Avs’ Foote talks NHL, fund-raiser
This is the time of year, “that we’re used to lacing ’em up, and on a very busy schedule,” said Colorado Avalanche veteran Adam Foote.The 2004-05 season would be Foote’s 14th pro season, all with the Avs/Nordiques organization. Instead, today is Day 65 of the continuing NHL lockout.So Foote, like all NHL players, finds himself with ample free time.”Danny Hinote [of the Avs] and I were just sitting around one day and we got to talking. We knew we were going to do a charity event, no matter what. But with all this time we have, we came up with an idea: Let’s make up some games to let some fans see some hockey now,” Foote said in an interview with The Aspen Times this week.Thus, Foote and Hinote hatched a plan to bringtogether a gaggle of current and former NHL stars, most with ties to the Avalanche, Nordiques or the original Colorado (hockey) Rockies organizations, for a fund-raiser in Aspen, Dec. 3-4, dubbed the Rocky Mountain Classic.”I’ve called 40 hockey players in the last three or four weeks – this came together quickly,” said Foote. “Obviously, we couldn’t get them all, but we tried. And I can tell you there’s a lot of excited hockey players looking forward to being in your town.”The list of confirmed players includes Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Brett Hull, Chris Drury and Paul Coffey, who was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame last week.Four teams will be represented in a mini-tournament on Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Lewis Ice Arena – the Avs, the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Phoenix Coyotes – and the format calls for four-on-four play, with 10- to- 12-man teams and 20-minute qualifying games. A 20-minute championship game with a shootout will top things off.Former (baseball) Rockies star Larry Walker is expected to coach behind one bench, and “Goldberg – The Wrestler” will be standing tall behind another. Cuba Gooding Jr. and other celebs are also expected to participate, according to event officials.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, Denver’s Children’s Hospital and Aspen Junior Hockey.”I don’t know if it’s because I’m older,” the 33-year-old Foote said, “but I had a great time doing an event similar to this last year with Danny [Hinote] and Peter [Forsberg] in Denver. I met a lot of interesting people who gave us a lot of support, and we felt like, ‘We’ve got to continue doing it.’ We simply want to make it a good event so hopefully we can keep bringing this back to Aspen.”But,” Foote added, chuckling, “we might have to bring it back in the summer months.”A fan-favorite, Foote won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche (1996 and 2001). The native of a small town near Toronto, he has also won an Olympic gold medal and a World Cup title with Team Canada. Owing to an elbow injury sustained during the most recent World Cup, following the 2003-04 Avs season, Foote does not expect to be cleared to play in the Rocky Mountain Classic.Foote, who lives in Denver with his wife and children, talked further with The Times about the motivation for the event, the NHL lockout and his lengthy run with the Avs.On beneficiaries of the Rocky Mountain Classic”Unfortunately in my family, my wife Jennifer’s mother and grandmother both had breast cancer, and my wife and I have been into supporting them and the cause, whether we did the event in Denver or in Aspen. So this means a lot to us.”On the format of the Rocky Mountain Classic”Four-on-four hockey. We didn’t want to do just one game. We wanted to make it fun for the fans, where they’d have something to cheer for, so we went with the mini-tournament idea. And we didn’t want more than 10, 12 guys on a team because we want them to play every other shift for that 20 minutes. We’ll have the games one after another, and the players will be watching the other players. … I’ve been involved with so many charities, and I want them to see something different this time, see the players on a lighter side.”On the NHL lockout
“First of all, I’m glad you said lockout. Too many people hear that the players are on strike and that’s not the case. We’re locked out.”There’s a lot of issues we want to talk about and discuss, but right now the owners just simply want to discuss a hard cap, and the players don’t believe that this has to be resolved over a hard cap. Of 30 teams in the league, there’s probably 24, 25 teams that are making money and five or six teams that might not be doing as well, and there’s ways the players want to help. We understand we have to do something and we’re willing to talk about that. But right now, I don’t know what the best way to put it is, but we’ve got 30 issues we could go over on our menu, while their menu is consisting of one entree, and that’s a hard cap. And that’s something that just doesn’t sit well with us.”It’s unfortunate. We know it’s not good for the fans or the game or the players. But it’s something that I’m optimistic will get resolved.””And obviously, there’s changes in our game we need to make it better. I think we need to key on more promoting our superstars. I think we’ve gotten away from that, trying to sell it as a team sport or a TV sport and there’s been rule changes. … I believe we have to get back to the old game. When we won it in 1995-96, it was more of an open game. … But there’s a lot of issues that have to be discussed, and hopefully we can get a half-season out of this at least. Right now, you have to stay optimistic as a player and be ready to play, but I don’t have a crystal ball and who knows. You don’t know if you’ll have a season or not. Right now, we just can’t tell.”On the hard cap situation”If you look at baseball, you’d call that a soft cap, where you’ve got the luxury tax and stuff like that. We know that we have to do something. And we know that both sides have to give. We understand that as players and, like I said, we’re willing to talk to make this a better game and help the teams that are hurting, and we’re willing to do that. But when you go hard cap and stuff, like not guaranteed contracts, that doesn’t sit well with the players. And as far as a soft cap, there’s stuff that definitely could be talked about. But right now the owners are sticking to their guns with it.”On the state of talks”I think in any labor dispute, there’s times when there’s going to be discussions and times when there’s not. And closer to deadlines, it’s going to obviously pick up – same as the last one. Right now, I don’t know what the right term would be – a standoff – I’m not sure, but it’s something that’s going on and I just wish it wasn’t. Everyone wants to be back playing the game. And like I said, hopefully we’ll be back, just after Christmas like the last time.”On his long-standing service with the Avalanche
“I do have a bond with this team and organization and, yeah, I feel pretty lucky being with one organization, and I feel very fortunate to play in Colorado. It’s a beautiful place and my kids were born here and I just feel fortunate to stay in one city for this long, and hopefully that will continue. I don’t know, but I hope so.”The Rocky Mountain Classic• Friday, Dec. 3: Dinner event at the Sundeck (Sponsorship packages, including a table of 10 at dinner, 10 tickets to Saturday’s mini-tournament, costs $10,000)• Saturday, Dec. 4: Mini-tournament at the Lewis Ice Arena (Tickets costs $200 for general admission seating, $100 for standing room) For tickets call Christy Kurowski, event producer and executive director of the Foote Foundation, at (720) 203-3309.Tim Mutrie can be reached at email@example.com
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