A Brief History: Colorado Avalanche

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A Brief History: Colorado Avalanche
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche franchise got its start in the National Hockey League in 1979 as the Quebec Nordique, coming in along with the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers and the Winnipeg Jets, who all left the World Hockey Association. The Nordiques moved to Colorado and became the Avs in 1995.

Before they moved to Colorado, however, the Nordiques were a bottom-feeding  team from the 1987-88 season until 1991-92. They were the worst team in the NHL and with that came three consecutive No. 1 picks in the Entry Draft. They selected Mats Sundin (1989), Owen Nolan (1990), and Eric Lindros (1991). Lindros never suited up for the Nordiques due to a contract holdout and was traded to the Flyers in 1992 in exchange for five players, the rights to Swedish prospect Peter Forsberg, two first-round picks and $15 million.

The team moved after some financial difficulties and was sold to investors based in Colorado. The deal became official on July 1, 1995, and 12,000 season tickets were sold within the first 37 days of the announced move to Denver. The Avalanche became the second NHL franchise to play in Denver after the Colorado Rockies, who relocated and became the New Jersey Devils in 1982.

The Avalanche made a big acquisition during their first season in Colorado when they acquired Patrick Roy from the Canadiens along with Mike Keane for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko. Roy helped lead the team all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, also making their Cup debut. The Avs swept the Panthers to win the Stanley Cup and captain Joe Sakic was given the Conn Smythe Trophy (18 goals, 34 points in the playoffs).

The Avs had success in the regular season throughout the next few seasons but couldn't get that second Cup - until the 2000-01 season. They had the best season in franchise history, winning the Northwest Division and their second President's Trophy after finishing the season with 118 points.

They went on the beat the defending champs, the Devils, winning Game 7 on home ice. In an emotional ceremony, Sakic passed the Cup along to defenseman Ray Bourque, the former Bruins great who capped off his 22-year career with his first Stanley Cup.

 

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