First of all, welcome everybody. We’re very excited that Peter Forsberg has agreed to come back to the first organization that he played for in the NHL and where he won two Stanley Cups. I can tell you for a fact that I’ve spoken to our coaching staff, captain and some of our players, and they are really excited about this news. I understand that Peter has worked extremely hard on and off the ice in order to be able make this decision today. We all understand that there is still a risk factor, but we are willing to take that risk, especially when we don’t have to give an asset to acquire him. We believe that Peter can still be a premier player in this league and hopefully everything will work out great. His addition should compliment our roster and bring our team to an even higher competitive level. Many NHL teams were trying to sign him, and we are very excited that he decided to come back with us, the Avalanche. Thank you.
Thank you Francois. Now I will let Peter say a few words. Go ahead Peter.
Hi everybody, and welcome to this conference call. I’m very excited to come back to Colorado. It’s been a few years and it’s been a long time this year for me to decide if I could come back and play in the NHL and for Colorado. I’m really happy we’re at this point, and like Francois said, there’s still a little risk, but we’re both willing to take it. I think it’s going to be fine and I’m excited to come back and play real soon. I can’t say anything else; I’m really excited to come back and meet the guys and start practicing to see if I can get back as soon as I can.
Thank you Peter. We are now ready to take your questions. One bit of important information: Our head coach, Joel Quenneville, is with us on the call. If you have any questions for him, you can go ahead and ask him a question.
Peter, can you talk a little bit about why you decided that Colorado was the best fit. Obviously, you had a lot of options.
Forsberg: Well, obviously you know I had been there for a long time and I had such a good time there. The years I spent in Denver, we always had great teams, so I had great success there and I thought I played really well. I wanted to come to a familiar place too. Since I’ve been going through this, I wanted to come back to Denver. I know everybody from the coaching staff and the management and they’re all great people. So that’s one of the reasons. I feel comfortable going back there to help the team make the playoffs and go as far as we can go.
Joel, could you talk a little about how you think you’ll use Peter with the lineup you have?
Joel Quenneville: We’ve had a lot of changes in our lineup in the last week. Welcoming Peter back gives you a lot of versatility, a lot of options. I think instantly our power play has improved, so we’ve got a lot of options. I know in the last three or four games we’ve changed our lines, with Peter just coming back a couple of games ago, Paul coming back…when I say Peter I mean Paul [chuckles]. Everybody gets the Stastny’s mixed up. Now that we got Peter, I have to make sure I get that correct. And with Joe just coming back last game and Peter coming in a little bit here, we’ll see when we’re faced with all the pieces at the same time, but certainly we’ve got six, seven, eight options up front; whether he plays with Joe, whether he plays with Paul, certainly those are probably going to be the fits.
Don [Baizley] issued a statement, I guess, through you last week saying it was unlikely that you’d come back this year. Can you talk a little about why you changed your mind?
Forsberg: Well, it’s better that we can out with that statement, because I always wanted to be honest with the teams that I was talking to and not to make any false…saying that I was coming back. I wanted to be honest with the teams and say if you want to go in a different direction, please do, and don’t wait for me. Make your moves, if you want to do something at the trade deadline, go ahead and do it. So we decided to come out and say that to the teams, because I wanted to be honest with the teams coming down the stretch. I thought it would be better for me to say that and then come back, if I was going to come back with a team, than to say I was going to come back and make someone disappointed. I didn’t suffer any setbacks or anything like that. I wasn’t sure then that I wanted to come back and I wanted to take an extra week. When we set up the plan a long time ago, I said to Don that I wanted to make up my mind one week before, so that’s what we had in our mindset last Monday; that I was going to make a decision. But I couldn’t make a decision. That’s why we called all the GMs and said that no decision could be made right now, so go ahead and do what you have to do to strengthen your team right before the trading deadline. I didn’t want to be a burden, and that’s kind of the reason we came out and said that. I thought it was better to do it that way. Then obviously everybody blew it up, and they translated from English to Swedish, and the Swedish media made it out that I was going to give up. I came out and said ‘no’ the next day. I had to come out and confirm that I wasn’t giving up. I was still progressing, I just wanted another couple of days to make sure that I was planning to go back and play.
Did you contact the Avalanche, and when did this all come down?
Forsberg: Well, I’m not going to get into that exactly. You can ask Francois if he wants. It’s been very short notice though. It worked out very, very fast, so it wasn’t too long ago. Like I said, I wanted to make sure I was ready to go back and play and take my time to really be sure I could go back and play.
Francois, can you address that as to when this all came down?
Giguere: It was over the weekend. I’m the one that contacted Don. All along, I thought it was important for Peter that if he was going to come back, we would be the best fit. I thought part of it was that we offer the smallest risk, because he established such a great legacy here that no matter what happens moving forward, that legacy is going to stand and be something that is outstanding. I knew the standards that Peter sets for himself, and if Peter today is saying that he feels comfortable, that he can come back and play, then there is no doubt in my mind that he can come back and will be successful. He said, ‘You have to understand, there’s a risk,’ and I said that I’m willing to assume the risk. I know the standards that Peter sets for himself and I think that helped me get to a comfort level and also for our ownership to get to the comfort level to make this commitment. We’re excited for our fans about it.
When do you think you can play? What’s your mindset as far as getting back in North America and playing? Do you think it can be at the end of this road trip, or soon after?
Forsberg: I don’t think it’s going to be on this road trip. I’ve been skating with Modo back here, but I don’t know exactly when it’s going to be. I have to prove to Joel I can get in the lineup too. I’m just going to go over there, see when I can get over there and meet up with the team, and get back skating and then we’ll see. Whenever they think I can get back and play. I know there’s no timetable and no set exact game when I’m supposed to come back. I think when the coaching staff and when I’m ready to come back…I don’t know what exact date it’s going to be, but of course there’s not that many games left in the season. I’d like to get back as soon as I can.
That’s the one thing; there are not a lot of games left. Are you worried that you’re going to get ready to go and maybe there are five games to go and that’s it? I guess the risk is good enough for you to take, hey?
Forsberg: Well, Joel told me there is more than 19 games left [laughs]. I’m just joking. I’d like to get back as soon as I can, but like I said, there’s no timetable. Of course I know the situation. They’re a couple of points behind the playoffs, so it’s not like I’m going to come back and not try to get back in the lineup as soon as I can. But like I said, I need to get back and it’s going to be hard. I got to be honest with you, I don’t think I can get back and practice Friday then play Saturday…have one practice and go right back into the NHL. It’s going to be a little tough, I think. But I’m definitely aiming as soon as I can, there’s no doubt about that.
With the Avalanche legacy and Joe [Sakic] still being here, have you always felt like an Avalanche in certain respects…like this is your home? How does it feel to say that you are part of the Avalanche again?
Forsberg: It feels great. I know what happened last time. The Avalanche and the owners always wanted to have a good team and what happened is that I kind of got squeezed out there. But, to be honest, I can’t say anything else. We struggled in the playoffs last year but I thought Nashville had a good team; they’re good people over there. But Denver, I played there so long and know everybody and I kind of started my career with the franchise. It feels good to come back there and contribute again. I feel great coming back, I have to say that. Nothing bad about the other teams, because like I said I had good times there.
Where are you right now and when do you plan to physically join the Avalanche, even if you don’t play with them right away?
Forsberg: I’m in Sweden right now back in my hotel. I’m going to try to meet up with the team as soon as I possibly can. I don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, but we’re making plans so I can go over and meet the team right away.
Given that the statement last week probably scared away a couple of teams, in the end, was it just Colorado in the mix? Because we had heard Philadelphia for many weeks.
Forsberg: Well, I’m not going to go into whoever it was. I don’t do that. I’ve never done that before and don’t like to say that. Obviously some GMs come out and say it, and that’s totally up to them, but I’m not going to discuss if there was any other team that was close or not. I made a decision to go to Colorado and I’m very happy with it.
Francois, you talked about the risk at the top. Right now, you’re sitting four points out of a playoff spot, and you may end up spending some money just for a few weeks.
Giguere: At the end of the day, I feel like I needed to do what I had to do to help this team. That’s part of the commitment that I also made to Joe Sakic when Joe Sakic, two years ago, accepted to stay on board. You’re always trying to juggle improving the team and looking at the future, but we want to do as well as we can this year and anything I can kind of do to energize the team, I’m going to try to do it. And that’s what we did today by this announcement.
We read the reports of you working so hard to get back. What was the moment when you felt your foot could do it? Was it a single day or was there a period of time for you?
Forsberg: Well, I spoke to my doctor here. I’ve been seeing him more lately here and he gave me a very positive outlook. With him saying that and just how I’ve been progressing on the ice, I think that’s what made my decision. It hasn’t just been one day or nothing like that; it’s been a constant progress. It’s been a long struggle for me to be at this point and I’ve done a lot of things to the foot – a lot of off-ice things – but it wasn’t a specific day or anything like that. Things have been going better and better. People call me crazy, but I love to be back playing hockey. I miss playing hockey and it’s hard sitting on the side when I think I can go out and play, perform and do good. It’s been a tough time, but not a specific day or nothing like that, just constant progress.
A lot has been made of whether you’re 100% and if you wouldn’t come back if you felt you weren’t 100%. If you could put a number on it, where are you at in terms of being close to that magical 100%, and will you play if you’re not there?
Forsberg: No, I’m not going to play if I’m not 100%. I don’t want to do that…I don’t think anyone would play if they’re not 100%. I feel good, but it’s hard to tell. I’ve been practicing with the team here, but it’s a little different coming over there; it’s a little tougher. I can’t really tell you what number I’m at or anything like that. It’s hard for me to know, but like I said before, it’s a constant progress. I’m confident it’s going to be good.
I’m curious if any of your decision was based on getting on a team with a shot at a playoff run, or if it was more to prove that you could make it back?
Forsberg: If you look at the standings, I could have gone to a team that was higher in points. For me to come back to Colorado, it’s just so natural for me to do that. Like we talked about, I have a history there and it’s a great place to play. Definitely, our goal is to reach the Stanley Cup and come back to win. For me personally, it’s hard to say, but of course I wanted to go to a contender. That’s one thing I said before. I think the Avalanche has a good opportunity. There’s 19 games to go and a lot of points to play for, and I think we can make it over that line.
Have you watched enough of them to know that even four points back, you feel pretty good about a run for the Cup?
Forsberg: I definitely think so. If you look at the teams that made it to the finals the last couple of years…Edmonton did it and Calgary the year before…it’s all about getting together as a team to make a playoff run. The teams are so much closer now than they used to be when there was no salary cap. You get a guy hurt, or something like that, or somebody is playing unbelievable, you can make a run. I think teams have showed it lately the last couple of years. And if you look at the lineup that’s Joel’s got and the team the Avalanche has got, I think it’s a really good lineup. The last month and a half here, they’ve had three really good players hurt and they’re still in the hunt. I think when everybody gets back, hopefully we can show we have a really team and that we can go far.
Have you thought about what that reception is going to be like the first time you step onto Pepsi Center ice?
Forsberg: Of course, when you ride the bike and stuff like that you have to motivate yourself occasionally. I’ve been doing a lot of off-ice work. Of course I’ve been thinking if I go back to Colorado I’d like to have a really good game the first game back. It’s been helping me out and of course I’ve been thinking about that, so hopefully it will be very soon.
We’ve been hearing periodic reports about your problems with skates. Has that problem been solved?
Forsberg: It was never really the skate; it was just kind of the foot. The foot’s been the problem. I did have a problem with my foot and it’s been corrected. The skate –of course, everyone has custom skates in our league – there’s nothing really specific about it. I’ve got a wide foot, but it’s just the foot that was making a weird thing in the skate and it’s been corrected. That’s why I’m positive I can be able to come back and play at the level I want to play it. It’s not really a skate problem; it’s the foot that was the problem.
You mentioned that you kind of got squeezed out when the salary cap came down. Did you have to get over that? Was that an issue you had to get over emotionally?
Forsberg: I knew why it happened. The reason why it happened like it did was because the organization just wanted to win so badly. There were a few guys that had too much salary there, and I understood they had Sakic and Blake under contract, so there was no hard feelings from me ever. We went separate ways as good friends, so there were no hard feelings from my side at all.
Francois, the reports have said so consistently that if Peter was coming back, that he was probably coming back to Philadelphia. Did you ever buy those, or were you confident that if he did come back, he was going to come back to Colorado?
Giguere: I was confident that we had a lot to offer Peter, but it’s tough for me to say how that compared to Philadelphia. From everything I’ve heard, Peter enjoyed his stay in Philadelphia, made good friends, like the organization and all that. My focus was on selling Peter on the advantage of our city, our organization, and to let him know how much we wanted him and how much we felt he could contribute to the success of our team. Up until today, there was always doubt – first of all if he was going to come back and, secondly, where he was going to go – but I was thrilled that he finally decided this is where he wanted to go. All along I thought that was definitely the best decision, but I wasn’t sure if he agreed with that.
Do you have any plans for next season? Will you continue to play if you excel this season?
Forsberg: We’ve taken it one year at a time. It’s been a long time coming for me to get the foot to where it is today. Like we said before, we know it’s a little risk coming into this, but we’ll make a decision after the year. I always said if I’m playing hockey and everything goes well, I’d like to continue to play. I’m just going to take this year and make a decision after that. It’s always been like that for me the last couple of years and it’s still the same thing. That’s why I only signed a one-year deal too.
Did you ever allow yourself to think your career was over, or did you always believe that you would get to this point?
Forsberg: I never really wanted to believe that it was over. I thought it was a problem that could get solved; if I took my time and went to a doctor that really had the time for me – I’ve been seeing a Swedish doctor who really took his time to make sure he knew what was going on and what the foot was doing to be able to correct it. Of course I had my doubts occasionally when they couldn’t find the problem and no one could really find what was wrong with it. I don’t feel that old; I feel in good shape and everything, and it just felt like a little small problem that should be corrected. I never really wanted to give up, and people call me kind of crazy because I’ve been doing so many comebacks and things like that. But I love playing hockey and I feel like if I can solve this, I can play for a while. To answer your question, yes I thought about maybe my career was over, but I never really gave up the hope to come back and play though.
Joel, as a coach, when do you optimistically hope that you can have Peter on the ice and how many minutes do you see him getting?
Quenneville: We’re certainly excited to get him back as soon as possible. I think when he’s ready to play he’ll be in the lineup and we’ll look at all our options. I guess his ice time will be dictated on how he feels. Certainly you can use him in all situations; not only special teams but certainly quality minutes as well. There’s a lot of options to play him with up front. I think as an offensive team we improved in a lot of areas, but also Peter’s one of those guys that has a puck a lot, so I think he takes care of a lot of defensive responsibilities as well. We welcome having to sort those options out, so as soon as he’s ready to play, we can’t wait to get him in the lineup.
Francois, you decided to take the risk on Peter. What are your hopes for this to be longer than a 19-game process, plus playoffs? What hopes do you have that Peter Forsberg will be playing for the Avs not only this spring, but for years to come.
Giguere: To be honest, my focus is on the short term. I want Peter to have a great 19 games, and a great 30-40 with the playoffs. Our first goal is to get to the playoffs, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Peter is going to help us get there. I’m convinced if he does well and he’s feeling good, we’ll address the situation at that time.