Pierre Lacroix, former Avalanche/Nordiques GM, dies at 72

Pierre Lacroix, the former general manager of the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche known for orchestrating several big trades, has died at the age of 72.

Eye for talent, regard for athletes made him successful team builder, says Bettman

Former Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix has died at age 72, the team said Sunday. He started his career as a player agent before moving to the Nordiques' front office and was with the team when it moved to Colorado in 1995. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images/File)

Pierre Lacroix, the astute executive who was the architect of two Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup championship teams, has died. He was 72.

The Avalanche confirmed his death Sunday. No cause of death was given.

Lacroix was a driving force behind turning the Avalanche into a perennial power after the team relocated from Quebec to Denver for the 1995-96 season. The Avalanche hoisted the '96 Stanley Cup Trophy in their first season in the Mile High City and again in 2001.

Known for his shrewd trades, Lacroix struck a deal with Montreal to acquire Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy during the '95-96 season. It paid off with the city of Denver's first major sports championship.

In another big move soon after, Lacroix matched a large contract offer made to Hall of Fame forward Joe Sakic that pretty much assured he would wear an Avalanche sweater for the rest of his career. Sakic is now following in Lacroix's footsteps as the general manager of the Avalanche.

Lacroix also traded for Hall of Fame defencemen Ray Bourque and Rob Blake, who were instrumental during the 2001 Stanley Cup run. Bourque retired soon after lifting the Cup.

Sakic, in a statement released by the club, said from the moment Lacroix became GM he established a winning culture that spread through the organization.

"As players, we knew he would do everything he could to help the team achieve that goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup," said Sakic, who was team captain for 16 seasons. "Pierre was a mentor to me and someone I learned a lot about the business of hockey from. … His footprint is everywhere in this hockey community.

"Pierre is someone I trusted very much right from the first time I met him. I'll always remember him as not only 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."

'Fiercely competitive, personally engaging'

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says in a statement that Lacroix's eye for talent, appreciation for elite-level athletes and fearlessness in pulling off the big trade made him one of the most successful team builders in the league's recent history.

"Fiercely competitive and personally engaging, he was highly regarded by his fellow general managers and his voice was respected throughout the league," Bettman said.

Hired by Quebec in 1994, he served as the franchise's GM until 2005-06. Over that span, the organization won nine straight division titles and made six appearances in the Western Conference finals.

He then served as the team's president until 2013 when the franchise announced a restructuring. Josh Kroenke took over as president while Lacroix remained with the organization as an adviser.

He was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, recognizing both his work on the ice and in the community.

Lacroix's impact was felt further north, too. The Montreal Canadiens issued condolences to his family Sunday, saying "his contributions extend beyond our sport."

"Pierre was a man admired and respected by all," the Canadiens said in a post on Twitter. "He was a great builder who left his mark on Quebec hockey."

Lacroix is survived by his wife, Colombe, his sons Martin and Eric, and his three grandchildren.

With files from CBC Sports

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