A total of three players have worn this number after the Quebec Nordiques arrived in the Mile High City and transmogrified into the Colorado Avalanche. This number holds a special place in Avalanche lore for how its story ended, but how did its story begin?
Today, we begin our look at this number by examining the players overshadowed by what ultimately became one of the Avalanche’s most distinguished numbers.
(This article really ought to be titled, “Who Wore It: The
Best Rest: #23.)
Janne Laukannen (1995-1996)
Every story has a beginning, and the story for number 23 begins with Janne Laukkanen. Now, most of you are probably thinking, “Who is Janne Laukkanen?!”
Selected by Quebec in the eighth round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft (156th overall), there’s a reason why the 6’1″ Finnish defenseman never left much of an impression in his time with the Avalanche: he played just three games in an Avalanche sweater during the 1995-1996 season. He was called up to the Avalanche on December 08, 1995, from the Cornwall Aces of the AHL just two days after the Avalanche made their blockbuster acquisition of Patrick Roy and Mike Keane from the Montreal Canadiens. Laukannen scored his first NHL career goal on December 09, 1995, in a 7-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Laukannen never played a single home game for the Avalanche that season, as each of the three contests he played in during his call-up were on the road. His stint with the Avalanche ended with his demotion to Cornwall on December 16, 1995, and was later traded to the Senators on January 26, 1996; the Avalanche would receive Brad Larsen (who was featured in our WWIB features for #9 and #15) in return. He would go on to play nine more seasons in the NHL, but he was the first player in Avalanche history to wear the number 23, and for history’s sake, that claim will forever be his.
Brent Severyn (1996-1997)
Every story has a middle, and the middle of the story for number 23 features Brent Severyn. As was the case with Laukannen above, some of you may be thinking, “Who is Brent Severyn?!”
Selected by the original Winnipeg Jets in the fifth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft (99th overall), the 6’2″ defenseman from Alberta was acquired by the Avalanche from the New York Islanders on September 04, 1996 in exchange for a third-round pick (Francis Lessard). He made his Avalanche debut on October 04, 1996 in the Avalanche’s season opener against the St. Louis Blues (a 4-2 defeat). He would collect his first assist in an Avalanche sweater (the first of four he would have while playing for the Avalanche) on November 22, 1996 in a 3-2 victory over the Islanders at McNichols Sports Arena. His only goal while wearing the burgundy and blue would come on January 21, 1997, at the Ice Palace against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-2 defeat.
While scoring wasn’t necessarily Severyn’s forté, he did put his hands to work for the Avalanche in other ways. Severyn amassed 193 penalty minutes throughout 66 regular season games played during the 1996-1997 campaign, racking up at least 20 penalty minutes in three separate contests that year. The penalty parade continued into the postseason for Severyn as he collected a baffling 12 penalty minutes (a two-minute holding minor and a ten-minute misconduct) in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Edmonton Oilers. Even more baffling, Avalanche coach Marc Crawford kept him in the lineup for seven more playoff games, which would see the Avalanche bow out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, relinquishing their claim on the Stanley Cup. To Severyn’s credit, he did stay out of the penalty box for those remaining seven games.
The Avalanche would sign Severyn to a one-year, $500,000.00 contract on July 31, 1997, but he never played another game in burgundy and blue, as he was claimed by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in a waiver draft (anyone remember those?) on September 28, 1997.
The number 23 would remain dormant for one more year, waiting for its true birthright to bring honor and prestige to its station.
Now, the beginning and middle of the story of number 23 has been told. Rest assured, this story does indeed have a happy ending.
(Thank you to eliteprospects.com and avalanchedb.com for providing statistics and drafting information used in this article!)