Throughout the year, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the National Hockey League (NHL), discovering the best and worst each team has to offer in a variety of subjects. We will also feature a drink based off the franchise. Today, we may need some oxygen, as we visit the high altitudes of Colorado and try to survive the Avalanche:
Establishment Story: What is now the Colorado Avalanche began as the Quebec Nordiques, one of the original franchises of the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1972. The Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979, as part of the NHL-WHA merger. The franchise was sold and relocated to Denver, Colorado in 1995 and renamed the Avalanche. Other possible names for the team included Extreme, Blizzards and Black Bears.
Stanley Cups: The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their first year in Colorado, helped along by the Avalanche picking up Patrick Roy from the Montreal Canadiens, a double shot at the province of Quebec. The team reached the league pinnacle again in 2001 and 2022, totalling three Stanley Cups. They have won each of their Stanley Cup Finals appearances. As the Nordiques, the franchise also won one WHA Avco Cup in 1977.
Celebrity Fan: South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are Avalanche supporters, as both grew up in Colorado. Another famous fan of the team is baseball Hall of Fame member Larry Walker, who played for the Colorado Rockies for 10 seasons. Walker, a Canadian who grew up also playing hockey, was honoured by the Avalanche for his 2020 Hall of Fame election by being named the team’s honourary emergency back-up goalie for a game.
Super Fan: During the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup-winning 2022 season, one fan was banned from the team’s home games, but it was for a somewhat noble reason. Ryan Clark was caught throwing a small bag of his friend’s ashes onto the ice during a January 8, 2022 contest. The friend was Kyle Stark, a die-hard Avalanche supporter, who died unexpectedly the previous December. Clark admitted the tribute may not have been the best idea, but had no regrets.
Mascot: Bernie the St. Bernard debuted on October 3, 2009, replacing Howler the Yeti, who was retired in 1999 after an issue with an opposing team fan. Bernie wears jersey #1, with a bone used to make the number. The Nordiques mascot was Badaboum, who first appeared for the Rendez-vous ’87 series between NHL All-Stars and the Soviet National Team in Quebec City. Badaboum was a furry blue creature, similar to a seal.
Tradition: For the past few seasons, the Avalanche have used the Blink-182 song All the Small Things as a theme song. For a portion of the track, the audio is cut off, so fans can sing the parts themselves. As the Avalanche made their run to the 2022 Stanley Cup, the tradition was often highlighted by the media. Blink-182 lead singer Mark Hoppus joined the team as they raised the Stanley Cup banner, leading the crowd in a rendition of the tune.
Appearances in Media: In the South Park episode Stanley’s Cup, Stan Marsh is forced to coach a kid’s hockey team, parodying The Mighty Ducks movie. When Marsh’s team is invited to play during the intermission of a Colorado Avalanche-Detroit Red Wings game, the other peewee team no-shows. As consolation, the Avalanche let Marsh’s team play the third period against Detroit, where they get absolutely annihilated, losing 32-2.
Events/Scandals: Avalanche goalies have a history of being arrested for domestic violence. First, in October 2000, Patrick Roy was detained after an argument with his wife. His case was later dismissed for not meeting the standard of criminal mischief. 13 years later, Semyon Varlamov was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor assault of his girlfriend. The charges were dropped when prosecutors couldn’t prove their case.
Rivalry: As the Quebec Nordiques, the team had a long-standing feud with provincial rivals the Montreal Canadiens, known as the Battle of Quebec. The teams met in the playoffs five times and even battled over TV rights. As for the Colorado Avalanche, their greatest battles occurred with the Detroit Red Wings, as the two teams battled for Western Conference and league supremacy in the late 1990s.
Tragedy: Peter McNab was the color analyst for the Avalanche from their debut in 1995 up until his death from cancer on November 6, 2022. He was 70 years old. McNab played in the NHL for 14 seasons, before moving into the broadcast booth, first with the New Jersey Devils. For all of his contributions to the game, McNab was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2021.
Player Nicknames: Two of the Avalanche’s most legendary players also have the most memorable nicknames in team history. Joe Sakic was known as Mr. Clutch throughout his long tenure with the franchise, always coming up big when it mattered most. Sakic’s former teammate, Peter Forsberg, was dubbed Peter the Great, a nod to the Tsar of Russia from 1682 to 1721.
Line: Colorado’s dominant top line over the last few seasons has consisted of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The trio has piled up points since being combined and were integral members to the Avalanche winning the 2022 Stanley Cup. Two other notable lines were comprised of Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk on the wings, with Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg at center, for the JAM Line and AMP Line, respectively.
Captain: After serving as the Nordiques co-captain for the 1990-91 season, Joe Sakic was named the permanent captain for the 1992-93 campaign and held the mantle through to his retirement in 2009. Another enduring captaincy is that of Gabriel Landeskog, who was the youngest NHL captain ever, when he began his term in 2012. Landeskog is still the team’s captain to this day.
Enforcer: Nicknamed ‘The Sheriff’, Scott Parker patrolled the ice for the Avalanche for 237 games, over two separate stints. During his time with the franchise, Parker tallied 538 penalty minutes, to go along with five goals and 11 assists. Parker was a member of the Avalanche’s 2001 Stanley Cup championship team, suiting up for four games of the team’s playoff run.
Family Values: The Stastny brothers (Peter, Marian and Anton) starred for Quebec through the early 1980s, piling up points as the team’s top line. The Nordiques even helped the brothers defect from Czechoslovakia to play hockey in Canada, a move which opened the door for other Iron Curtain players to follow. Later, Paul Stastny, son of Peter, was drafted by Colorado, playing eight seasons with the Avalanche.
Returning Players: Peter Forsberg played 10 seasons for the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise, before moving on to the Philadelphia Flyers and later Nashville Predators. He then sat out most of the 2007-08 season, recovering from foot surgery, before rejoining the Avalanche for nine games. After two seasons in Sweden, Forsberg attempted an NHL comeback with Colorado, but only lasted two games, citing his chronic foot issues as a reason for his retirement.
Short Stint: When Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne came to the Avalanche for the 2003-04 season, the reunion of the two star players was supposed to bolster an already strong team. Kariya and Selanne both underperformed, though, and Colorado was eliminated from the playoffs in the second round. Following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Kariya would sign with the Nashville Predators, while Selanne returned to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Undrafted: Peter Stastny’s Hall of Fame career began by fleeing Czechoslovakia with his pregnant wife, assisted by Nordiques President and CEO, Marcel Aubut. Stastny dominated the NHL upon arrival, breaking the record for most points in a season by a rookie, including a two consecutive game effort of seven goals and seven assists. Stastny would also play with the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues over 15 seasons.
Trade: The greatest move the franchise ever executed was sending Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for a massive package of assets. This included Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Chris Simon, two first round draft picks and $15 million. While Lindros was a dominant player in the league for a time, the Avalanche would go onto win two Stanley Cups during Lindros’ career.
Signing: In 2019, the Avalanche took an $850,000 chance on forward Valeri Nichushkin, who was coming off being bought out by the Dallas Stars, following a season where he failed to score over 57 games. Nichushkin rebounded with Colorado, finding the form that made him the 10th overall pick of the 2013 draft. In 2021-22, Nichushkin recorded 25 goals and 27 assists, as well as contributing 15 points in the team’s Stanley Cup victory. This resulted in an eight-year, $49 million contract extension.
Draft Pick: The Nordiques/Avalanche have done very well with the first overall selection, including three consecutive top choices from 1989 to 1991 (Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros). The franchise also selected Nathan MacKinnon first overall in 2013. Additionally, choosing defenseman Cale Makar at fourth overall in 2017 may go down as one of the greatest draft steals of all-time.
Holdouts: Going into the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, Eric Lindros and his camp made it clear he would not play for the Nordiques, despite them owning the first overall selection and Lindros being the clear cut favourite to be picked. The Nordiques took Lindros anyway, resulting in the player refusing to put on the team’s jersey. At the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, the Nordiques traded Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers, ending the impasse.
Buyouts: Three years in a row, from 2016 to 2018, the Avalanche used buyouts on aging defensemen, ending the Colorado tenures of Brad Stuart, Francois Beauchemin and Brooks Orpik in subsequent seasons. The Stuart buyout cost the team $2.4 million, while the Beauchemin and Orpik releases cost $3 million each. Orpik’s buyout came just weeks after he was traded to the Avalanche, allowing him to return to the Washington Capitals on a cheaper deal.
Unique Game: From 1997 to 2016, the Avalanche played a pre-season game almost each year, dubbed Frozen Fury, against the Los Angeles Kings in Las Vegas. Colorado also returned to Quebec City for an exhibition game in 2002 against the Montreal Canadiens. The franchise has played a few outdoor games, including the 2016 Stadium Series vs. Detroit Red Wings, 2020 Stadium Series vs. Los Angeles Kings and NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe Saturday vs. Vegas Golden Knights.
Goal: Defenseman Uwe Krupp was injured for much of the Avalanche’s inaugural 1995-96 season, returning just in time for the end of the campaign. Good thing, as Krupp would score the winning goal in the third overtime period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals versus the Florida Panthers, clinching Colorado’s first championship. In doing so, Krupp became the first German-trained player to win the Stanley Cup.
Fight/Brawl: Two of the NHL’s most memorable brawls involved the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise. First, the Good Friday Massacre between the Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens occurred during the 1984 playoffs, resulting in 11 ejections and 252 penalty minutes. Second, the 1997 Brawl in Hockeytown between the Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings was the outcome of tempers boiling over from the previous year’s playoff meeting.
Injury: When the Avalanche played the Vancouver Canucks on March 8, 2004, Colorado’s Steve Moore was a marked man for his previous elbow on Canucks captain Markus Naslund. With the Avalanche up 8-2, Canucks players began targeting Moore, with Todd Bertuzzi punching him from behind. As a result of the punch, the players falling to the ice and a pile up that ensued, Moore suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, a concussion and cuts to his face. This ended Moore’s career and led to a lawsuit settlement.
Penalty: Speaking of the Brawl in Hockeytown, it was all precipitated by Claude Lemieux’s hit-from-behind on Detroit’s Kris Draper in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals. Draper ended up with a concussion, broken jaw and shattered cheek and orbital bones. Lemieux was ejected from the contest and subsequently suspended by the NHL for two games.
Wildest Story: Further complicating the Eric Lindros trade saga, the Nordiques had actually arranged two different deals for the coveted player. The other transaction was negotiated with the New York Rangers and an independent arbiter was needed to settle the matter. The Flyers deal was enforced, while the Rangers offer of Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov, James Patrick, either Mike Richter or John Vanbiesbrouck, multiple first-round draft picks, and $20 million was voided.
Blooper: Patrick Roy was one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, but he is also remembered for this major error, made during the 2002 Western Conference Finals, against the Detroit Red Wings. Roy made a sprawling glove save, but when he went to show off the stop, he dropped the puck, allowing the Red Wings to score. The Avalanche, who were leading the series 3-2, went on to lose this game and the next, with the Red Wings advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Miscellaneous: Another great trade for the Avalanche, was bringing in defenseman Ray Bourque from the Boston Bruins in 2000. Bourque waited 23 long seasons to finally win the Stanley Cup. When the Avalanche finally did so in 2001, captain Joe Sakic didn’t hesitate to immediately pass the trophy to Bourque, once it was presented to him. The joy and relief on Bourque’s face, as he skated the championship around the ice was evident. This would mark the end of Bourque’s NHL career, going out on top.
Colorado Avalanche: Avalanche Shot
- 0.75 oz Raspberry Vodka
- 0.75 oz Blue Curacao
This is the first shooter of the NHL project, as I could find no suitable cocktails. You’re supposed to drop the shot into a glass of Red Bull, but I don’t like working with that ingredient. The colours of the shot replicate Avalanche jerseys hues.