Pierre Lacroix, who won the Stanley Cup twice as general manager of the Colorado Avalanche, died Sunday. He was 72.
"It is with great sadness that the Colorado Avalanche organization has learned of the passing of Pierre Lacroix," the Avalanche said in a statement. "Pierre was the architect of the Avalanche's two Stanley Cup championships, which included the city of Denver's first major sports championship in 1996. Pierre was instrumental in not only the team's on-ice success but also building the Avalanche brand into what it is today. His legacy reaches far beyond the NHL level and his impact can be felt throughout all of youth hockey in the Rocky Mountain region. Our thoughts are with the Lacroix family during this difficult time, his wife, Colombe, his sons Martin and Eric, and his three grandchildren."
Hired by the Quebec Nordiques on May 24, 1994, Lacroix continued in his role as general manager when the team moved to Colorado before the 1995-96 season. Under his leadership, the Nordiques/Avalanche finished first in their division in his first nine seasons as GM and qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his 11 seasons, winning the Cup in 1996 and 2001.
"It is a sad day for the Avalanche organization and its fans," said Colorado general manager Joe Sakic, who played on those championship teams. "Pierre was a visionary and a true leader. From the moment he took over as GM, he established a winning culture that spread throughout the organization. As players, we knew he would do everything he could to help the team achieve that goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup. Pierre was instrumental in not only building the Avalanche into a championship team, but also in the growth of hockey in Colorado. His footprint is everywhere in this hockey community.
"Pierre is someone I trusted very much right from the first time I met him. I'll always remember him as not only a great GM, but an even better person. He always treated everyone like family, and he wanted us players to have that same mentality. He was a great example to all of us. Pierre was a mentor to me and someone I learned a lot about the business of hockey from. We as an organization and myself personally, will really miss him. On behalf of the Avalanche organization, we are sending our thoughts to Coco, Martin, Eric and the entire Lacroix family."
Lacroix's tenure was also highlighted by blockbuster trades made to acquire future Hockey Hall of Famers Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque and Rob Blake. Roy arrived from the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 6, 1995 and the goalie was a member of each championship team for the Avalanche. Bourque was acquired from the Boston Bruins on March 6, 2000 and Blake was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21, 2001. The defensemen helped Colorado win the Stanley Cup in 2001.
"Our hearts are heavy today as we say goodbye to a great friend, mentor and leader," Bourque said in a tweet. "Pierre Lacroix gave me the opportunity to live my ultimate dream of winning a Stanley Cup. I will be forever grateful for his confidence in me, his friendship, guidance and influence."
Lacroix also served as team president until 2013. Prior to his successful run as general manager, he was an NHL player agent, and Roy was one of his clients.
"Pierre Lacroix's eye for talent, appreciation for elite-level athletes and fearlessness in pulling off the big trade made him one of the most successful team builders in recent NHL history," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Fiercely competitive and personally engaging, he was highly regarded by his fellow General Managers and his voice was respected throughout the League.
"Following a successful career as a player agent, Lacroix became President and General Manager of the Quebec Nordiques in 1994, shepherded the team's relocation the following year and established the Colorado Avalanche as a model franchise while re-establishing the NHL in Denver.
"The teams Lacroix built won nine division titles in his first nine seasons as a general manager and captured the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001. Having represented such superstar Quebec players as Patrick Roy and Mike Bossy as an agent, Lacroix traded for Roy, Ray Bourque and Rob Blake as a GM to complete Avalanche teams with young mainstays such as Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, turning them into champions. The National Hockey League mourns his passing and sends our condolences to his wife, Colombe, their sons, Martin and Eric, and the entire Lacroix family."
Avalanche owner E. Stanley Kroenke said that Lacroix was a "legend" for all he accomplished during his time with Colorado.
"Pierre was truly a legend and one of the greatest executives in sports," Kroenke said. "He had a 'team first' mentality that valued players and staff equally and his winning attitude was immediately evident to our family when we acquired the Avalanche in 2000. Denver is considered one of the world's towering sports cities and that would be impossible without Pierre's many contributions, including leading the Avs to Colorado's first major professional championship with the 1996 Stanley Cup title.
"Pierre had a unique zest for life that uplifted anyone who knew him. He treated everyone like they were a part of his family and was always available to anyone who needed his guidance. We will miss him greatly. On behalf of my family, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and the Avalanche organization, we extend our sincerest condolences to Coco, Martin and Eric, and Pierre's three grandchildren."