Sometimes, it’s fun to just remind ourselves in Denver that we have experienced winning a Stanley Cup before. Twice. This coming season has two important championship anniversaries, in a sense. So let’s just do a very basic look back at what happened. This is especially geared toward some of you younger readers
The Avs’ 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt in an overtime heartbreaker on September 4 when Dallas ousted Colorado in the second round of the playoffs.
And so goes another year without Lord Stanley’s vaunted cup trekking to Denver. Now we wait for another shot at hockey’s most prestigious hardware in 2020-21.
As we look forward to the NHL’s upcoming campaign, we can also look back in fond remembrance at the two times in franchise history that the Avalanche did bring home the Stanley Cup: 1996 and 2001.
The 2020-21 season conveniently marks the 25th and 20th respective anniversaries of these glorious occasions. And as you can guess, much has changed about the hockey landscape since the Avs last prevailed in winning the Stanley Cup.
The game is more interactive than ever, and fans have a personal interest in the outcome of games. Avs fever was at an all-time high in the run-up to the Cups. It’s fun to imagine what it would’ve been like if fans had today’s fantasy NHL, hockey wagering at online sportsbooks, and advanced stats.
Ahh, those were the days! How about a little stroll down memory lane? Sit back, relax, crack open a cold one if you’re so inclined, and let’s revisit the times when the Avs reigned supreme over the NHL.
A Brilliant Debut Year: 1995-96
No one could have predicted the Avalanche winning the 1995-96 championship in the franchise’s first season in Denver. But that’s exactly what happened on June 10, 1996, as Colorado hoisted the Stanley Cup at Miami Arena after sweeping Florida in the four-game final set a year after arriving from Quebec.
Uwe Krupp’s electrifying goal at 4:31 in third overtime famously sealed the deal on the state of Colorado’s first major professional sports championship.
The inaugural Avs squad rolled to a first-place regular season finish in the Pacific Division on a 47-25-10, 104-point record.
The playoffs offered little resistance to Marc Crawford’s squad. Colorado knocked off Vancouver, took down Chicago, and upset a superior Detroit team (at 62-13-7, the Red Wings posted the NHL’s best regular season of all time, to that point) all in six-game sets en route to the finals meeting with the Panthers.
Current Avs GM Joe Sakic captained the ‘96 champs, nabbing 51 goals and 69 assists in the regular season. His 18 goals in the post-season was top among all skaters and propelled the Avs through the playoffs and earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Peter Forsberg also posted a fine regular season, posting 30 goals and 86 assists. Valeri Kamensky finished third in points with 38 goals and 47 assists. Sakic and Forsberg represented the Western Conference at the 1996 All-Star Game while Crawford served as the assistant coach.
Patrick Roy proved an integral player when he arrived from Montreal in mid-December 1995. The legendary netminder and former Avs coach was off to a shaky start with the Canadiens. His typical shutdown performances returned after the trade to Colorado as Roy held opponents to one of the lowest goals-against in the conference.
Returning to the Top: 2000-01
Following a pair of Conference Finals losses in 1999 and 2000, the Avs returned to glory winning the 2001 Stanley Cup over New Jersey in a seven-game thriller.
Colorado fans will never forget the 3-1 clincher in Game 7. Alex Tanguay delivered two goals and Sakic added another while Roy held the Devils to a lone score. Unlike 1996, the Avs hoisted the Cup in front of a roaring home crowd at Pepsi Center.
Sakic once again led the playoffs in scoring with 28 points. Roy was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque, who landed in Colorado the previous season after 21 years in Boston, was the first first to hold the Cup.
Coach Bob Hartley helmed the team to the Finals in series wins over Vancouver (four games), Los Angeles (seven games), and St. Louis (five games).
The Avs posted a league-best regular-season record of 52-16-10 and 118 points. The club’s leading scorers included Sakic (54 goals, 64 assists), Forsberg (27 goals, 62 assists), and Milan Hejduk (41 goals, 38 assists). Bourque (7 goals, 52 assists) was the top-scoring defenseman.
Roy nabbed a career-high 40 wins during the regular season. He passed Terry Sawchuk as the NHL’s all-time leader for most wins by a goaltender with his 448th career victory in an overtime besting of Washington on October 17, 2000.
Will this “anniversary” season bring the Avs back to Cup glory? Well, maybe. But if not, we still have some good memories.