Tuesday, June 10, 2014

1995-96 Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic Jersey

With the financial troubles of the Quebec Nordiques mounting, they found it difficult to compete with rising player salaries, made even more difficult by a weakening Canadian dollar. Playing in by far the smallest market in the NHL, plus the language barrier facing potential free agents, unlike bi-lingual Montreal, Quebec City was virtually all French, the team owner asked for a bailout from the Quebec government, but was turned down. The team was subsequently sold to a group of investors from Denver, Colorado, where the team was moved and renamed the Colorado Avalanche.

The fans in Colorado were immediately handed a team stocked with captain Joe SakicValeri KamenskyAdam DeadmarshMike Ricci, Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg. The team later added Claude Lemieux just days before the start of the season and Sandis Ozolinsh later in October.

If that weren't enough, former Montreal Canadiens captain Mike Keane and no less than Patrick Roy arrived in early December after Roy had a public falling out with the Canadiens organization, a trade that never would have happened had the franchise remained in Quebec as the Nordiques, the Canadiens bitter province rivals.

With Roy now anchoring the team in goal, they finished with a 47-25-10 record, easily winning the Pacific Division by 25 points. They defeated the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks and President's Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings, all by identical 4 games to 2 margins. The series against the Red Wings would kick off one of the greatest NHL rivalries, as the teams would meet in the playoff five times in seven years, with three of those being for the right to go to the finals, plus several memorable regular season brawls - which included the goaltenders! The rivalry has even been chronicled in book "Blood Feud", which can be purchased here.

The Florida Panthers would be the opponent for the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup finals, which would open in Denver. Colorado conceded the first goal in Game 1 but three goals in a five minute span of the second period would turn the game in favor of the Avalanche.

Game 2 was tied at 1-1 after eight minutes, but from then on it was all Colorado as they powered to a decisive 8-1 win as the series moved to Florida.

One of the lasting memories of that year's playoffs were the Panthers fan's celebratory rats, which would rain down on the ice by the thousands for each Florida goal, causing opposing goalies to seek shelter inside their net until the hailstorm subsided.

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The celebration stemmed from captain Scott Mellanby deftly killing a rat with a one-timer in the dressing room prior to the team's opening game of the season. When he followed it up by going out and scoring two goals that night, goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck dubbed the feat "a rat trick".

Game 3 in Florida saw Lemieux return from a suspension to score the first goal of the game but Ray Sheppard equalized for Florida at 9:14 and the rats rained down. The Panthers then took the lead on Rob Niedermayer's goal at 11:19 and again thousands of rats pelted ice and Roy, who was unable to escape to the safety of the bench. Following the conclusion of the first period Roy made a resolute declaration - "No more rats".

The quick-strike Avalanche needed just 1:38 into the second period to tie the game on Keane's goal before Sakic got the game winner just 1:22 later as Roy held Florida scoreless the rest of the way for a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The final game, played on this date in 1996, would be legendary. With their lives on the line, Vanbiesbrouck would match Roy save for save as the game progressed through a scoreless first period and then a second. The third period also could not produce a winner and regulation ended deadlocked at 0-0.

Colorado put on the pressure in the first overtime, outshooting Florida 11-7 but Vanbiesbrouck did not bend. The Panthers turned the tables in the second overtime 18-12 but failed to solve Roy to send the game to it's third extra period. Finally, Uwe Krupp won the cup with the cup winning goal at 4:31 for a 1-0 victory for the Avalanche. True enough, Roy kept his promise, holding Florida scoreless for over seven periods of play following his declaration following the first period of Game 3. His streak included 18 saves for the remainder of Game 3 and 63 saves in Game 4 for a total of 81 shots and no goals and no more rats.

Sakic 1996 Stanley Cup photo Sakic1996Cup.jpg
Joe Sakic hoists the 1996 Stanley Cup

With the Stanley Cup win, Russians Alexi Gusarov and Kamensky and Swede Forsberg became members of the exclusive Triple Gold Club for players who have won Olympic Gold, World Championship Gold and the Stanley Cup.

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Joe Sakic Colorado Avalanche jersey with the 1996 Stanley Cup finals patch as worn by Joe when he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. following his 18 goals and 34 points in the playoffs.

When the Avalanche landed in Colorado, the adopted an entirely new identity, from the singular team name, unique to the NHL colors and ground breaking jerseys, which featured the unusual striping pattern reminiscent of a mountain range.

The Stanley Cup finals patch was the first of many that the Avalanche would wear with this style jersey, that would remain unchanged through the 2006-07 season.

Colorado Avalanche 95-96 jersey photo ColoradoAvalanche95-96F.jpg
Colorado Avalanche 95-96 jersey photo ColoradoAvalanche95-96B.jpg
Colorado Avalanche 95-96 jersey photo ColoradoAvalanche95-96P.jpg

The Stanley Cup was the first major championship for a team located in Denver, no doubt leaving the fans left behind in Quebec City to look on in yearning. The Cup was the second for a team that originated in the World Hockey Association, with the first being the Edmonton Oilers.

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