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Retiring Foote reflects, ready to play one more

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche captain Adam Foote announced his retirement Friday morning, but the 39-year-old defenseman isn't quite ready to put the finishing touches on a 19-season NHL career.

Foote, who will sit out his 12th consecutive game Friday night against Dallas because of an ankle injury, plans to put on his No. 52 sweater one last time Sunday when the Avalanche close out the regular season against Edmonton at the Pepsi Center.

"I bled burgundy and blue, and it's great that I can retire today in an Avs uniform," Foote said during a news conference at the Blue Sky Grill inside the arena.

Foote's wife, Jennifer, and their two sons, Callan and Nolan, were among those in attendance, along with his parents, Avalanche management and coaches, the entire team, former captain Joe Sakic and Stars coach Marc Crawford, who was Foote's coach in Quebec and in Colorado.

"While we have two games left, I thought it was important to address everyone (and announce) that this would be my last season, and I want to thank the organization for allowing me to say goodbye in this unique way," said Foote, who succeeded Sakic as captain before the 2009-10 season. "At the start of the season I was never 100 percent certain that this would be my last (season), but after 20 years in the NHL, retirement was obviously a realistic possibility, and in discussing it with my family this year, we felt this was the right time to retire."

"Although the last two months have been tough on this team and our fans, and we have gone through some struggles as a young group and with our injuries, I just wanted to try -- and I did -- enjoy my last season as an active NHL player." -- Adam Foote

Limited to 46 games this season because of the ankle injury and an earlier concussion, Foote has 8 assists, a minus-9 rating and 33 penalty minutes.

It's been a disappointing season for the Avalanche, who have a 29-43-8 record and are in 29th place in the overall standings one season after earning a playoff berth with 43 wins and a second-place finish in the Northwest Division.

"Although the last two months have been tough on this team and our fans, and we have gone through some struggles as a young group and with our injuries, I just wanted to try -- and I did -- enjoy my last season as an active NHL player," Foote said.

Foote believes it's important for him to suit up one last time Sunday in what would otherwise be a meaningless game.

"Unfortunately, my injury that happened three weeks ago is probably worse than I thought it was at first," said Foote, who was hurt in a March 16 game in Vancouver. "I don't know what I'm going to be able to do out there. I'm going to dress and see what happens with the ankle. I wish I could be with the boys now. A lot of the guys are dropping down. We've had so many injuries this year.

"I  think it'll be special and I know the guys are OK with it if I can come in and give what I can and say goodbye to the fans and have one last good feeling in the Pepsi Center."

Foote is certain to receive a rousing ovation from the fans. A 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, he has been a shutdown defenseman since joining the Quebec Nordiques in 1991-92 and was the heart and soul of the Avalanche teams that captured Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001.

"You had the whole package with Adam," said Sakic, who retired after the 2008-09 season and has joined the Avalanche front office as an advisor. "He was a great leader off the ice and when he played the way he did, how hard he played every single game, in practice how hard he worked, it's easy to be a great leader in the dressing room and to be demanding because he was the perfect example for all the players. Everybody wanted to work as hard as him.

"I bet you can go around and ask any player when (Foote) was young, even now, he was one of the toughest players you'd ever have to play against. We were so lucky to have him on our team. Who was the one guy you had to watch on the other team? 'Here you go, Adam,' and he made it so difficult on him. And with his leadership in the dressing room, you can't replace guys like that."

Foote waged plenty of battles with Detroit forward Brendan Shanahan when the Avalanche and Red Wings were involved in their frequently bloody rivalry during the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

"The energy," Foote said of the fierce competition. "That was the fans' Stanley Cup. Both cities, it was their game. Just like when I started, it was Montreal-Quebec. I learned quickly how huge that was in the province of Quebec.

"I think there will always be a little hostility between Shanahan and myself, and the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. There were two great teams that had one goal in mind, and that's to win the Stanley Cup. They were at the top of their game, at a high level, and so were we, and it was a battle."

A second-round pick (No. 22) of Quebec in the 1989 Entry Draft, Foote has spent 17 of his 19 seasons with the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise. He signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent on Aug. 2, 2005 and was traded back to the Avalanche on Feb. 26, 2008.

Foote has 66 goals, 242 assists, a plus-99 rating and 1,534 penalty minutes in 1,153 NHL games. He has seven goals, 35 assists and 298 penalty minutes in 170 playoff games. Foote is retiring as the second-highest scoring defenseman in Avalanche/Nordiques history with 259 points (56 goals, 203 assists) in 966 games.

The Toronto native represented Canada in three Olympics and won a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. He also helped Canada win gold at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

"In Canada, it's every boy's dream, or a lot of boys, to play one game in the NHL," Foote said. "That was my dream, day in and day out, to play in this great League. After 20 years and over 1,000 games, I can't believe how fortunate it's been for me."

Foote will coach his sons next season for the Colorado Thunderbirds 13-and-under triple-A squad, but it may take him a while to adjust to normal family life.

"It's going to be strange that I have to take out the garbage every night now," a joking Foote said. "I'm really looking forward to coaching my kids. I'm so excited about it. I think it's important to heal mentally and physically, to get away from the game a little bit, take a step back and enjoy things with my family."

When asked how he wants to be remembered, Foote quipped: "Unfortunately they'll probably remember my nose."

He added: "I just want to be remembered as a good teammate and someone who competed at a high level every night and tried to give it his all."

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