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3 COLORADO Avalanche
L. Jon Wertheim
October 08, 2001
The summertime itinerary of the Stanley Cup is a thoroughly documented phenomenon. Players from the NHL's best team spend the off-season carting the trophy everywhere from family barbecues to David Letterman's couch to the odd gentlemen's club. Yet after the Avalanche beat the Devils to win the title in June, the Cup's travels reached new heights. On Aug. 16, Mark Waggoner, the team's vice president of finance, woke up before dawn and toted the chalice to the top of 14,433-foot Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado. "The Stanley Cup represents the top, and I just thought it would be a great tribute," says Waggoner. "I think the hockey gods were smiling on us."
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October 08, 2001

3 Colorado Avalanche

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Insider

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

FORWARDS

2

Even without Forsberg, Avalanche has firepower

DEFENSE

3

Blake, Foote are anchors; pressure's on Skoula

GOALTENDING

2

Roy proved last season he's still one of the best

SPECIAL TEAMS

6

PP is awesome; Yelle, Podein must improve on PK

MANAGEMENT

1

G.M. Lacroix is fearless; makes all the right moves

The summertime itinerary of the Stanley Cup is a thoroughly documented phenomenon. Players from the NHL's best team spend the off-season carting the trophy everywhere from family barbecues to David Letterman's couch to the odd gentlemen's club. Yet after the Avalanche beat the Devils to win the title in June, the Cup's travels reached new heights. On Aug. 16, Mark Waggoner, the team's vice president of finance, woke up before dawn and toted the chalice to the top of 14,433-foot Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado. "The Stanley Cup represents the top, and I just thought it would be a great tribute," says Waggoner. "I think the hockey gods were smiling on us."

If so, they seem to have turned slightly less sanguine. Colorado opened training camp in Stockholm, where the team was supposed to compete in the NHL Challenge, a mini-tournament against European clubs. However, a day into the trip, the terrorist attacks prompted the Avalanche to truncate the European exhibition schedule and return home. Four days later star center Peter Forsberg announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence "to let my body heal." After a splenectomy caused him to miss the final two rounds of the postseason, Forsberg underwent two ankle surgeries over the summer. His decision stunned his teammates. "I accept—I'm not saying I agree—but I accept Pete's decision; we all approach the game in different ways," said goalie Patrick Roy. "I'm sure we'll remain a very good hockey team."

Indeed, the league's deepest team should skate on just fine. During the summer Colorado re-signed such key veterans as Hart Trophy winner Joe Sakic (five years, $50.5 million), defenseman Rob Blake (five years, $45 million) and Roy (two years, $17 million). Colorado is similarly wealthy in young talent: Chris Drury, 25, wing Milan Hejduk, 25, and Alex Tanguay, 21, were the Avalanche's top three scorers last year after Sakic and Forsberg and are proven playoff forces, notably Tanguay, who had two goals in Game 7 of the finals.

Colorado's biggest concern is whether it can overcome the tumult of the off-season. "There have been a lot of distractions," allows Roy, "but if any team can handle it, it's us." If he's right, Colorado could see another summit next summer.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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