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NHL Centennial Fan Arena Alumni Q&A

Hejduk, Klee and Turgeon answered fan questions on Saturday

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

As part of the NHL Centennial Fan Arena experience held outside Pepsi Center on Saturday, Colorado Avalanche alumni Milan Hejduk, Ken Klee and Pierre Turgeon signed autographs for fans attendance before holding a question and answer session, which was presented by Coors Light.

Hejduk spent 14 seasons wearing the Avalanche sweater, including during the 2000-01 campaign in which the club won its second Stanley Cup championship. A former captain of the team, Hejduk amassed 805 points (375 goals, 430 assists) in 1,020 games for the franchise that selected him in the fourth round (87th overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. He added 76 points (34 goals, 42 assists) in 112 playoff contests, including a career-high 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) during the 2000-01 Cup run.

Klee spent 14 seasons in the NHL, including nine years with the Washington Capitals. He joined Colorado for the 2006-07 campaign, defending the blue line for 81 games during his stint with the squad. He registered 195 points (55 goals, 140 assists) in 934 games in all, including 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) with the Avs. Klee Ken served as the head coach of U.S. Women's National Team and managed the bench for the Foothills Flyers peewee team, which represented the Avalanche this year at the 2017 Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament.

Turgeon concluded his storied career with the Avalanche after seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars. The first-overall selection in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Turgeon became the 34th player in league history to record 500 goals when he did it with the Avs in 2005. He finished his playing days with 1,327 points (515 goals, 812 assists) in 1,294 games.

Hosted by Altitude TV personality Lauren Gardner, the Q&A portion of the event featured a mixture of fan questions and those asked by Gardner herself, as she had spent time surveying the crowd for their input.

 

Gardner: What was your best memory while playing here with Colorado?

Hejduk: Well my best memory was definitely 2001, the Stanley Cup year. When we won the Cup, it was definitely the special moment. The parade in the city, I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of people were involved and cheering. It was a really special moment, and something I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Klee: I think my best moment as an Avalanche was a chance for me to get home and play. I've had a house here since 1998, and I got to watch the Stanley Cup teams here when I would come back in the summer. It was certainly an honor to get to play here, where I call home, and obviously playing with Pierre Turgeon, Milan Hejduk, Joe Sakic, lots of great players. So it was certainly a great experience.

Turgeon: My experience here was the best. The thing that I remember was against San Jose, getting my 500th goal here. Playing for the Avalanche at the same time, it was something that I'll remember obviously for the rest of my life.
 

Video: A look at the NHL Centennial Fan Arena

 
Gardner: Milan, how often do you go back to the Czech Republic and do you miss it?

Hejduk: We go there every summer. We spend about two months there. We have a house there, a place where we can stay. It's been kind of tradition since I came to Denver in the 1998-99 season. So it's been a while. We kind of like it. It's not like we miss it totally, but it's a nice change. We spend 10 months a year here, and a couple months in Europe.

 
Gardner: This is for you, Ken. Do you still like to fish and hunt?

Klee: Absolutely, I do. This year I got quite a treat. I've been coaching the National Women's Team for the last couple years, and I have a girl there on the team from Alaska and her father invited me to come up and moose hunt. So I had the honor to get up there and shoot a moose this year, which was an unbelievable experience. If anyone has the chance to go moose hunting, I recommend it highly. It was really awesome.

 
Gardner: Pierre, this one is for you. You played for six teams, you were a five-time All-Star. Who was your best teammate over the course of your career?

Turgeon: That's a tough one. I got to say there's a couple, but it's hard to pick one. Players I've played with, obviously Brett Hull was one of the best players--best one-timer, that he had, in the NHL. But I got to say, Joe Sakic is a first-class guy. I was glad that I was able to play with him my last couple years, and as a hockey player I have a lot of respect. We got drafted the same year in 1987, but being able to play with Joe was something very unique, special, and I really enjoyed playing. I like him as a human being. What a great, first-class guy.

 
Gardner: Back to you Hejduk… What did it feel like to take the ice in the third period of the Stanley Cup Final against New Jersey?

Hejduk: So third period, Game 7. Definitely a special moment. Unbelievable atmosphere. Obviously, the best game I ever played. I think at that time we were up 3-1. I don't know, like 10 minutes to go and 3-1, and I was kind of looking at the clock. It was just barely moving, really. I tried to kind of push it to the end line, the finish line, and what happened in the end, it was unbelievable. The atmosphere, the crowd was unbelievable. I hope we'll experience it again at some point, obviously not this year but hopefully in the years to come.

 
Gardner: Ken, this one is for you… You talked about your coaching career. Obviously you had an amazing playing career in the National Hockey League. How do those two things compare, and how can you draw off of what you did as a player now as a coach?

Klee: I think experience definitely plays a lot into it, and as a player you always love to play for what they call a player's coach--a coach who puts players first and puts all their needs ahead of everyone. Coaching today to me is kind of like you have 20 teams of one, and as a long as every player on your team feels like they're the most important thing and you're helping them to get better, then I think your team will move along the same way. So that's kind of the philosophy I've followed, and it seems to be working pretty well so far.
 

GALLERY: See the best photos from the NHL Centennial Fan Arena stop
 
Gardner: Pierre, this one is for you… How did playing for the Colorado Avalanche compare to the other organizations that you played for?

Turgeon: I had a lot of great moments in every city or every team that I played for. So playing here, it was my last couple years. I had some injuries. It was hard to be a part of the team my last year, but again, coming back to getting my 500th goal here. [It was] obviously the icing on the cake here, and being part of the community here, we love it so much we decided to make this home. We love being in Denver. We love the people. We love the crowd, and we love the mountains, obviously. Two hours to the mountains, which is awesome. Now we're here and we made this home as a family, and we enjoy the time here.

 
Gardner: This is for all three of you guys. How have you seen the game evolve since you've retired, and what kind of difficulties do you think you would face just given all the recent rule changes?

Hejduk: Well the game, it's changed drastically. It's a young guy's game. The speed and the talent and the skill of the players, it's incredible. I think the game is in the best shape it's ever been. Obviously, the GM's, they just had the meetings in Florida. They're trying to figure out how to help the offense, but for me personally, the game would be too fast right now. Guys are really quick and in unbelievable shape. Obviously, the game is in great shape right now.

Klee: I agree. I think how young the players are and how great they are when they come out, that's the biggest difference now. Occasionally, it used to be one or two 19 or 20 year olds who could come in and make an impact, but now you look across the league at just how many great young players there are on every team. It's really exciting I think for the the game.

Turgeon: (To Hejduk) Don't tell me you wouldn't be able to play in this time right now.

So the biggest difference… so I'm going to go into detail here a little bit. In the early 1990's, the 1-2-2 came in, and that was all jamming the neutral zone and taking away the flow. In the early 90's, you were able to put your stick around someone's waist and really grab someone and really slow down the game in the neutral zone. So the change they did in the early 2000's, they actually took away the red line. Maybe earlier than this, the red line was out, and then you weren't able to grab and put your stick around someone's waist.

So obviously, you have a lot of skill right now coming into the game, and you could be a smaller player and you're able to play and fly in the neutral zone. You see a lot of back pass, drop pass they call it, when you're standing at the blue line, and a lot of people are skating with speed. You can't grab anyone, so there's a lot of flow in the game, I feel like--even if the 1-2-2 is still there, if that makes sense… So the game I think, right now the way we look at the game, it's fun to watch. I love seeing speed, I love seeing skill, and I think they work on it all the time, to improve the game, but I love watching the games today. There's no doubt about that.

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