In Quebec, fans celebrate success of team that left Former Nordiques players remember their roots, too

June 12, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

MIAMI -- Thank you, Quebec City.

It's been almost a year since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche, but players haven't forgotten some of their biggest fans.

Of the 24 players on the Avalanche postseason roster, 16 played at least part of one season in Quebec City. Avalanche captain Joe Sakic and defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn started their careers in Quebec in 1988.

"They're great fans, and it's too bad they couldn't be more of part of this," said Sakic, who scored 234 goals in 508 games during his seven seasons as a Nordique. "Had this happened a year ago, maybe we wouldn't be the Colorado Avalanche right now. It's been a hard year for them, but we know most of them are still behind us."

It's not that any of the Avalanche players would change the script. Winning the Stanley Cup in their first year in Denver has made 1995-96 a Cinderella season.

"As far as the fans go, yeah, the people in Quebec City deserve to share in this, but the fans in Denver have been great, too," said Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, who joined the Nordiques in 1991. The Nordiques entered the NHL in 1979, but had limited success in their 16 seasons in Quebec City.

They were second in the Adams Division in 1992-93 with a 47-27-10 mark, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. They took a quick exit from the playoffs last season after compiling a 30-13-5 mark, second best in the NHL.

"The fans have been going crazy in Quebec since the Detroit series," said Albert Ladouceur, a sportswriter with the Journal de Quebec who has been covering the Avalanche since the playoffs started. "When the playoffs first started, not everybody was interested. But each round it got stronger and stronger."

Initially, Ladouceur said, most Nordiques fans were bitter about losing their team and did not relish the early-season success of the Avalanche.

"They're very excited now, but there's also a lot of sadness," he said. "Because the Avalanche went to the finals in their first year in Denver, a lot of fans were angered. Maybe if it happened three or four years down the road, it would have given fans a chance to get over it. But I think they're still genuinely happy with how the team has done."

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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