It was hockey's version of the Gipper speech. During a melee in the third period of an April 1 game in Detroit, Colorado goaltender Patrick Roy dropped his gloves, skated down the ice and commenced brawling with Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood. Roy later admitted that the rare fight between goalies was his desperate attempt to shake the Avalanche from the lethargy that was poisoning its season. Nice try. A month later Colorado exited in the first round against Edmonton after blowing a 3-1 series lead. "Sometimes there's a price to pay for a team that won the Stanley Cup two years before," Roy says. "Guys aren't hungry, and in this game you have to play with passion."
Last season's failures led to a messy divorce between Colorado G.M. Pierre Lacroix and coach Marc Crawford, who left the team in May with a year remaining on his contract. His replacement, Bob Hartley, has no previous NHL experience as a coach or player, but he worked for eight years in a paper mill, a windshield plant and a car dealership before starting his coaching career. He'll try to instill a blue-collar ethos in the underachieving Avalanche. Says Hartley, "If we get a reputation as the hardest-working team in the NHL, we'll be successful."
The Avalanche will continue to run a fast-break style, led by center Peter Forsberg, the best two-way player in the league. He'll need more help from center Joe Sakic, who signed a mammoth contract in August 1997, then injured his left knee in the Olympics and saw his scoring production drop for the second straight year. The Avalanche is also counting on a rejuvenated Roy, who comes off a poor performance in the postseason, in which, he admits, he was fatigued. Motivated by Colorado's playoff upset, Roy did serious weight training for the first time in his career and dropped 10 pounds over the summer. The three-time Vezina Trophy winner should guide Colorado to another division title, but to make a run at the Stanley Cup the Avalanche must rediscover the chemistry of the '96 champs. "When we lose this year, we can't look around for excuses," Roy says. "Everybody on this team needs to start looking in the mirror."