Longtime Avs employees remember wedding toast, 14er hike with Stanley Cup

Longtime Avs employees remember wedding toast, 14er hike with Stanley Cup

Few Avalanche employees remain who can recall what it felt like to win a Stanley Cup in Denver in 1996 and 2001.

DENVER — There are few people who still work for the Colorado Avalanche who know what it’s like to be part of a Stanley Cup-winning organization in Denver. It’s been more than 20 years since the Avalanche last won the trophy.

Only a handful of employees from the Avalanche front office and other positions were with the team when they won in 1996 and 2001. 9NEWS spoke with them on Monday ahead of the team’s Stanley Cup run that begins this week.

They shared stories of taking home the Stanley Cup for a day, superstitions that helped the team, and the desire to add another championship banner at Ball Arena.

Charlotte Grahame, executive director of hockey administration

“There aren’t a lot of people who have been through this experience,” said Charlotte Grahame, executive director of hockey administration. “I started in 1995 with the Avalanche. Pierre Lacroix hired me.”

Lacroix was the former general manager of the Avalanche who passed away in 2020.

“Pierre gave us at the start of every year these miniature Stanley Cups. From that he’d say, ‘Keep these close to you,’ He’d give it to players, staff, everybody. This is really the goal at the end of the year, to win the Stanley Cup,” said Grahame. “This is mine from 1995, 1996. I’ve kept it forever.”

Lacroix also had his superstitions.

“Pierre was very superstitious. What I really remember is he’d say, ‘Charlotte, where are we going to go eat today?’ If you won, you kept going back,” said Grahame. “In 1996, we had muffins every single day. About 10 pounds later, we had muffins at the end of the Stanley Cup. In 2001, we had chicken parm every single day until we won the cup.”

Grahame was one of 12 women in all of hockey history to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup back in 2001 when the Avalanche won. Just a couple years later, her son won the cup as a player with the Tampa Bay Lightning. She believes they’re the only mother-son duo to both have their names on the Stanley Cup.

“It has been 21 years since we’ve been here,” said Grahame. “It’s going to be special.”

Grahame retired earlier this year but is back working with the team through the playoffs.

Jean Martineau, senior vice president of communications

“I came in 1995 when the team was sold and moved to Denver, Colorado,” said Jean Martineau, senior vice president of communications.

Martineau is one of the few employees who moved to Denver with the team from Quebec, Canada.

“Pierre Lacroix really wanted me to come along with him in 1995 and it’s been an amazing story since then,” Martineau said.

After the team won the Stanley Cup in 2001, he took the cup back to Canada.

“We decided to invite all the ex-Nordiques for pictures with the cup,” said Martineau. “They really deserved that time with the cup.”

Martineau left his role in the communications office and is now working in a consultant role with the team.

Mark Wagoner, Senior Vice President of Sports Finance

“I’m very fortunate to be one of the few that was able to get two Stanley Cup rings, both from 1996 and 2001,” said Mark Wagoner, senior vice president of sports finance.

In 2001, he was given a day with the Stanley Cup.

“I am a passionate climber of Colorado 14ers. I kind of thought in my mind, wow, it would be cool to bring the Stanley Cup to the top of a 14er,” said Wagoner. “So I took it to the summit of Mt. Elbert, 14,433 feet. The highest point in Colorado. It was an unbelievable experience for me to be able to do something that I enjoy passionately, much less have the Stanley Cup along for a ride .”

He said now it’s time for others to experience the feeling of what it’s like to win a Stanley Cup.

“I try to tell everyone, take a step back every so often and just enjoy, because these opportunities don’t come around all the time,” said Wagoner. “This is such a special time.”

Paul Bartch, Avalanche currier

“I am excited for this run because it’s been 20 years,” said Paul Bartch, Avalanche currier. “I think we’re due.”

Bartch has been a currier with the team since they moved to Denver. He used to stand on the edge of the ice and give the players fist bumps before games.

“I think we can take it, but it’s not going to be an easy battle,” said Bartch. “None of them have been easy.”

He said the fans deserve another win.

“We as fans are extremely happy to see them here,” said Bartch. “You’ve got little children up to grandparents going crazy.”

Matthew Sokolowski, head athletic trainer

“There’s nothing like winning,” said Matthew Sokolowski, head athletic trainer. “It’s the ultimate prize in hockey.”

Sokolowski used his time with the cup to bring it to one of the most important days of his life.

“I did get my day with the Stanley Cup. I got to have it on my wedding day,” said Sokolowski. “My wife and I had our first toast out of the Stanley Cup.”

After 21 years, he’s been busy getting the team ready for another run in the Stanley Cup Final.

“You dream of that as a kid,” said Sokolowski. “Just to be part of that is extremely exciting.”

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