Pierre Lacroix, the gifted former general manager of the Colorado Avalanche who was instrumental in building the teams who captured eight straight division titles, two Stanley Cups, and providing Denver with it’s very first major professional sports championship in 1996, died Sunday at the age of 72. His death was due, in-part to complications from Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the Journal de Quebec.
The Avalanche organization confirmed Lacroix’s death in a statement released Sunday morning:
Avalanche statement on the passing of Pierre Lacroixhttps://t.co/pFpkKhJAjQ— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 13, 2020
Lacroix had an astute hockey mind and in 1994 veered off the player agent path to become general manger of the Quebec Nordiques. He spent one year as GM with the Nordiques before moving to Denver in 1995 along with the team and leading them on a run of unprecedented success all culminating in two Stanley Cup championships in the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons.
Lacroix remains the only GM in NHL history to lead a franchise to nine straight division titles (one with the Nordiques in the 1994-95 season and eight with the Avalanche from 1995-96 to 2002-03). In his tenure as GM, Lacroix helped the Avalanche make six Western Conference Finals appearances in their first seven seasons in Denver and was the engineer behind multiple blockbuster trades that included the likes of franchise goaltender Patrick Roy and Hall of Fame defensemen Ray Bourque and Rob Blake, to name a few. Lacroix built a culture of success that is perhaps unrivaled anywhere else in professional sports.
While all of Lacroix’s on-ice success will speak for itself, he is perhaps best known for his off-ice character. Former team captain and current Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic described Lacroix as “Someone I trusted very much right from the first time I met him. I’ll always remember him not only as 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...”
Many current and former members of the Avalanche, the Kroenke Sports and Entertainment organization, and those across the broader sports community, took to social media to express their sadness for the news:
Very sad to hear this! Pierre was larger than life. I’ll always remember him welcoming me to Denver in 2011 with open arms. His fingerprints are all over the Avalanche, past & present. My thoughts go out to his entire family. https://t.co/USty8MtsMC— Erik Johnson (@6ErikJohnson) December 13, 2020
Our hearts are heavy today as we say goodbye to a great friend, mentor and leader. 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. pic.twitter.com/rWxQaEmluJ— Ray Bourque (@RayBourque77) December 14, 2020
I owe so much of my career to Pierre Lacroix. From drafting me, to giving a short kid from Indiana a chance to play in the NHL. Absolutely devastating news to hear of his passing. RIP sir. You always set the example, and it was easy to follow.— John-Michael Liles (@hoosierjm26) December 13, 2020
Have been in shock.....— Marc Moser TV (@RadioMoser) December 13, 2020
A absolute legend, architect & father figure. A man who was always kind to me & beyond fair with what he asked of me.
The supreme dealmaker. He brought the first major championship to Denver & grew the game in unimaginable ways.
This is heartbreaking. https://t.co/tRFVPIheyx
The Montreal Canadiens are saddened to learn of the passing of former Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche GM, Pierre Lacroix. Our sincere condolences go out to Pierre's family and the Avalanche organization. Pierre was a great man admired and respected by all.— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 13, 2020
RIP Pierre Lacroix— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 14, 2020
A trailblazer in the game of hockey. We will miss your kind nature and friendship. Our condolences to the Lacroix and Avalanche Families. pic.twitter.com/My8EkKrSt8
I didn’t know Pierre Lacroix well but was very sad to see this news today.— George Karl (@CoachKarl22) December 13, 2020
He was a very important part of Denver sports history and a good man. https://t.co/vqLCyJpu3a
After over a decade of unparalleled success, Lacroix stepped down as GM in May of 2006 to serve in a singular capacity as team President. He held this role for an additional seven seasons before moving on to serve the team in an advisory capacity in the Spring of 2013.
Lacroix was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame on April 8, 2008 for his contributions to the success of the Avalanche organization. Many speculate that he has a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame with his name on it.
Lacroix is survived by his wife, Colombe, and sons, Martin and former NHL forward Eric Lacroix.
We are deeply saddened as a Mile High Hockey team and are sending our best to the entire Lacroix family.