As far as the standings were concerned, Sunday’s game was entirely inconsequential. Still, the Avalanche went out with a victory in a game that held a special meaning for the Avalanche organization, and more specifically, one of its more distinguished players.
The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers have both been officially eliminated from playoff contention for some time now, and even the two teams’ final rankings in the NHL standings were already determined. Heading into today’s afternoon tilt, the Oilers were guaranteed to finish with the NHL’s lowest point total for the second consecutive season, while the Avs were locked into the No. 29 overall spot.
Standings aside, the most important part of the day was Avalanche captain Adam Foote taking the ice for the final time after officially announcing his retirement two days earlier. Foote, a 19-year NHL veteran, held a press conference Friday morning at Pepsi Center to officially reveal that he would be hanging up the skates at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.
The blueliner had been plagued by injuries at times this year, and appeared in just his 47th game of the season on Sunday. He had missed the past 12 contests with a leg injury suffered on March 16 at Vancouver.
The injury turned out to be more serious than first thought, and Foote more than likely wouldn’t have returned this year if he had not made up his mind to end his career when the season concluded.
Unlike many players who are forced to end their careers because of circumstances well beyond their control, Foote was able to have his swan song this afternoon in front of the Pepsi Center faithful despite being still visibly hampered by his injury.
"I don't know what I'm going to be able to do out there," Foote said during his press conference on Thursday. "I'm going to dress and see what happens with the ankle. I wish I could be with the boys now. A lot of the guys are dropping down. We've had so many injuries this year."
To nobody’s surprise, Foote was in the starting lineup on Sunday afternoon (paired with Ryan Wilson
) and received a huge ovation from the crowd when his name was announced. His first shift lasted 25 seconds and ended when forward Mark Olver
was whistled for interference.
Although he wasn’t in ideal physical condition during his final outing, Foote still managed to grind out 15:21 of ice time on 22 shifts while also delivering two hits and one blocked shot. He was on the ice for two goals, one for the Avalanche and one for the Oilers, meaning his career plus/minus total stood at +99 (+129 with the Avalanche.
“Well I think the adrenaline takes over," Foote said about playing through pain. "It felt worse when I was on the bench but when you think about on the ice, it’s got certain pivots and certain times, but when I was skating forward it felt pretty good. If it was playoffs, that’s the way it’s got to go and I’m not the only one that’s done that. There’s a lot of players in this league, about 90 percent of them have done that before. It’s just too bad it happened when it did this year.”
But on this day, it was about much more than the numbers.
There were several special moments, like when the blueliner was recognized during a TV timeout with just under 13 minutes remaining in the first period. Pieces of his Friday press conference were played on the Jumbotron, and Foote received another long, loud ovation after the tribute.
I’m just so happy to be able to play in that one," said Foote. "[Sylvain] Lefebvre told me, he goes, ‘It’s a long way from your heart,’ so I go, ‘Alright, I got to go get this done.’ My teammates were so great about it. It’s hard when you play a game when you’re a team, and you got an, everything’s-about-me. They really support me well and I thank them.”