DENVER — Pierre Lacroix, the astute executive who was the architect of two Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup championship teams, has died. He was 72.
The Avalanche confirmed his death Sunday. No cause of death was given.
Lacroix was a driving force behind turning the Avalanche into a perennial power after the team relocated from Quebec to Denver for the 1995-96 season. The Avalanche hoisted the ’96 Stanley Cup Trophy in their first season in the Mile High City and again in 2001.
Known for his shrewd trades, Lacroix struck a deal with Montreal to acquire Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy during the ’95-96 season. It paid off with the city of Denver’s first major sports championship.
In another big move soon after, Lacroix matched a large contract offer made to Hall of Fame forward Joe Sakic that pretty much assured he would wear an Avalanche sweater for the rest of his career. Sakic is now following in Lacroix’s footsteps as the general manager of the Avalanche.
Lacroix also traded for Hall of Fame defensemen Ray Bourque and Rob Blake, who were instrumental during the 2001 Stanley Cup run. Bourque retired soon after lifting the Cup.
“Pierre was instrumental in not only the team’s on-ice success but also building the Avalanche brand into what it is today,” the Avalanche said in a statement Sunday. “His legacy reaches far beyond the NHL level and his impact can be felt throughout all of youth hockey in the Rocky Mountain region.” Hired by Quebec in 1994, he served as the franchise’s GM until 2005-06. Over that span, the organization won nine straight division titles and made six appearances in the Western Conference finals.
He then served as the team’s president until 2013 when the franchise announced a restructuring. Josh Kroenke took over as president while Lacroix remained with the organization as an adviser.
“Pierre was a visionary and a true leader,” Sakic said. “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.” Added Stan Kroenke, the owner/chairman of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment: “Pierre had a unique zest for life that uplifted anyone who knew him. He treated everyone like they were a part of his family and was always available to anyone who needed his guidance. We will miss him greatly.”
In the statement, the Avs extended their condolences to Lacroix’s wife, Colombe, his sons, Martin and Eric, and his three grandchildren.
Eric Lacroix was acquired by Colorado in a June 1996 trade before later being dealt.