Pierre Lacroix, former GM of Nordiques, Avalanche, dies at 72

Pierre Lacroix was general manager of the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche from 1994 to 2006. (John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty)

Former general manager of the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche, Pierre Lacroix, who guided the organization to its first two Stanley Cup victories and made a franchise-altering trade for Patrick Roy, has died, the Avalanche confirmed in a statement. He was 72.

“Pierre was the architect of the Avalanche’s two Stanley Cup championships, which included the city of Denver’s first major sports championship in 1996. Pierre was instrumental in not only the team’s on-ice success but also building the Avalanche brand into what it is today,” read the statement.

“His legacy reaches far beyond the NHL level and his impact can be felt throughout all of youth hockey in the Rocky Mountain region. Our thoughts are with the Lacroix family during this difficult time, his wife, Colombe, his sons Martin and Eric, and his three grandchildren.”

Lacroix became president and GM of the Nordiques in 1994 and moved with the team to Denver. He held the role of GM until 2006 and president until 2013 when he relinquished that tile to Josh Kroenke.

Joe Sakic — who starred on Lacroix’s dominant teams alongside the likes of Roy, Peter Forsberg and many others before joining the front office in 2010 and taking over as GM in 2014 — was effusive in his praise of his former boss.

“It is a sad day for the Avalanche organization and its fans. Pierre was a visionary and a true leader. From the moment he took over as GM, he established a winning culture that spread throughout the organization. As players, we knew he would do everything he could to help the team achieve that goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup. Pierre was instrumental in not only building the Avalanche into a championship team but also in the growth of hockey in Colorado. His footprint is everywhere in this hockey community,” he said in a statement.

“Pierre is someone I trusted very much right from the first time I met him. I’ll always remember him as not only a great GM but an even better person. He always treated everyone like family and he wanted us players to have that same mentality. He was a great example to all of us. Pierre was a mentor to me and someone I learned a lot about the business of hockey from. We as an organization and myself personally, will really miss him.”

Lacroix is, perhaps, most widely recognized for his blockbuster swing for Roy. Capitalizing on a rift between the Montreal Canadiens and the Hall of Fame netminder, Lacroix acquired Roy and Mike Keane for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko in one of the most lopsided deals in history.

The deal paid immediate dividends.

Roy would finish as runner-up for the Vezina Trophy and helped the Avalanche, in their first season since their move from Quebec, capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

Lacroix also made key acquisitions of star defencemen Ray Bourque and Rob Blake, which resulted in the franchise’s second Cup title in 2001.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman credited Lacroix for shepherding the organization through its relocation and establishing a model franchise in Colorado.

“Pierre’s eye for talent, appreciation for elite-level athletes and fearlessness in pulling off the big trade made him one of the most successful team builders in recent NHL history. Fiercely competitive and personally engaging, he was highly regarded by his fellow general managers and his voice was respected throughout the league,” Bettman said in a statement.

“…The National Hockey League mourns his passing and sends our condolences to his wife Colombe, their sons Martin and Eric, and the entire Lacroix family.”

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