifically, Todd Bertuzzi for a hit on Vancouver’s star Markus Naslund that took place earlier in the year. The Canucks felt Moore’s hit to have been illegal even though no penalty was called and the league determined the hit to be legal. As time winded down, Bertuzzi attempted to instigate a fight with Moore, following him down the ice. When it was clear Moore had no interest in fighting the larger man, Bertuzzi grabbed Moore’s sweater from behind and punched him in the side of the head, falling upon him when Moore fell to the ice. Moore had to be removed by stretcher after suffering three fractured vertebrae in his neck, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, a grade three concussion and facial cuts. Moore has not been able to play again. Bertuzzi was fined, suspended and charged with assault causing bodily harm, to which he plead guilty.
Notable Colorado Avalanche players include Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Patrick Roy, Mats Sundin, Adam Foote, Paul Kariya, Ryan Smyth, Pierre Turgeon and Teemu Selanne.