THE PIERRE LACROIX LEGACY
Pierre Lacroix: 1948-2020; Those who knew him will never forget him.
By Adrian Dater, Colorado Hockey Now
Claude Lemieux knew a few wheelers and dealers by 1995, several years into an NHL playing career that by then had him on the move to Denver. Lemieux was used to being around brash, persuasive and confident people – himself being one. Then he met Pierre Lacroix.
“I loved everything about him, the minute I really got to know him. He just loved life. He believed in himself and he did things the way he believed. He was one of my favorite people on this planet,” Lemieux, the former Avalanche forward and four-time Stanley Cup winner, told Colorado Hockey Now this afternoon.
Lacroix, the Avalanche’s first general manager and architect of two Stanley Cup championships, passed away at age 72 today at his home in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada. Lacroix had been treated recently for COVID-19, a source close to the Lacroix family confirmed. He is survived by his son, former Avalanche player Eric Lacroix, another son, Martin, his wife, Colombe (Coco) and three grandchildren. My former colleague, Terry Frei, reported that Lacroix died from a heart attack this morning.
Pierre Lacroix was someone that, if you ever were in his orbit, you never forgot. A self-made man from humble beginnings, Lacroix rose from beer sales in the Montreal area to high-powered hockey player agent to even greater heights as an NHL general manager. His career was one of stunning success, including a record nine straight NHL division championships his first nine years on the job, with the Quebec Nordiques and Avalanche, from 1994-2003. For Lacroix, there was only one goal, which he said many times to anyone who would ask him:
“The ultimate goal,” Lacroix would say. “Our goal is to win the last game of the season.”
His Avalanche teams did that twice, in 1996 and 2001. The Avs’ Cup championship in 1995-96 was the first major pro title in Colorado sports history. His teams made it to at least the Western Conference finals in six of the first seven seasons in Denver. He pulled off some of the biggest blockbuster trades in NHL history, including the Patrick Roy deal with Montreal in 1995. He was a man unafraid of taking risk. He loved to wheel and deal, and only half-kiddingly said once that he had a hard time driving past a house with a “for sale” sign in the yard without wanting to knock on the door and negotiate a price.
Lacroix was a master of secrecy too, a master of misdirection and subterfuge. Even during his biggest blockbuster deals involving some of the biggest names in hockey history, Lacroix had a poker face that never gave anything away to the media. When Lemieux was acquired by the Avalanche in October of 1995, he never knew Lacroix had been hot on his trail. He soon became fascinated by the man he would soon affectionately call “Father Pete.”
He had a temper and those who crossed him would hear about it, sometimes loudly and profanely. But he never held a grudge, and was sweet and gentle around women, children, the elderly and anyone who might have had a strike or two against them in life. He absolutely loved kids, and he made it a firm and non-negotiable part of being an Avalanche player or staff person that giving back to the community, especially to under-privileged kids, was part of the job.
“I just loved listening to everything he had to say about life, about business, about family,” said Lemieux, who today is a player agent himself. “I just loved his commitment to his family. He was an amazing husband, an amazing father. He was a big teddy bear. He could be tough, but he was very sensitive down deep and he had a heart of gold. He did so many things for other people, less fortunate people, that never got any publicity, and he didn’t want any publicity for things like that.”
The Avalanche’s first owner, Charlie Lyons, told Colorado Hockey Now that Lacroix was such a close friend that he asked him to be the godfather to his own children.