The Number Nine will live on as symbolic in Colorado Avalanche history for quite a while. A few important names donned the number in the glory years but it was its latest owner, Matt Duchene who wore the number as a marker of the #NewEra. More on that later, first some history.
Mike Ricci (1995-1997)
Part of the historic Eric Lindros trade and move with the franchise from Quebec to Colorado, Mike Ricci’s time in the Nine will be remembered fondly. He won a Stanley Cup, had career high 32 points in 1996-97 and played 129 games total in Colorado before his trade to San Jose.
Brad Larsen (1997-2004)
Famous for the distinction that he was drafted by the Avalanche after his rights were traded to Colorado. Brad Larsen was lost on waivers to Atlanta after 92 games and a career high of 9 points in 2001-02. He also showed up in threads bearing 15 and 40 in his time in Colorado.
Paul Kariya (2003-2004)
Brought to Colorado in the season of the Dream Team, Paul Kariya lasted one season in the burgundy Nine with 51 games and 36 points. Kariya is known for wearing Nine his whole career but won’t be remembered best from his time in Colorado.
Matt Duchene (2009-2017)
The kid who wore Number Nine to honor Maurice Richard arrived in Colorado after his 3rd overall selection in the 2009 draft. 586 games and 428 points later Duchene exited the team at 10th all time franchise in points.
Duchene and Nine were synonymous with the #NewEra of the post-Joe Sakic Avalanche. Many subsequent important core pieces would don a jersey with a nine in their number including Ryan O’Reilly (90), Gabe Landeskog (92), Nathan MacKinnon (29) and Mikko Rantanen (96). It was easy to tell people who were not big fans of the team to just watch the kids with “9” in their number. Ironically, the two pieces in the return from the Duchene trade who have played for the Avalanche have worn a nine as well in Sam Girard (49) and Vladislav Kamenenv (91).
Now the question becomes who will be the next to wear Nine and how long will the grace period last? How long should the team wait? Will the number be treated as off limits or given out as soon as possible? Paul Stastny hasn’t played for the Avalanche in four seasons and the number 26 has yet to see the ice since. Coincidence or not? Ideally the next to wear Nine is someone who is another important person in Avalanche history. How long before that player arrives and pulls the sweater over his head remains to be seen.