TORONTO – Sometimes the best laid plans don’t come to fruition. And the plan hatched by Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne to join forces with a stacked Colorado Avalanche team to win a Stanley Cup ended in failure.
It doesn’t mean the memory of what could have been is a bad one. That’s the feeling Joe Sakic has.
“You know what?” said Sakic, who watched Kariya and Selanne join him in the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. “It was unbelievable what they did. At that time, they both wanted to come.
“We had a fun team and they wanted to be part of that. We’re really lucky that they decided to come. Unfortunately, injuries to really both of them made it harder that year.”
Sakic, the captain of that 2003-04 Avalanche squad, still views that season as “one of the best years we had.” It was a stacked group, with Peter Forsberg, Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk up front and Rob Blake and Adam Foote leading the defense.
And then it was loaded with Kariya and Selanne coming in, stunning the hockey world by signing with the Avs for salaries well below pre-salary cap market value. Kariya’s time in Anaheim ended with the left wing and the Ducks at odds over a contract extension. Selanne declined an option to stay with San Jose and also became a free agent.
This was many years before the current trend of NBA superstars like LeBron James or Kevin Durant looking to join up with other superstars to create a super team. Colorado was supposed to rule the NHL and claim its third Cup. Kariya and Selanne wanted one. They could do it with Sakic and Blake, with whom they were already friends.
It didn’t work and it became a one-year oddity on their glistening resumes. Kariya hurt his wrist and played in only 51 games. Selanne played in 78 but essentially on one leg with his right knee in constant pain. Forsberg suited up in only 39 contests. And Patrick Roy was no longer around, having retired.
Now the general manager of the Avalanche and a franchise icon, Sakic thinks back and says it was only one of two games at the start of the season where what they dreamed of was actually taking place. He recalled how they were “buzzing and going” in the first game as linemates.
“And then Paul got hurt and Teemu, his knee was hurting him all year but he battled through it,” Sakic said. “Never complained. Then he finally got it fixed and when he went to Anaheim, he had an outstanding career.”
The friendship between the three has only grown closer after their…