Ray Bourque (Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Colorado Avalanche announced their fan-selected 20th anniversary team, which includes the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote. Ray Bourque, by virtue of having his jersey retired, also made the team via fan vote. Former GM Pierre Lacroix will also be honored as part of the 20th anniversary team.
It’s been 20 seasons since the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Denver and the club announced its plan to honor 21 members, both past and present, who have played a major part in the franchise’s success over the past two decades.
As part of the ceremonies, which are set to take place Dec. 7 before a tilt against the visiting Minnesota Wild, Avalanche fans were asked to select a roster of 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders who would be honored by the franchise. The criteria for the fan-selected roster were that each forward or defenseman had to have played at least 246 regular season games for the team, goaltenders had to have suited up for 75 games or the player had to have his jersey retired by the team.
It’s by that last point, jersey retirement, that defenseman Ray Bourque was selected to the 20th anniversary team. Bourque is inarguably one of the most talented defensemen to ever suit up in the league, but he played a scant 94 games of his 1,600-plus game career with the Avalanche over two seasons. He was a member of the 2001 Stanley Cup-winning Avalanche club and retired shortly after the Cup victory. The Avalanche retired Bourque’s jersey in November 2001.
The forward group reads like an all-time scoring list for the Avalanche. All-time leading Colorado scorer Joe Sakic, who is the current GM of the club, headlines the roster alongside Milan Hejduk, Peter Forsberg, Alex Tanguay, Matt Duchene, Adam Deadmarsh, Valeri Kamensky, Chris Drury, Gabriel Landeskog, Claude Lemieux. Two interesting names among the forward group are current Blues center Paul Stastny and longtime Avalanche depth center Stephane Yelle.
Stastny left the Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent following the 2013-14 season and inked a four-year, $28-million deal with the Blues and St. Louis will play the next night against the Arizona Coyotes in St. Louis. Whether or not Stastny is present for the ceremony hasn’t yet been determined.
As for Yelle, his body of work with the Avalanche spans more than 500 games, but there are several players who fit the criteria for the 20th anniversary team and scored more points in an Avalanche uniform who were passed over by fans. That list includes Marek Svatos, Wojtek Wolski, the recently traded Ryan O’Reilly and Andrew Brunette. There may be some fans still sour over Brunette’s 2003 Game 7 overtime-winner against the Avalanche while he was a member of the Minnesota Wild, as he’s an otherwise great candidate for the team.
Joining Bourque and Foote on the blueline, the Avalanche will have Rob Blake, John-Michael Liles, Erik Johnson, and Sandis Ozolinsh, while coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Roy will be joined by present-day goaltender Semyon Varlamov as the 20th anniversary squad’s netminders.
Pierre Lacroix, the architect of the Cup-winning Avalanche teams, will also be honored as part of the ceremony. Lacroix built the Avalanche teams that won the 1995-96 and 2000-01 Stanley Cups, and he was the GM who acquired Roy from the Montreal Canadiens.