Pierre Lacroix: Well, good afternoon everybody. It is with great pride that I am here today to officially announce that Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne have signed one-year contracts with our organization, and they will be wearing Avalanche jerseys this upcoming season. Over the last 36 hours, these two athletes truly expressed their strong desire to come to Denver and play for the Avalanche.
Obviously, we were astounded, and at the same time we were very excited to announce that Paul and Teemu reached this decision, and we welcome it. I’m convinced that our fans were equally thrilled when they heard about the news this morning. We are fortunate that Mr. Stan Kroenke, our owner, as always has been a great supporter of our goal to offer our fans the most exciting product on the ice as possible. At this time I’d like to present, in my own way, to Teemu and Paul, their official jerseys for the next season.
I don’t know if you can hear me Teemu, but this one’s for you. Wear it with a lot of pride. I think we are ready to hear from Paul, and then we’ll try get Teemu in Finland, hopefully.
Paul Kariya: First of all, I’d like to thank Pierre Lacroix and the entire Avalanche organization for giving us this opportunity. Teemu and I are absolutely thrilled, and we’re so excited about this chance to play in Colorado. We think we’ve got a terrific opportunity to win the Stanley Cup and that’s why we came here.
M/C: Thank you Paul, and I hear that Teemu apparently is able to hear us in Finland, and hopefully he can tell us a few words from over there. Go ahead Teemu
Teemu Selanne: Thank you. Like Paul said, I’m very thrilled to be apart of this process and I’d like to thank the Colorado Avalanche organization, too, for the opportunity to come and play for your team. Me and Paul were thinking that we want to go to the best place to play hockey and I think we are there now.
M/C: Thank you very much Teemu. We are ready right now for the question period. And we are ready to begin so go ahead, Terry (Frei, Denver Post).
Q: Paul, the figure given for your salary is 1.2 million dollars, and although Anaheim did not qualify you, they were offering you considerably more money than that. Why would you come here for 1.2 million dollars?
Paul Kariya: Well, I came here for the hockey. It wasn’t a money decision. The number 1.2, we arrived at that, because it is under the league average and I came here as an unrestricted free agent, and at the end of this season I’ll be an unrestricted free agent again. That’s the way we were comfortable structuring the deal, and I’m very pleased with it.
Q: Hi Pierre, you said on Monday, and this is a break from tradition for you, that you traditionally don’t go out and get high profile free agents. Can you just talk about how this all came together?
Pierre Lacroix: Well, it all came together...First of all, I’ll give a little bit of history on how it goes on free agent day. Every year on July 1st you get agent calls, which is the norm of the practice. Everyone calls and wants to give you their own file and explain to you what he can do for your team, and you listen like any businessman would. Our policy has always been that we protect our assets. We build with the core players that we’ve had now for many years. Our recipe has been very successful. But I think I’ve got to turn it back to you. If you were in my shoes and you have the quality player of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne that are calling you and telling you that we are willing to be together and reach our goal with your organization because we believe this, and also we are willing to do our share and allow you to get us involved with your roster without changing any of your salary structure, then that’s probably the way I’ve looked at it. And I’m sure you would've done it the same way.
Q: Pierre, are you saying that the first overtures were made by Paul and Teemu - the first calls were made to you? You didn’t make the first calls to them or their agent?
Pierre Lacroix: No, it was done like the normal process I mentioned above. Don Baisley did it, their agent, who we’ve been involved with, as you all know, for other reasons, so it was done the same way it was always done. It was intriguing because the approach was just like Paul described it.
Q: Paul, you almost won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim. You spent eight to ten years there. You were known as Mr. Mighty Duck. How hard was it for you to leave that team that was so close and successful and that you were so loyal to? Were you hurt also by the way they didn’t qualify you?
Paul Kariya: Firstly, I wasn’t hurt by that. They had the right to do that. Secondly, yes, it was difficult. I really enjoyed my time playing in Anaheim. I have a lot of close bonds with my teammates and with Brian Murray (general manager) and Mike Babcock (head coach). It was a very difficult decision but at the same time, like I said, when I was made unrestricted and I spoke to Teemu, we talked about what would be the best situation for us hockey-wise, taking out everything else. And for both of us, it was Colorado. Instantaneously. So it’s nothing against Anaheim. It’s a hockey decision that we wanted to come here.
M/C: And don’t forget that Teemu is overseas and looks impatient to get some questions!
Q: Pierre, I have two questions. First of all, did you need Patrick’s retirement and the subsequent salary slot created there to get these deals done? Was that a factor in this? Second, the Red Wings just had a press conference with Darren Hatcher a couple hours ago. How much of this is a reaction to what’s going on around the league?
Pierre Lacroix: Well, the first part is we’ve done business the same way now for nine years. The way we operate is with previous ownership same as we do now with Mr. Kroenke. Once a year, they allow us an envelope and a budget to operate. In this particular case, whatever happens, obviously the fact that Patrick retired is something, but on the other hand, we could have done other transactions prior to this July 1st or July 2nd. So, yes, it was available and as long as we’re going to do the upcoming season in our structure, that was the goal, and it’s always been the goal. You know when you do business, in any field of the business world, as a business person, as a responsible executive, the goal is always to reach your goal within your responsibility, and it’s no different for us. It’s been like that now for nine years, to always deliver within the limits of what we’re given. And as far as a reaction to somebody else, I think our history speaks for itself. We’re not an organization that reacts to other organizations. What we’ve done here has got nothing to do with the other 29 teams. We do what we think is the right thing to do for our team and actually, when we do that, we’re doing it for our fans, too.
Q: Teemu, if you could just take us through this scenario, your conversations with Paul and your conversations with your agent, the thought process on why you’re here, and what it means to maybe be reunited with Paul here.
Teemu Selanne: Well, I think it started a long time ago. Me and Paul were talking about it this year and where we were going to play. When Paul became a free agent also, it was automatic we wanted to play together somewhere. And like Paul, the first choice was Colorado right away. We were hoping the chance was available and we are very excited about this opportunity because we know that this organization is so classy and they have a history of winning Stanley Cups. So, that’s why this is so.
Q: Were you and Paul bandying this about during the season?
Teemu Selanne: Some of it, but at the same time we’ve had the same dream to play together, so we did not know if this would be possible.
Q: Paul, is there any other way, if it was another team, were you guys set on the fact that you were going to go together?
Paul Kariya: We wanted to play together and we’ve had a lot of success playing together in the past. We’ve really enjoyed the style of play we do out there, and at the same time he’s a great person - we get along really well off the ice. It’s a great friendship and we wanted to be back together again. We weren’t bound by it though, you know, you never know what’s going to happen in a situation. We wanted to be together, yes, but, worst case scenario, we’d play apart.
Q: Paul, did you feel a little hamstrung, I mean, you are a very creative player. The Avalanche style of play is more a style that I would think would be suitable to the way you play. Did you feel you were hamstrung in Anaheim?
Paul Kariya: Well, first of all, this is what factors into the hockey decision. You know, to play with guys like Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake and Adam Foote; guys like that, you know. It's just a dream come true for us. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and Teemu and I, I think, have both developed defensively over the years as the game has gone that way. But at the same time, we’re offensive players. We want the puck. We want to make plays. We want to be creative. And this team fits that perfectly.
Q: This is for either Paul or Teemu. Did Patrick Roy’s retirement factor into your decision? Did it give you any moment of trepidation? And Paul, how much does your friendship factor in to playing with Joe Sakic?
Paul Kariya: When we made the decision it was a hockey decision, like we said. Where would we like to play hockey? More than anything else, in Colorado. So, no, that didn’t factor into it at all. With Joe, you know I’ve known Joe for ten years. We were together in the World Championships and he kinda took me under his wing, and we’ve been great friends ever since. Yeah, that has been a dream to play with Joe. He’s just a fantastic player and a great person as well. I think I can play great with him.
Q: This is a question for both players. I’m not sure we still have Teemu over there...
M/C: We’re trying to get him back.
Q: Any insurance about the future, as far as with the club (Avalanche)? More than one year?
Paul Kariya: I don’t understand the question.
Q: In other words, you decided on a one-year deal. Is there any assurance about the future for you guys with this club?
Paul Kariya: No, we both decided on one-year deals. That’s not ruling out anything in the future, but that’s how the deal stands now, and we’re excited about playing this season.
Q: Pierre, were you considering these guys independently as individuals, and how shocked were you when it was presented to you as a package deal?
Pierre Lacroix: Well, no doubt, independently it would have been something that we would’ve looked into, but the fact that they were both excited and really, the first call really excited me. You’ve got see it the other way, and that’s the way I kind of perceived the whole thing. It was just a unique moment, that as far as I was concerned, immediately when I saw the will and especially knowing Don for so many years, this is a guy to tell it the way it is, and the way he made this first phone call excited me. I’m telling you, I’ve talked with many agents - I made the calls for 20 years before I received the calls for 10 years - and I could assure you it was a different call. That being said, it was something that I really had to pay attention to.
Q: Is the one year purely a function of the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement or is there more to it than that?
Paul Kariya: No, it’s a one-year deal.
Q: Did that create the pressure and the mentality to simply take you up to the looming work stoppage?
Paul Kariya: No, I think we both felt comfortable at this point in our careers keeping control of our career. And we both were happy with one-year deals and that’s the way it is for both of us now.
Q: Pierre, does this represent kind of a last run for the Cup with this core group? Loading up for one last shot?
Pierre Lacroix: I have no control of what’s going to happen the following year after this, but every morning I get up for one reason, and it’s for that last run. As long as that guy up there allows me to get up in the morning.
Q: Pierre, do you think it’s possible you might get another phone call, possibly from Patrick Roy saying, hey, take me back?
Pierre Lacroix: You know, first of all, Patrick Roy made his decision for personal reasons and I don’t expect in any shape or form for Patrick to change his mind. Patrick’s a guy that makes a deep reflection when he makes a decision, and in this case, it's clear that he made the right decision for him and his family.
Q: Paul, this may be overly simplistic, but do you plan on playing on the line with Joe?
Paul Kariya: That’s up to Tony (Granato) to decide. We’re very happy with whoever we play with. There’s so much talent here and so many different line combinations that you can throw together. We’re just happy to be here.
Q: For the two of you, when you talk about going somewhere together...
Paul Kariya: Oh, well yeah, of course. I think we have a chemistry on the ice, and even though it’s been a while that we haven’t played together, I know we’ll get that back very quickly.
Q: Paul, do you feel with the goaltender situation this Club has as good of a chance to win the Stanley Cup with Patrick Roy gone and you guys coming in? Does that balance it out?
Paul Kariya: David Aebischer is a fantastic goalie and I think he’s in the mold of Patrick Roy. He’s studied under him for three years now and to have that opportunity to practice with him for three years is unbelievable. I know Patrick pretty well, and to have that opportunity to practice with him and be with him every day, I know it certainly rubbed off on me and I’m sure it’s rubbed off on David. I think he’s going to be a fantastic goaltender for us. At the same time I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to give him a lot of leeway up front.
Q: Pierre, does this change your strategy in signing some of your own guys, both restricted and unrestricted?
Pierre Lacroix: Not really. We, like I said, with the support we got from Paul and Teemu, we were able to do this without changing the structure we had for the coming season. I’m not trying to say that we aren’t going to make certain moves in order to fill in what we as an organization we feel we need to do, but it won’t have any drastic change.
Q: This is for both guys. I guess Teemu’s back, so this is for you Teemu. What do you think it will be like playing for a guy like Tony Granato, who, I know you’ve played with and I know you've played against?
Teemu Selanne: Well, I know Tony pretty well as a player. He played really hard and I know what he’s expecting from us. When I was talking to Peter (Forsberg) and Joe (Sakic) at the end of last season, they were saying great things about Tony. And what a great guy - he’s a great hockey person and has some things to learn as a coach, but he’s hungry and he’s passionate for the game. I really look forward to working with him.
[Edit: Even Chip knows. He read a couple of paragraphs and promptly declared, "They just came out." Then he asked if they were holding hands during the press conference.]