Growing up, most hockey players dream of one day making it to the NHL. Playing under the bright lights against the best competition in the world. Unfortunately, this dream will only come true for a small percentage of those who have ever picked up a hockey stick. Putting on an NHL jersey and stepping out in front of thousands of fans, would be a memory that’s hard to forget – even if it’s only for one game.
One player who got to live out that dream with the Colorado Avalanche was Jeff Daw, an undrafted forward who played his only NHL game on January 30, 2002.
Not only did Daw get to play for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, he got an assist on a second period goal by Hall of Fame legend Joe Sakic. It was only a few weeks later that Joe Sakic would go on to score one of the most memorable goals in hockey history when he ended the 50 year gold medal drought for Canada at the Olympics.
The assist gave Daw an even one point per game over his Avalanche career – a mark surpassed only by Sakic (1.296 ppg) and Peter Forsberg (1.167 ppg). What makes Daw’s only NHL point even more memorable is the fact that the second assist on the goal was from another Hall of Famer – Patrick Roy. That’s some elite company to have alongside your name on the game sheet.
The Avalanche ended up losing the game 5-2 to the Nashville Predators, but that likely doesn’t take away from what it mean for Daw.
After the game, he was sent back to Hershey and would end his NHL career with 19 shifts for 12:34 minutes of ice time, two shots on net and a point per game average.
It was as memorable as a single game can be and one that I’m sure holds some very special memories for Daw.
After a very successful NCAA career with UMass-Lowell (not the Cale Makar UMass, the other one), Daw signed a pro contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs where he played three seasons and was eventually named captain. He then bounced back and forth between the AHL and IHL for a few years before making his appearance with the Avalanche a month before his 30th birthday.
Daw was the definition of a minor league journeyman and his transaction history shows that:
August 1, 1996: Signed as a free agent by Edmonton.
July 22, 1999: Signed as a free agent by Chicago.
March 17, 2000: Traded to Lowell (AHL) by Houston (IHL) with Chicago retaining NHL rights for David Hymovitz.
June 23, 2000: Claimed by Minnesota from Chicago in Expansion Draft.
July 23, 2001: Signed as a free agent by Colorado.
August 27, 2002: Signed as a free agent by Carolina.
May 29, 2003: Traded to Toronto by Carolina for future considerations.
November 24, 2004: Signed as a free agent by Danbury (UHL).
May 11, 2005: Signed as a free agent by Providence (AHL).
When he got the call to play his one game with the Avalanche, Daw was in the middle of a very strong season for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. He went back to Hershey after the brief layover in Denver and went on to finish the season with 26 goals and 51 points. He would go on to play three more years in the AHL – finishing up with the St. John’s Maple Leafs - before ending his career in the UHL during the 2006-07 season.
Daw would go on to be an assistant coach for one season at his alma mater before leaving hockey all together.
His appearance with the Colorado Avalanche came at a time when the franchise was at the top of the league. Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Patrick Roy, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, Chris Drury – Daw for to skate with some of the biggest names in franchise history. It might have only been one game, but what Daw made it and was able to live out the NHL dream.