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Avalanche retire two-time Cup winner Foote's No. 52

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Adam Foote joined an exclusive club Saturday night when his No. 52 jersey was retired and raised to the Pepsi Center rafters in a 30-minute ceremony before the Colorado Avalanche faced the Montreal Canadiens.

Foote later said how appropriate it seemed that a banner holding the former Avalanche defenseman's digits would hang next to those belonging to Ray Bourque, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic -- all key members of the team's Stanley Cup championship days.

"It's the biggest honor," Foote said after being honored at center ice with his wife, Jennifer, and their two sons, Cal and Nolan. "When these guys played, I looked up to them. I enjoyed watching these guys play. Every night I was a big fan of those guys. When you win a championship you have a special bond with those guys forever.

"All of us held each other accountable when we needed it. You can't win a championship without that. We'll all hold a special bond forever. I was so glad and happy that my number is up there beside theirs."

Foote retired two years ago following a 19-season NHL career that included parts of 17 seasons with the Quebec Nordiques/Avalanche franchise and parts of three with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"When they first told me about this, I had to pinch myself," he said. "Then when they said Hockey Night in Canada and Montreal ... I mean, the Montreal Canadiens, an Original Six team. We had our battles with them and Patrick and Mike Keane, two guys I really respected as leaders. They came to our team and helped us win. So I found it to be fitting and ironic tonight."

Foote said he was "shocked" when four former defensive teammates -- Bourque, Randy Velischek, Alexei Gusarov and Ryan Wilson -- carried his banner onto the ice before it was lifted to the rafters.

Former teammates Forsberg, Milan Hejduk Rick Berry and Scott Parker also attended.

Foote received a standing ovation when he was introduced by Sakic, who is now Colorado's executive vice president of hockey operations. Sakic said Foote "is and always will be a Colorado Avalanche at heart, and we want our players to play with the same passion and commitment as he did."

Foote was presented with two paintings, one of himself in an Avalanche uniform and the other of an outdoor rink with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

Foote became emotional near the end of his speech when he thanked his parents, who attended along with his two sisters and several relatives and friends. He drew a loud ovation from the crowd when he thanked the fans for providing energy to the Avalanche during games, "especially when we kicked Detroit's (butt)," he said.

Though Foote said he didn't care for the number he was issued as a rookie with the Nordiques, his father reminded him that he wore No. 2 as a youth and No. 5 in junior.

"He said they were really lucky numbers and to keep them," Foote said. "I guess they turned out to be lucky numbers after all."

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