DENVER – To Pierre Lacroix, his induction into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame is an honour more for the organization he led to two Stanley Cup titles in his decade as general manager of the Colorado Avalanche.
“What it does represent to me, this very special honour, is that what we’ve created together, it’s a lot of people that got involved and I got a lot of support,” Lacroix said Monday on the eve of his induction.
“What we created with the Avalanche demonstrated that we created more than just a team, we created an idea, something that people could be proud of,” he said.
The Montreal native will be inducted Tuesday night along with retired Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry, Denver radio and television announcing icon Starr Yelland, Olympic champion runner Frank Shorter, college coach Bill Noxon and pro golfer Dow Finsterwald.
In 2006, after 11 years as GM of the franchise that began as the Quebec Nordiques and became the Colorado Avalanche, Lacroix moved into the role of team president, serving as mentor to his successor, Francois Giguere, and others.
Lacroix is no less passionate, just less hands-on than he used to be.
“Some days we might speak a few times, some days we don’t,” he said of his interaction with Giguere. “This is the agreement that we had when he took over. I’m there as a resource for him. I’m there as a resource for anyone in the organization. I appreciate it. I could say I became an expert of the Tivo remote control because I love to watch the game now.
“I’m still stressed, I still have the adrenaline and still want to win every game. Nothing has changed. But as far as the day-to-day operation and the overall business process or decision process, it’s all Francois’ responsibility.”
That said, Lacroix is thrilled that Giguere engineered the returns of Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote, two beloved stars who bolted Denver after the cost-cutting ramifications of the lockout several seasons ago.
“It’s exciting,” Lacroix said. “And I said it back then when we were in the new hockey world after the lockout, when the new rules came, we were under different standards. And we said it all along back then, the only reason that Foote or Forsberg … had to leave because of business reasons, period.
“Our relationship was wonderful. They said it. It was just a sad situation that we were forced into, and I think this is the confirmation today that these guys are back,” Lacroix said. “I talked with both of them yesterday and they’re so comfortable, so happy. It’s a confirmation that their legacy is here in Colorado.”
So is Lacroix’s.
Following his first season as GM in 1994-95, Lacroix faced the challenge of moving the franchise to Denver and had just 60 days to turn the Nordiques into the Avalanche, hire new personnel and become a fully operational organization in time for the 1995-96 season.
“I recall that we were all on boxes in McNichols Arena, a little small group of people,” Lacroix said. “It never crossed my mind that we would be able to be a part of something like this.”
Lacroix led the franchise to nine consecutive division titles, six appearances in the Western Conference Finals, two Presidents’ Trophy titles, two Western Conference championships and two Stanley Cup titles, in 1996 and 2001.
The ’96 title was the first major sports championship to come to Colorado, and the Avs sold out 487 consecutive games from November 1995 to October 2006, the longest streak in NHL history.
During his time as GM, the Avalanche won 91 playoff games, something that was pointed out by his peers when he was feted recently.
“When I saw that statistic, it reminded me that the whole organization tried to commit to an excellence,” Lacroix said. “I think the result of this year is no different. It shows people in Colorado that we have the same commitment as when we came here.”
The Avalanche returned to the playoffs this season after a year’s absence and will open their quarter-final series against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night in St. Paul, Minn.