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Sean Leahy

Mount Puckmore: The four faces of the Colorado Avalanche

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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(Ed. Note: Welcome to Puck Daddy's August series, "Mount Puckmore," which will feature fans, bloggers and various media personalities of all 30 teams choosing the four defining faces of their franchise. These four people are who you remember most when you think of these teams — whether they are players, coaches or executives. We'll be running these daily for the rest of the month. Today, representing the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Post writer Adrian Dater.)

By Adrian Dater

Beat writers who cover transplanted hockey teams have to have two things at the ready when compiling "Best of" lists: a thick skin and a giant asterisk.

The asterisk, one hopes, will minimize the need for the gummous epidermis. But that doesn't mean the insults won't still fly your way, with any less velocity than the regurgitated stomach contents of Snooki and Pauly D after a night at the Beachcomber on the Jersey Shore. Thus, it is with a giant ASTERISK, I bring you the Mount Rushmore of the Colorado Avalanche's history. This, per the bosses at Yahoo!, is NOT to include players from the late, great Quebec Nordiques. Technically, Hardy Astrom and Ray Miron and Don Cherry are all part of the New Jersey Devils' franchise history, when the franchise existed right where I'm writing this right now, in Denver, Colorado. Yet, as far as Devils family histories go, the "Rockies Years" are like the scrapbook picture of the drunken uncle at Christmas gatherings, singing "Oh Danny Boy" with the base of a lamp doubling as microphone. It is to be relegated to the back of the scrapbook, preferably under a pile of old Carpenters albums in the basement, never to be dusted off again.

Michel Goulet had his number 16 retired by the Nords, and it continues to hang today at Le Colisee Pepsi. Yet, Warren Rychel wore the number as a member of the Avalanche. No punchline necessary. With that, here are the Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington and Teddy Roosevelt of Avalanche history:

Joe Sakic(notes) — Not much doubt here. In fact, Quoteless Joe would be the only player in franchise history to be on Mount Rushmore for both the Nords and Avs. He remains the franchise's all-time leading scorer, still in the top 10 in NHL history and had a Conn Smythe, Hart and Olympic MVP to his name. Not to mention, a swell guy. Expect the Quoteless One to be in Avs management before long.

Patrick Roy — It remains unbelievable, to this day, that Patrick Roy ever played in Denver — for the team formerly based in the province of Quebec. A zillion to one — that's what the odds would have been had anyone said "You know the guy they called Saint Patrick, the guy who single-handedly carried Montreal to the Stanley Cup in 1993 (Canada's last Cup winner)? Well, two years from now he'll be playing for the Quebec Nordiques, only they'll be playing in Denver with a new name."

Roy was believed by some to be washed up — or, at least, petulant and on the downside personally and professionally — when his fit of pique on the bench against Mario Tremblay led to his trade four days later from the Habs. Arguably, the Canadiens have never been the same since, and Colorado got two Stanley Cups and four other trips Western finals out of the deal.

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Peter Forsberg(notes) — There remains a tinge of sadness when Avs and other hockey fans remember the career of Foppa. "It's a shame, all those injuries, all that unfinished business." Yes, injuries greatly robbed us all, but there is still plenty of unbelievable play preserved on those VHS tapes. Happily for Avs fans, the bulk of them came in Denver — though people often forget he played his rookie year in Quebec. A good argument can be made he was the NHL's best two-way player from 1994-2004 or so. He had elite skill and could finesse you to death, but also loved to play rock-em, sock-em hockey. Unfortunately, that second part helped lead to all those injuries.

An awful lot of Avs fans, when they get the most weepily nostalgic about the glory days, bring up Forsberg's name first as the one they most remember. It's a lock he'll get his No. 21 retired some day at the Pepsi Center.

Adam Foote(notes) — He's never won a Norris and never gotten his name on the score sheet much. But No. 52 will enter his 20th NHL season this year — all but one and three-quarters in Quebec-Colorado. He's played the majority of his career against the top lines of other teams, always keeping things simple and effective.

After a slightly unseemly departure from Columbus that tarnished his reputation some, Footer has reclaimed his role as a solid leader of men, who played a solid captain's role for a young team that made the playoffs against all odds last year.

Mount Puckmore photo by B.D. Gallof of Hockey Independent

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