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A Series: Looking into Avalanche and Nordiques Player Numbers: Number 44

Bates Fucking Battaglia
Bates Fucking Battaglia
Brian Bahr, Getty Images

Sandie and I are committed to seeing this series through to the end, but be warned...the going gets a little less glamorous as each day progresses. Twelve different players have worn #44 for the Nords and Avs, but it's really the last "popular" number in the series and the list of owners past and present isn't exactly a roll call of glory. But enough about the whining, let's get to the list

Ken Quinney - We've mentioned Quinney, a winger by trade, in two previous entries (12 and 36). But the number he wore the most was #44, for 25 games as a rookie in the 86-87 season. It looks like he wore #54 at some point as well, but HR doesn't mention it. The former 10th round pick scored 9 points in those 25 games and ended up playing in 59 games over his 3-year career, all with Quebec. Like so many players we've covered, Quinney would continue his pro career in the AHL, IHL and Germany.

Mario Marois - M Squared had two stints with the Nordiques. He spent parts of 6 seasons with the Nordiques in the early 80s wearing #22 (and serving as Captain for many of those years). In March of 85 he was traded to the Jets for Robert Picard and after a few years in Winnipeg exile, he was reacquired in 1988 for Gord Donnelly. In his absence, Jeff Brown had acquired #22, so Marois switched to #44. In this second stint, Marois appeared in 109 games, scoring 31 points, 205 penalty minutes and amassing a whopping -60 +/- on a couple of BAD Nordiques teams. M & M was claimed via waivers by the Blues in the 90s and ultimately finished up his career back in Winnipeg.

John Kordic - A couple of days ago, Sandie mentioned a player who roomed with Bryan Fogarty to help get Fogarty clean. Unfortunately, that player suffered a relapse and died of a heart attack related to a drug overdose after the 1992 season. That players was John Kordic. The enforcer had played with Montreal, Toronto and Washington before signing with the Nordiques for the 1991-92 season. Kordic appeared in 18 games for the Nords that year, scoring 2 points and notching 118 penalty minutes. Sadly, he passed away in August of 1992.

Gino Cavallini - I don't remember Cavallini, but he was a veteran who played nearly 600 games in the NHL. He played with Calgary and St Louis before finishing up the NHL portion of his career with two seasons in Quebec after being claimed on waivers in 1992. He played 85 games for the Nordiques, scoring 10 goals and 22 assists and 38 penalty minutes with a +9 rating. Following the 93 season, he was done in the NHL but still played for 8 more years in the IHL, Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

Aaron Miller - The last Nordique to wear #44 wore it for all of one game. Aaron Miller had a 1-game callup during the 93-94 season and he wore #44 for it. He switched to #31 the next year and, eventually, #3 with the Avalanche.

Serge Aubin - aaaand, the first Avalanche to wear #44 wore it for all of one game. Serge Aubin had a 1-game callup during the 98-99 season and he wore #44 for it. He switched to #49 the next year and in a later stint with the Avalanche he wore #10.

Sami Helenius - The hulking defenseman from Finland amassed over 2,000 penalty minutes in a pro career between the AHL, IHL, NHL and Finland. He was originally drafted by Calgary in 1992 and came over to North America for the 94 season. After a few years mostly in the minors, he was traded twice over a two month period in 1999 for future considerations, first from Calgary to Tampa Bay and then from Tampa to Colorado. In 1999, he played 33 games with the Avalanche, scoring 0 points and earning 47 penalty minutes. The following year he signed with Dallas (no doubt impressed with their Western Conference Finals win over the Avs) and also had a brief stint with Chicago before returning to Finland, where he just retired a couple of years ago.

Rob Shearer - Shearer is an undrafted forward the Avalanche signed as an undrafted free agent in 1996. Although he appeared in just 2 NHL games - both with the Avs in the '00-'01 season, he amassed a long pro career with 5 years in Hershey and 10 years in Europe. He played in Austria as well as the ECHL last year, but doesn't appear to be signed anywhere this year.

Nolan Pratt - The former Whaler was acquired in 2000 along with 3 high draft picks that didn't really pan out (Vaclav Nedorost, Jared Aulin and Agris Saviels) in the trade for Sandis Ozolinsh. Pratt wore #4 with the Avalanche that season...until February when the Avalanche traded for Rob Blake. Pratt then switched to #44, playing in 17 games with his new number and scoring 1 point (a goal). Pratt didn't dress in the playoffs for the Avs that year, but he played in 46 regular season games - 5 more than the minimum to get his name on the Stanley Cup. Soon after the Avs won that Cup, he was traded to Tampa, with whom he won a 2nd Cup in 2004. Pratt is currently an assistant coach with the Springfield Falcons, who are coached by fellow Avs Cup practice-squadder Brad Larsen.

Bates Battaglia - No matter how well it turned out, I'm still not ready to talk about this one.

Jordan Leopold - On June 24th, 2006, new GM Francois Giguere celebrated his birthday by trading Alex Tanguay to the Flames for Jordan Leopold and two 2nd rounders. It was his first major trade as GM and it would go down as probably the worst deal of Giguere's tenure. The two picks were Codey Burki and Trevor Cann, both flops. Leopold certainly wasn't terrible for the Avalanche, but he never was quite as good as we hoped we were getting for the popular Tanguay. Leopold's first two seasons in Denver were injury plagued (106 games missed). In total, Leopold appears in 122 games for the Avs, scoring 13 goals and 25 assists with a -9 rating.

Ryan Wilson - On March 4th, 2009, GM Francois made the last trade as Avalanche GM, sending Jordan Leopold to the Flames for Lawrence Nycholat, Ryan Wilson and a 2nd round pick that the Avalanche would use to draft Stefan Elliott. This was probably the best deal of Giguere's tenure, which is incredibly ironic if you read the previous paragraph. Nycholat was just short-term depth and Elliott is still unproven, but Ryan Wilson has been a terrific find. To date, he's appeared in 187 games wearing #44, scoring 7 goals, 51 assists and 137 penalty minutes with a +16 rating. Giguere would be fired a month later, but this trade became a nice going away present to the franchise.

Okay, I'm going to dispense with the poll here. This really boils down to Leopold or Wilson and we all know how that's going to end up.