|Alexei Gusarov was honored by the Avalanche Alumni Association on Oct. 23, 2009
During a professional hockey career that lasted over 20 seasons, former Avalanche defenseman Alexei Gusarov truly left his mark on the game.
Even before he set foot onto NHL ice, Gusarov had already established himself as an elite player by winning an Olympic Gold Medal (1988) and three World Championships (1986, 1989, 1990) with the USSR. In addition, the blueliner helped his club to five Soviet Union National Championships as well as five European Championships.
After seeing his success overseas, the Quebec Nordiques selected Gusarov in the 11th round (213th overall) in the 1988 Entry Draft. He would make his NHL debut two seasons later during the 1990-91 campaign - becoming the first ever Russian player to join the franchise - and would remain a regular in the Quebec/Colorado lineup for the ensuing decade.
The blueliner, affectionately known as “Goose” to his teammates and fans alike, joined the franchise in its move to Denver prior to the 1995-96 season and posted one of his best individual seasons during an important year for his club. Gusarov finished second on the team with a +29 plus/minus rating that year and went on to lead the NHL in playoff plus/minus with a +13 rating. He also finished ninth in the league in scoring among defensemen during the playoffs with nine assists in 21 postseason games, helping the Avalanche raise the Stanley Cup for the first time.
“Goosey was probably the most underrated defenseman, and maybe player, when we made that playoff run and beat Florida,” said former teammate and current Avalanche captain Adam Foote. “He made it look so easy and graceful it almost looked like he wasn’t trying. It was a pleasure to play with a guy like that.”
Known for his strong positional play, Gusarov would go on to total 159 points (38g/121a) in 565 career games with the Avalanche/Nordiques franchise. At the time of his recognition by the Avalanche Alumni Association, the steady rearguard ranked sixth on the franchise’s all-time list in assists by a defenseman and seventh in points.
His time with the organization came to an end on Dec. 28, 2000, when he was traded to the New York Rangers for a conditional draft choice. Later that same season, Gusarov was traded to the St. Louis Blues, where he finished his career by playing in 16 games.
Due in part to his Stanley Cup victory with the Avalanche in 1996, Gusarov is one of only 22 members of the elusive “Triple Gold Club,” which recognizes players who have won an IIHF World Championship, a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal.
Gusarov became the second former player honored by the Avalanche Alumni Association when he was recognized prior to Colorado’s contest against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 23, 2009.