A Series: Looking into Avalanche and Nordiques Player Numbers: Number 26

Stephane Yelle and Ray Bourque get together to discuss poutine - Brian Bahr, Getty

Only 5 players have worn #26 for the franchise, but all 5 are notable names (I am cheating slightly there, as you'll see in a second).

Pierre Lacroix - Okay, this isn't the President of the Avalanche, as we discussed yesterday. He's the winger who started out wearing #26 for the Nordiques. In his 2nd season, some guy from Czechoslovakia defected and signed with Quebec. He took 26, and Lacroix changed to #25.

Peter Stastny - I think most people have a passing familiarity with the story here. In 1980, he and his brother Anton - whom the Nordiques had drafted in 1979 - defected from Czechoslovakia and began tearing up the league. The 24-year old Stastny became the first rookie to score 100 points in the NHL and ultimately scored 100 in each of his first 6 seasons in Quebec. The following year, Marian joined them in Quebec allowing the three brothers to play on the same line. Peter spent 9 seasons in Quebec before being traded to New Jersey for Craig Wolanin and future considerations. Stastny spent 3 years in New Jersey and a couple more with St Louis before hanging up his skates. The Nordiques retired his #26 and in 1998, he and former teammate Michel Goulet entered the Hall of Fame. His gaudy numbers with Quebec: 737 games, 380 goals, 668 assists, -11 and 687 penalty minutes. He's one of only two players with 1,000 points for the Nordiques / Avalanche (the other, of course, being Super Joe).

Stephane Yelle - On May 24, 1994, the Nordiques named former agent Pierre Lacroix as GM replacing Pierre Page. A week later, Lacroix presided over his first NHL draft. It wasn't great on the top end - Wade Belak, Jeff Kealty and Josef Marha were all taken in the top 50 - but he struck gold with later picks in Chris Drury and Milan Hejduk as well as Tim Thomas. And in the 11th round, he swapped picks with with the New Jersey Devils dropping down 16 picks. In return, the Nordiques got an OHL player the Devils had drafted in the 8th round 2 years prior. As you might infer, that player was Stephane Yelle. Yelle never played for the Nordiques, making his debut the following season when the Nordiques became the Avalanche. In the move, the Avalanche reintroduced the 4 retired numbers, and Yelle ended up with #26. Yelle appeared in 505 games for the Avalanche scoring 54 goals, 89 assists +5 and 252 penalty minutes. He is, I believe, one of just 6 players to play on both Cup teams, along with Sakic, Forsberg, Roy, Foote and Klemm. Just before the 2002 season, he and Chris Drury were traded to Calgary in the Derek Morris trade. Yelle was reacquired by the Avalanche at the 2010 deadline, this time donning #18 for his final 11 games in the NHL.

John-Michael Liles - Johnny Hot Pocket wore #26 for his first 3 seasons in Denver. Just a few games into the 2007 season, he agreed to give up 26 to Paul Stastny (not sure why he wanted it) and then Liles switched to #4 (after talking it over with Rob Blake to make sure he wouldn't concuss anyone on the team in retaliation). A personal favorite of mine, Liles played in 523 games for the Avs, scoring 68 goals, 207 assists -16 and 218 penalty minutes. He was traded to Toronto during the 2011 offseason.

Paul Stastny - After 9 games wearing a funky #62, SOS finally was able to bribe Liles to switch jerseys numbers. To date, Stastny has appeared in 427 games with 126 goals, 248 assists and 224 penalty minutes witha +4 rating.

This will be an interesting vote, I think. Other than the faux Lacroix, the other 4 players would all be considered fan favorites. Peter, of course, is the best of the bunch, but will Avalanche fans give him the vote or will they put their muscle behind Yeller, Liles or SOS?

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