ColoradoAvalanche.com profiles the players named to the Avalanche's 20th Anniversary team.
The Avs 20th Anniversary Team, as selected by fans, was released on Oct. 17, and it is no surprise Milan Hejduk
was one of the 12 forwards named.
Hejduk spent his entire career with the Colorado Avalanche after the Quebec Nordiques selected him in the fourth round (87th overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.
After making his NHL debut as a right wing, Hejduk skated in all 82 games during his first season and was named to the All-Rookie Team after the 1998-99 campaign. Although only he finished third in Calder Trophy voting, Hejduk led all rookies in regular season (48) and playoff scoring (12) and also paced them in assists (34) and game-winning goals (5-tied).
Hejduk went on to wear the Avs sweater for 14 years, appearing in 1,020 regular season contests (ranked second in franchise history) and 112 playoff games. He was the first player to reach the 1,000-game mark for the Avalanche.
“I knew they were going to announce something because obviously 20 years of the Avalanche being in Denver. It is a special year,” the former forward said. “It’s a big honor to be part of the top 20 guys.”
During his career, the Czech native was selected to three NHL All-Star Games (2000, 2001 and 2009), won gold (1998) and bronze (2006) medals while representing his home nation at multiple Winter Olympics, reached the 20-goal mark in 11 consecutive seasons (1999-00 to 2010-11) and even served as captain of the Avalanche (2011-12).
“It’s a top notch organization. It always was awesome,” Hejduk recalled of his time with Colorado. “It’s just a great organization.”
Hejduk ranks second in the franchise record books in game-winning goals (59), fourth in goals (375) and points (805), fifth in assists (430) and is the all-time leader in overtime tallies (nine). He also captured the organization’s first Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goalscorer after potting 50 markers during the 2002-03 season.
In addition to holding numerous Avs records, Hejduk scored the first goal at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13, 1999. He went on to play 466 games at the Avalanche’s home rink, and is the all-time leader in goals (188) and points (397) in the arena.
A member of the 2001 Stanley Cup championship team, Hejduk remembers his time with Colorado very fondly.
“Overall, it was a great experience. I played 14 years for the Avs,” he said. “Obviously, the memorable year for me was 2001 when we won the cup, but there were some other things. Just being part of a great team, having a lot of good playoff runs. Even besides the year when we won the cup, the other years were still fun. Just a lot of good memories.”
Although he retired in 2014, the three time all-star has continued to be an active member of the Colorado family through the Avalanche Alumni Association.
“We started alumni games I think last year. We played a few times,” the former Avs captain said. “We have the big game coming up, the outdoor game at Coors Field. It’s going to be awesome. I am definitely looking forward to these games. They’re fun.”
Hejduk will return to the Pepsi Center, along with the other members of the 20th Anniversary Team, to be honored in a special ceremony before the Avalanche faces off against the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 7.