The 1990′s Colorado Avalanche had a chance to be a dynasty.
Loaded with top-end talent like Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, and Joe Sakic, they were one of the dominant teams of their time. They won the 1996 Stanley Cup and looked poised to make a run at many more not only because of their superstar core but because of key secondary players like Adam Foote and a young, budding star by the name of Adam Deadmarsh.
Making a name for himself with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, the 6’0″ 205 lb Deadmarsh was taken 14th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the then-Quebec Nordiques. He would crack the lineup full time by the lockout-shortened 1994/95 season, posting a solid rookie season — the same year Peter Forsberg won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year.
Beginning to blossom during the 1995/96 season, “Deader” would post his first 20-goal season but would really shine when it mattered most: playoffs. His 17 points were an integral part of the team’s success and, in their first year since relocating from Quebec to Colorado, the Avalanche won Lord Stanley’s Cup. Deadmarsh would become a fun piece of Stanley Cup trivia and not for a reason he’d prefer. His name was originally misspelled “Deadmarch” on the Cup but was later corrected; the first time the Cup had a corrected misspelling.
The next season, his third in the league, Deadmarsh appeared to be on the verge of stardom and one of the NHL’s next premier power forwards. He would score 33 goals and collected 60 points, becoming the player many had suspected he would become.
But for Deadmarsh, the price of playing his game was high. His numbers would decline over the next few seasons partially due to his propensity for nagging injuries. When you play the game as a power forward and you don’t possess overwhelming size, this is the risk you run. Over the next few seasons, Deadmarsh would fail to top 22 goals or 49 points in any season and many around the league began to seriously question if Deadmarsh would not only consistently put it together but if he’d be around long enough to do so.
Meanwhile, the Avs were realizing that their window might be closing. Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic were in the latter half of their thirties. Ray Bourque, the legendary defender whom they had acquired the previous year at the trading deadline, was in pursuit of his first Cup and was clearly running low on time.
Feeling compelled to make a move and push themselves over the top, Colorado dealt Deadmarsh along with defenseman Aaron Miller, young forward Jared Aulin, and their first round pick in 2001 (David Steckel) to the Los Angeles Kings for star defenseman Rob Blake and center Steven Reinprecht.
That spring, Deadmarsh became a playoff hero for the Kings, playing an integral role in the first round upset of the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings. He would lead the Kings into battle against his former team in the Conference semifinals, leading the underdog Kings into a seven game battle that the team narrowly lost. It was such a physical series that star center Forsberg was lost for the playoffs when he needed an emergency spleenectomy.
Deadmarsh took the reigns for the suddenly exciting Kings in 2001/02 and looked like he may have finally turned the corner. With his 29 goals and career-high 62 points, the Kings were surely pleased with the bounty they’d received for Blake. But after a hot start to 2002/03 (13 goals and 17 points in the team’s first 20 games), Deadmarsh suffered a severe concussion. So severe, in fact, that he would miss the rest of the season and all of 2003/04 with post-concussion symptoms.
His concussion issues, combined with the 2004/05 lockout that resulted in the season being lost, would be the death knell to his formerly burgeoning career. On September 22, 2005, Deadmarsh would officially announce his retirement at the age of 30.
Deadmarsh, always a very popular player with the Avalanche, would go on to become an assistant with the team. But even that couldn’t last as he was forced to step down during the 2011/12 season due to issues relating to his concussion problems. He’s since taken a front office role with the club under Craig Billington.
His wife would comment on the situation:
“Adam was hurt (concussion issues) this season and decided that health/family and safety are his priority … Adam enjoyed coaching, but this was the right decision … We are back in Idaho and will love being close to our family again:) Hello Idaho friends … we are home:)”
Like so many others before him, Adam Deadmarsh’s once promising career was derailed by injuries. Concussions are a scary unknown in the sporting world and have been for quite some time but the fact that it continues to plague Deadmarsh even into what should be his coaching days speaks volumes.
Deadmarsh will always be remembered as the “next” power forward during the ’90s; the man who was supposed to take the reigns from Sakic and Forsberg as the next dominant Avs forward. And we’ll always be left with what could have been.
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