While the professional ice hockey team the Colorado Avalanche only moved to the Denver area roughly 20 years ago, the franchise has a history that spans far back beyond that. Initially in the WHA as the Quebec City Nordiques of Canada, the club began play in 1972. Despite being pretty successful on ice, the Nordiques struggled within a small market and had poor finances. By 1979 they were included into the NHL, but in the early 1990’s the team began searching for a new home.
Denver would land the team in 1995 and the Colorado Avalanche was born. Strangely enough, the move coincided with the group of players coming together sweetly for a Stanley Cup winning year! While an early trade brought in Hockey Hall of Fame goalkeeper Patrick Roy, holdovers from the club like Adam Foote and fellow Hall of Fame members Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg helped the Avalanche win a championship in their first season, sweeping the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Finals.
A period of sustained success followed into the new millennium as the Avalanche would win 8 straight Pacific/Northwest Division titles. Other great players during this time included Milan Hejduk, a Czech player who has represented the Avalanche more than any other player, and Sandis Ozolins, a Russian defenceman who has had a distinguished NHL career.
In 1999, Colorado built their current home, the Pepsi Center, which seats 18,000 fans. With Denver a booming western city, the finances of the franchise were saved in the new home, and the good times would continue to roll. With key additions like Ray Bourque, Steven Reinprecht, Rob Blake, and a career year by Sakic, the Colorado Avalanche finished the 2001 season as far and away the league’s best team with 118 points.
In the NHL Playoffs, the Avalanche hit high gear and took the Stanley Cup from the defending champion New Jersey Devils in a thrilling 7-game series. They would continue to be a strong team for several years, though they started to falter in playoff series, eventually missing out on the playoffs entirely in 2007 as the star players’ growing ages became a factor.
Since then, the Colorado Avalanche have not remained as Stanley Cup contenders and have had pretty average records, only occasionally reaching the playoffs. However, the future of this team looks bright behind young stars like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, two of the NHL’s best prospects. In 2014, under former goalkeeping hero Patrick Roy, now the head coach, the Avalanche had a tremendous season finishing with 112 points and in first place of the Central Division. Unfortunately, the playoffs would be too tall of an ask for the team and they fell in the first round to the Minnesota Wild, but with the early success under their latest coach and the bright futures ahead for several key youngsters, the glory days of the Colorado Avalanche may be set to return soon. There is no denying that this is an exciting time for any Avalanche fan, with a third Stanley Cup surely within reach!
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