The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the organization will retire former Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk's No. 23 jersey on Saturday, January 6, 2018. Hejduk's No. 23 will be raised to the Pepsi Center rafters prior to the game against the Minnesota Wild, which is now scheduled for a 7 p.m. puck drop.
The entire ceremony and game will be carried live on the Altitude Sports & Entertainment Network, and can also be heard on Altitude 950. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats at 5:45 p.m. for the start of the program.
Hejduk's No. 23 will be the sixth sweater number retired in the history of the Colorado Avalanche, joining Joe Sakic (#19), Peter Forsberg (#21), Patrick Roy (#33), Adam Foote (#52) and Ray Bourque (#77).
"Milan was a tremendous player, a great teammate, a winner and a true professional in every sense," said Avalanche Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic. "He had some of the quickest and smoothest hands of anyone I ever played with, was an elusive skater, had a great release, terrific hockey sense and vision. Milan was not only one of the great goal scorers in the history of the franchise, but also one of the best in the NHL for over a decade.
"Milan was one of the most humble players I ever had the privilege of competing with," continued Sakic. "He was a quiet leader who led by example and always represented this organization and himself with class. His number 23 certainly belongs in the Pepsi Center rafters."
Hejduk, 41, played all 14 of his NHL seasons with the Avalanche and was a member of the 2001 Stanley Cup championship team. He finished his career with 375 goals and 805 points (375g/430a) in 1,020 games with Colorado. Hejduk appeared in his 1,000th game on Feb. 4, 2013 against Dallas, becoming the first player in Colorado Avalanche history to play 1,000 career regular season games in an Avs sweater. The only other franchise player to reach 1,000 contests was Sakic, who appeared in 508 games with Quebec and 870 with Colorado (1,378 total).
Hejduk captured the franchise's first-ever Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal scorer in 2002-03. The Usti-nad Labem, Czech Republic, native was a Calder Trophy finalist and a member of the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1998-99. He was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team in 2002-03 and competed in three All-Star Games: 2000, 2001 and 2009.
"I am truly honored to have my jersey raised to the rafters alongside those great Avalanche players," said Hejduk. "From my rookie season here in Colorado, I always felt a tremendous sense of pride wearing this sweater and being a part of this organization. I was fortunate to play so many years here and I have so many wonderful memories. I would like to thank the Kroenke family and everyone at the Avalanche for this honor, it means so much to me and my family. I realized my lifelong dream of not only playing in the NHL but also winning a Stanley Cup and to spend my entire career in Colorado was very special. Thanks to all the Avalanche fans for your support, I can't wait to see everyone on January 6th."
Selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the fourth round (87th overall) of the 1994 Entry Draft, Hejduk ranks fourth in franchise history in both goals and points, and is fifth in assists. Only Sakic (391) scored more goals with the Avalanche after the team relocated from Quebec. Hejduk is the franchise's all-time leader in regular season overtime goals with nine and his 59 career game-winning tallies rank second. Hejduk sits third in franchise history with 140 power-play goals.
Hejduk reached the 20-goal mark in 11 consecutive seasons from 1999-00 to 2010-11, tying the franchise record for consecutive years of 20 or more goals. Hejduk scored 343 goals during that 11-season stretch, averaging 31 per year. Only three NHL players scored more goals during that span: Jarome Iginla (422), Marian Hossa (373) and Ilya Kovalchuk (369). In NHL history, only two Czech-born players registered more points and goals than Hejduk: Jaromir Jagr (1,914 points and 765 goals) and Patrik Elias (1,025 and 408).
Hejduk was named team captain on Nov. 14, 2011 and spent the 2011-12 season in that role. He became only the third captain in Avalanche history at the time and just the 10th different captain in franchise history.
In franchise playoff annals, Hejduk ranks third in goals (34-tied), fourth in points (76) and fifth in both assists (42) and games played (112). He led the Avs with 16 assists and finished second with 23 points during their 2001 Cup run. Hejduk is Pepsi Center's all-time leader with 188 goals and 397 points in 466 games at the Avalanche's home rink.
A three-time Olympian, Hejduk captured a gold medal with the Czech Republic at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. He also represented his country in two world championships (1998, 2003), two world junior championships (1995-96) and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Hejduk will be the 10th player in franchise history to have his sweater number retired, as the Quebec Nordiques retired the jerseys of Peter Stastny (#26), Michel Goulet (#16), Marc Tardif (#8) and J.C. Tremblay (#3).
This story was updated on Jan. 4, 2018.