The 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame induction is Nov. 13. This class includes Henrik Lundqvist, Tom Barrasso, Pierre Turgeon, Mike Vernon, Caroline Ouellette, Ken Hitchcock and Pierre Lacroix. Here staff writer Derek Van Diest profiles Lacroix.

Pierre Lacroix left a lasting impression during his time in the NHL and is well deserving of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame according to those who knew him well.

A player agent turned general manager, Lacroix was the architect of two Stanley Cup championship teams with the Colorado Avalanche, building a powerhouse in the mid-1990s that stayed near the top of the NHL standings for over a decade.

Lacroix's impact in Colorado is still being felt today and he will be inducted posthumously into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builder Category. Lacroix died on Dec. 13, 2020, at the age of 72, and is survived by his wife Colombe, and sons Eric, who played in the NHL, and Martin.

"I think his record speaks for itself," former Avalanche captain and current president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said. "He came into a young team learning how to win and takes over. I remember the first phone call I had with him when he was hired as general manager, and you could just tell his passion and his commitment and his whole goal was winning, and it was so believable and everything he said he backed up with the things he did."

Lacroix began his hockey career as a player agent, starting his own agency, Jandec Inc., which focused on young talent in Quebec. Goalies Patrick Roy, Jocelyn Thibault and forward Alexandre Daigle were among some of his high-profile clients.

A native of Montreal, Quebec, Lacroix ran the agency for two decades before he was hired to take over the Quebec Nordiques, who featured a young and talented roster led by Sakic. The Nordiques had rebuilt through the NHL Draft and were ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup when Lacroix was brought on board in May 1994, replacing Pierre Page.

Although they won the Presidents' Trophy in 1994-95 for having the best record in the NHL, the Nordiques were upset in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the New York Rangers in six games and relocated to Denver the following season.

Lacroix moved with the organization and instilled a family-orientated culture with the Avalanche, who won the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver in 1996.

"I think one of the most impressive things about him is that it was family, and he wanted a family environment. He wanted to have the chemistry and the close relationships in the locker room and with the players and the wives," Sakic said. "He was able to separate that when it was time for a business decision on what was best for the team. He would always say, 'Do what's best for the logo,' and that's what he did. You would think that with the close-knit group that we had and with us having that family environment, it would be hard to do, but he was able to separate those, and he was tremendous guy."

Eric Lacroix on his father being elected to HOF

Lacroix made a number of key trades to help the Avalanche get over the top in 1995-96, the biggest acquiring Roy from the Montreal Canadiens after the star goaltender had a falling out with coach Mario Tremblay. It all came to a head Dec. 2, 1995, when Roy allowed nine goals in an 11-1 loss against the Detroit Red Wings. Feeling he had been left on the ice to be humiliated, after he was eventually pulled, Roy walked past Trembly to Canadiens president Ronald Corey sitting behind the bench and told him it would be his last game in Montreal.

Four days later, Roy was a member of the Avalanche with Lacroix pulling off a blockbuster trade, which also included Canadiens captain Mike Keane, in exchange for goalie Jocelyn Thibault, forwards Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.

"In Quebec, we never traded with Montreal, and we talked to Serge Savard who started that year as the Montreal GM and I think maybe Serge knew he was going to have to consider it," said former Avalanche coach Marc Crawford, who is now coaching the ZSC Lions of the National League in Switzerland. "They had come close, and Pierre had come talked to me about possibly getting Patrick. Then when the incident happened in December of 1995, where he was kept in the net for all those goals and then he had that moment after he was pulled, it wasn't but five seconds after it happened that Pierre called me and he says, 'We have to get him.'

"And when he put his mind to something, he usually made it happen. I remember we had a meeting the next day with all the coaches and a couple of the scouts and we all talked about it and the prevailing thought was to do anything to get him. Pierre ends up making an outstanding trade and Patrick was a great part of putting our team in a position to be ready to win."

Roy, Keane and forward Claude Lemieux, who was also acquired by Lacroix in a three-team trade with the New Jersey Devils that season, helped Colorado achieve the ultimate goal, winning the Stanley Cup by sweeping the Florida Panthers in the Final.

Prior to getting to the Final, Colorado had to get past the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Final, which was the first of five epic playoff series between the two teams over the next seven seasons.

"There was a real rivalry between the two of us," said Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland, who was GM of the Red Wings at the time. "I remember when we beat them in '02 in our building in Game 7 -- they were up 3-2 in the series -- and [Lacroix] came down and came right into our locker room and congratulated me and congratulated our coaching staff on winning the series. Given the emotion of the two teams that had gone on over the previous five or six years, that took a ton of class in my opinion."

As competitive as he was, Lacroix had the reputation around the League as a humble winner and a gracious loser.

"In 2004-05 where there was a work stoppage, he invited about eight managers down to Vegas and we spent three or four days there," Holland said. "He hosted us at his house one night and we played some golf and talked hockey and we exchanged ideas of what we thought would be in the best interests of the game. I really got to know him really well from 2001 or 2002 until he was no longer the general manager."

Lacroix was able to keep the Avalanche near the top of the standings during his tenure through a number of high-profile acquisitions. He made deals to bring future Hall of Fame defensemen Ray Bourque and Rob Blake to Colorado and won a second Stanley Cup in 2001.

"It was all about character and he wasn't afraid to make a mistake and pull the trigger on things," Sakic said. "That's the one thing about Pierre. It's not always easy to just come up with a plan and pull the trigger, especially when you're making huge acquisitions, because sometimes you don't know how they're going to turn out. If he believed that's what it took to help your team win, he was going to pull the trigger.

"We won nine straight division championships and in that seven-year run, we had two Stanley Cups and then four other conference finals appearances. It was a pretty good run and each year, he never got satisfied. Each year, if he thought there was an opportunity to make a splash and try to put the team over the top, he would do it."

Ken Hitchcock and Pierre Lacroix make Hall of Fame

While Lacroix was successful putting winning teams on the ice, it was the relationships off it which stood out to those who knew him best. Lacroix created an atmosphere in Colorado, which made everyone feel welcome and it brought the team closer together.

"What I loved about Pierre is that he translated that into how the team was. He really believed the team was a big family and he used to call himself 'Uncle Pete', he was everybody's uncle," Crawford said. "He was a deeply personable man and his relationships with the people that he worked with and he found special were really important to him. He probably went further than most people that I know in hockey in terms of how close he wanted to be. I got my job honestly because I coached his son in the American League and he liked how I was developing his son. I had to interview and obviously show that I was ready to coach in the National Hockey League, but the big thing for me is that I got to know him personally while I was coaching his son."

On May 12, 2006, Lacroix stepped down as GM to focus on his role as team president, a title he held until May 10, 2013, when he resigned and became as an adviser.

"When I retired (in 2009), I took a couple of years off and Pierre is the one who invited me to get back in the business side and come into the office and I started as an adviser and learned a lot from Pierre," Sakic said. "It's a little different as a player than when you're working with someone in the office to see how he goes about his business. You pick up on pointers and he certainly [gave] back and [gave] advice on different situations on how we'd handle things. I learned a lot from him and he made me want to get back in the game."

Lacroix left behind a lasting legacy with the Avalanche. He was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and will forever be enshrined in the NHL with his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"I believe he is well deserving of the Hall of Fame induction," Crawford said. "I'm sure if Pierre were alive, he would have absolutely loved the ceremony and he would have made it all about family. That's what Pierre was all about. He loved his family, he loved his two boys, Eric and Martin, he loved his wife Colombe, that was unwavering and it was always the biggest part about him."

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