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As retirement nears, Foote draws plenty of praise

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Adam Foote isn't with the Colorado Avalanche in Dallas for their game Thursday night with the Stars, but the veteran defenseman's presence is definitely being felt with his impending retirement announcement Friday morning in Denver.

Foote is expected to retire after a stellar 19-year run in the NHL where he played on a pair of Stanley Cup-winning clubs in Colorado and earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest defensemen in the League.

He's a player that Dallas coach Marc Crawford knows very well from coaching him in Quebec and Colorado for four seasons (1994-98).

"I just so appreciated how hard Adam played," Crawford said. "He was a huge part of our shutdown defense pair of him and [Alexei] Gusarov. They could play against anybody. What I always liked about Adam was his foot speed. He could stay with anybody. As the years have waned on, it's been encouraging to see his competitiveness has remained the same."

That immense respect for their current teammate is echoed throughout the Avalanche dressing room.

"He's had a hell of a career, a huge career. He accomplished everything he ever wanted," Colorado winger Milan Hejduk said. "He won the Olympics, won a couple of Cups. There's not much more to ask for. At some point it's got to end, and I guess it's time."

Hejduk also has the unique perspective of being both Foote's teammate and facing off against him as an opposing player.

"On the ice, he was really competitive," he said. "He was very tough to play against. I remember in the old days, he was just abusing guys. It was definitely not fun to play against him, especially in the playoffs. He was a huge part of this club and a great guy off the ice -- lots of fun to be around. He'll be missed."

There might not be a player on the Avalanche who knows him better than second-year center Matt Duchene, who has been living in Foote's basement since coming into the League.

"He's been huge. He's in a group of three or four people that have been huge in my career. I can't thank him enough for letting me live with him," Duchene said. "He was hard on me a lot of times, but it was always for my own good. It was good to play with him. Anytime anyone gets to play with a guy like that, you're going to learn something."

Anytime a club loses its captain -- especially an indispensable veteran guy like Foote has been for Colorado during his long run there -- it is a big loss.

"As a head coach in this League, he was the only captain that I've had," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I thought that Adam demonstrated really good leadership qualities. He was a good extension of the coaching staff in what we wanted to implement. There's no question that in his day, he would certainly be regarded as one of the better shutdown defensemen in the League for a long time. He had an outstanding career. There's really not much else to say."

Foote has been out with a leg injury since March 16. Besides missing the game in Dallas, he has also been ruled out for Friday night's matchup with the Stars at the Pepsi Center. The hope is that he'll be ready to go for the season finale Sunday against Edmonton.

"I'm hoping that he can play Sunday. That's the goal right now," Sacco said. "He won't play tomorrow but hopefully, he'll be ready to go on Sunday. We'll know more when we get back tomorrow and on Sunday."

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