Josh Kroenke Opening Statement
Good afternoon everyone … thank you all for being here. I am here to announce some important and significant changes to the avalanche front office. Let me begin by saying that a few years ago, I very much wanted to start being more involved on the business side of hockey and became governor of the avalanche. In that role, I had the opportunity to attend several NHL Board of Governors’ meetings as well as work with the avalanche staff on many different issues. At that time, Pierre Lacroix expressed his wishes to relinquish the title of president. For many years, Pierre was instrumental in the avalanche’s unprecedented success, and he felt it was time for him to be more of an outside resource for the organization. Obviously we felt at that time Pierre should keep the title of president while I continued to gain experience in hockey operations at the team and league level. Having had the privilege of learning under a mentor like Pierre and then spending the past few seasons as governor, I feel ready to become much more involved on a daily basis. Beginning today, I will be assuming the role as avalanche team president. Pierre will remain with the organization as an advisor and will continue to be a valuable asset for all of us. The gentleman on my left, obviously needs no introduction… I am thrilled to announce that Joe Sakic has agreed to become the executive vice president of hockey operations for the Colorado avalanche… in that role, Joe will be in charge of all hockey related decisions moving forward. With his credentials, presence, and knowledge of the game, Joe will be a key ingredient in making sure that together we achieve our future goals. On my right, general manager Greg Sherman, will continue to work with Joe in managing the day-to-day business operations of the team. Greg has overseen the drafting and acquisition of our current young core of players, and I know is just as optimistic as Joe and I are about the future of the team. I feel confident with this group and am looking forward to the challenges ahead. We know there is a lot of work to be done, but we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to lead this organization. This is a proud franchise, and one we fully expect to be back in the playoffs competing for a Stanley Cup in the coming years. I was here in Pepsi Center for Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup finals …it was the most memorable sporting experience of my life and one that I want to experience again and again. We will get back there and it starts now. And now, our Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, Joe Sakic.
Joe Sakic Opening Statement
Thank you. Josh, I just want to thank you and Stan for giving me this opportunity. I’m really looking forward to this… it’s a great opportunity for another chapter in my life here. And I’m excited to be back and hopefully compete for the Stanley cup here rather shortly. I have to go back to four years ago… when I retired, Pierre Lacroix pulled me aside and told me to ‘enjoy my retirement and take my time but if there was ever a time I felt I wanted to come back and be more involved, just give him a call’. And two years ago—I really want to thank Pierre—Pierre gave me that opportunity to come back and learn the business side and learn the management side of the game at my own pace. And for that I’ll forever be grateful and really appreciate his guidance for those two years. I got the chance to meet Josh at the governors meetings a couple times and over the course of this year. That brings us to last week… last week, we really started to have some great some conversations, Josh and I, about an extended role for myself, a bigger role for the team. I thought they were just great, tremendous. First of all I just want to thank Josh for taking more of a bigger role with our hockey club. I think that’s huge for us and it shows everybody on the management side and obviously the players a lot. After those conversations we’ve had, we both, along with Stan, we’re here for one reason. That’s the only reason I’m here. And I really believe after our conversation and that’s to compete for a Stanley cup year-in-and-year out. We’re looking forward to making those things possible. And I’m very appreciative of Stan and Josh’s confidence in me… and I’m really looking forward to working with them. Also, I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with our hockey staff, from Rick Pracey and Alan Hepple and all the amateur scouts to brad smith and the pro staff… to Craig Billington who does such a tremendous job and obviously working with Josh and Greg, I think we’re in store for some big things. And it starts today. I’m really looking forward to getting started, especially finding our next coach to lead our young team and obviously the upcoming draft. It should be a pretty exciting time for us and also our team’s future success. Thank you.
Greg Sherman Opening Statement
I too want to thank Pierre for the opportunities he has given me through the years. In addition, I would like to thank Josh and Stan for their support here today.
Clearly this is an important day for this franchise. I am genuinely excited for what lies ahead for our hockey club. The fact that both Josh and Joe have taken on larger roles speaks to their belief about what the future capabilities of this franchise are.
Having said that, I am looking forward to working collectively with both Josh and Joe, as well as our entire hockey operations staff, in order to reach the future goals of this franchise
On the past few years and how Sakic came about this role:
SAKIC: Four years ago, I needed time to get away from the game and enjoy my family. And two years ago I talked to Pierre and wanted to get more involved and see what ‘this side’ of the game brought. It’s been a great two years, a great learning experience. And basically what brought me here today was my conversation last week with Josh and I really believe in the direction that Josh and Stan want this team going. We want to win, and we want to compete and we want to have that chance. And that’s why I’m here. It was pretty easy I didn’t have any pressure the last couple of years and obviously there’s pressure coming with this title but I’m ready for it and I really believe together we can achieve this. And like I said I’m looking forward to the challenge.
On if Sakic sought advice from any other former hall of famers in hockey, or John Elway, about their transition and how it has worked for them:
SAKIC: I do have a few friends that I’ve talked to in the hockey world about this role. More so just to see what it entailed and everything. For me it was an easy decision after speaking with Josh last week. And having that common goal of this is the direction we want going forward… so for me it was an easy decision to make this next step.
On Sakic and Sherman’s roles?
SAKIC: I have a great working relationship with Greg. We think a like on this. And we want to move in the right direction. We have some great hockey people in our organization that care about this team and want the same thing. Together as a group we’re all going to have say and ideas and we’re going to do what we feel is right for the organization. When it comes down to the final say in hockey decisions, hopefully we’ll all agree, but I will be making the final decision on that. But Greg and I we have a great working relationship. And Greg is going to continue doing the everyday general manager job, which he’s done tremendous at.
On if this move is a way of demonstrating that KSE is as committed to hockey as basketball:
KROENKE: We’re committed to all of our teams equally. I think it’s a perception I’m well aware of, one that I don’t think is remotely true. I think one, myself assuming the presidency title with the Avalanche, answers that question very, very clearly. As far as any other perception out there, I think Greg and Joe both can tell you behind the scenes how passionate I am, how much sleep I lose. I’m really excited about the opportunity going forward.
On a time table on hiring the new coach:
SAKIC: Sooner than later but we’d like to have someone hired by the draft, obviously. Starting today we will be looking at candidates and we’ll choose the right guy for this team.
On what Kroenke’s role will be as president of the Avalanche:
KROENKE: As president of this team, it’s going to be very similar to my role as the president with the Nuggets. Over the last several years we were able to establish a culture. The Avalanche already I think has a head start, they have a wonderful history. I’m looking forward to helping re-establish a winning culture. I’m very passionate person on a daily basis about what I do. I think I’m very good at managing people. As far as specifics, both Greg and Joe report directly to me and I’m going to be having conversations with them on a daily basis. It starts now, I’m really excited about the future and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
On what qualities Sakic is looking for in the next coach. And if some of Sakic’s ex-teammates are going to be candidates:
SAKIC: I’m not going to go into who the candidates are going to be. But obviously we want a very passionate coach. Obviously a change of culture, we need that winning attitude down in the dressing room. I believe we have some real quality young players on our team, great players. They’re still young that are learning and we want to have a coach here who can lead them along.
On if it has been difficult watching the Avs struggle the last couple of years:
SAKIC: It was easier two years ago; to be honest with you, until right at the end of the year I thought they made some strides. This year for whatever reason, it was a setback for sure. But we still have some good quality players there that are going through some growing pains right now. But we really believe in them. I was a player that went through that situation as well. Where you’re a young team and you think you’re there and then you have a setback and I think that’s what happened this year. You have those bumps when you’re that young but the one thing our group needs to learn is be more consistent and not let the lows get too low.
On if Sakic consulted with Broncos executive John Elway:
SAKIC: I don’t know exactly his title or his role with the Broncos; I haven’t talked with him about it. But I have talked to a couple of hockey friends with similar roles.
On payroll and if that will increase:
KROENKE: We’ve had conversations about the team’s direction as a whole. We’re not going to put ourselves in a position where we’re just spending to spend. We’ve built this team carefully, we’ve drafted very well over the last several years and we’re looking forward to adding another young player. Will we be adding payroll? I think that comes as players start to mature. We want to make sure we’re getting our young guys on the ice so they can grow. And we’re going to be filling in around those guys when we deem it appropriate.
On Sakic’s relationship to 2013 draft prospect Seth Jones:
SAKIC: I had more of a relationship with Popeye back then, Seth was a little young (laughing). Popeye was a very popular Nugget, a great guy. Yeah I do remember, he asked me at the rink what he needed to do. He was a little upset, his son wanted to play hockey he didn’t want to play basketball. I just asked is he going to be his size and he said yes so I said take power skating lessons. And I think it paid off for him.
On other priorities this offseason:
SHERMAN: I think those conversations will begin immediately. Getting through today with Joe’s role, with Josh’s role. And we’ll continually look at ways to improve our hockey club. We anticipate those meetings to happen in the very near future.
On how Kroenke will balance being president of two teams. And did he consider “cleaning house”:
KROENKE: I think all options were considered. Whether we like it or not we finished near the bottom of the league this year. So I had to evaluate everything. After seeing the guys this year I know we have some young talent. Like I said I considered all options. I kept coming back to the fact that some of these guys have a really passionate feeling about the young guys that we’ve acquired. I believe that we deserve a right to do that thing moving forward as well, see this thing through. I think we’re not near as far off as people like to believe. I’m very excited about the future of this team. As far as both jobs, I don’t sleep a lot; I’m like my dad that way. My sleeping hours are a little weird right now especially (laughing). I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve. I’m not afraid to steal best practices from other leagues, other teams and incorporate that into what I do. I think I can do that across both teams just as well as I’ve done with the Nuggets over the last several years and I’m really excited about the opportunity to do it.
On timing of this announcement and if Kroenke is taking a bigger role with the Avalanche because of the Nuggets having a good base in their front office:
KROENKE: No, I think wherever the Nuggets were, this was a natural evolution to what I wanted to do. It just took longer because I needed to make sure I understood everything. And this is the culmination of that learning process. Speaking of the guys on the Nuggets side, they obviously did a wonderful job this year I have just as much confidence in them as I do in these two guys right here. It should be good things moving forward for both squads.
On Sherman’s job performance and why Sherman stayed:
KROENKE: That’s an interesting question. I don’t feel the need to address it fully but I will. It’s interesting the way teams operate at the professional level and there’s cycles to every team. There are some teams that are playing very well right now in the NHL playoffs that were not in a position far off from where we were several years ago. We had to go through a rebuild coming out of the lockout in ‘04-‘05. It was a tough position for us because we were one of the higher spending clubs and then a cap came in. We went through a rebuild; Joe and a lot of those guys from those great teams were starting to retire. We thought the time was right to go young. And now we’re coming out of that rebuild into a new CBA with a lot of very good young talent. We’re going to add on that talent. And I think Greg deserves a right to be there alongside from what he’s built thus far.
On if Sakic will be traveling more in this new role:
SAKIC: Absolutely. I’m ready to take that next step. And I’m excited about the opportunity. I love our young players here. I’m looking forward to helping lead this team to a championship some day. That’s been our goal. That’s what Josh and I talked about last week. And we’re full steam ahead with that. My role has obviously changed. I said I had more pressure on myself. I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make us successful.
On Sakic’s opinion of what are the cornerstones of a championship team:
SAKIC: I believe obviously you need great players, first and foremost (laughing). When you think about it… Can’t win without them. But yeah you need to identify a core. We believe we have some real good young players. Some of our best players are only 23 years old. For sure you have your core. Obviously it starts with goaltending, you need a great goaltender and then throughout. You build with your D and up the middle. And you fill your pieces in outside of them. Once you have your core you try and build with your core, keep you core together and work around that. For the most part that’s what all the championship teams have. And a great coach.
On if this is the changing of the guard. And Pierre Lacroix’s legacy:
KROENKE: Pierre’s legacy is one of many great things. I think that he was the top executive in sports for a number of years based on the product that he was continually putting on the ice. I have a great relationship with Pierre. He’s helped lay the foundation of what we’re trying to do going forward. Pierre has played a major role in our lives thus far.
SAKIC: Pierre for me obviously when he came in I was captain of Quebec in our last year there. The one thing he brought in right way was a winning attitude. That’s all that our goal was. On this side he’s definitely helped me out the last couple of years. Showed me the ropes. Showed me how he did things with his vision. He was kind of grooming me to take this role at some point so I really have to thank him. I’m really appreciative of what he did for me.
SHERMAN: His legacy will certainly speak for itself for many, many years to come. When you look at the impact the Avalanche have had on this state and this community. When you see youth hockey today. When you see the growth of hockey in general in the state of Colorado, I think you can definitely draw a parallel to Pierre Lacroix and the Colorado Avalanche. And that in itself will be a legacy that will live on for many, many years, decades.
On the Avalanche’s fan base and what Kroenke is going to do to embrace the fans:
KROENKE: Win… I think that’s the simple answer…. is win. I think that the easiest way to a fan base’s heart is to start winning. We’re supremely confident in the young players that we’ve amassed thus far and I’m excited to see what these two guys can do with the group going forward that we already have and continue building on that. I’m going to be engaging fan in news ways as well with these new responsibilities. I look forward to interacting with any and all of them when the time comes. Like I said it’s a proud franchise, the rules have changed significantly since the glory days and our last Cup in ‘01. We’re embracing those rules going forward and we’re really excited.