When Adam Foote announced his retirement in 2011, he became the answer to a great trivia question: Who is the last member of the Quebec Nordiques to play in the National Hockey League?
The 22nd overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Foote played four seasons in Quebec before the whole franchise relocated to Colorado. It was state side that Foote really emerged as one of the top defenders in the NHL. Best known as the Avalanche's tough as nails defensive throwback blueliner (he sort of reminded me of a poor man's Tim Horton), Foote won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. He was also part of Canada's 2002 Olympic gold medal winning team.
While the Avalanche were about flash and dash, Adam Foote was more about hard work, blood and sweat. He was a foot soldier (pun fully intended), and in doing so became a great leader.
"He was a great leader off the ice and when he played the way he did, how hard he played every single game, in practice how hard he worked, it's easy to be a great leader in the dressing room and to be demanding because he was the perfect example for all the players. Everybody wanted to work as hard as him," said Joe Sakic.
"I bet you can go around and ask any player when (Foote) was young, even now, he was one of the toughest players you'd ever have to play against. We were so lucky to have him on our team. Who was the one guy you had to watch on the other team? 'Here you go, Adam,' and he made it so difficult on him. And with his leadership in the dressing room, you can't replace guys like that."
A warrior who had legendary battles with Detroit's Brendan Shanahan, Foote was a punishing defender. But he was an underrated overall player. He had surprisingly good foot speed in his prime, thanks to great first step quickness. He would often lug the puck out of his own zone, as he was not a great breakout passer. Though he was not much of a gambler, he would make timely pinches and could handle some power play time. But he was far better known as an excellent penalty killer and shut down defenseman.
Foote, who had a most notable hockey nose, has 66 goals, 242 assists, a plus-99 rating and 1,534 penalty minutes in 1,153 NHL games. He has seven goals, 35 assists and 298 penalty minutes in 170 playoff games. He spent 3 seasons cashing in a big free agent offer with Columbus in 2005 to become captain of the Blue Jackets before returning to captain the Avalanche for his final three seasons.