As much as Avs fans admire Joe Sakic, it's extremly hard to live vicariously through him. The guy is so good, and so talented the fans, admire, respect and adore him the same way we adore Michaelangelo, Shakespeare, and Mozart. His personality is one of humbleness and hard work but, despite his best effort, there's no denying the greatness between his ability and those of mere mortals.
Ian Laperriere is a different sort of hero. If Ernest Hemingway were to watch hockey he would do so in a smokey bar, sipping on a gin martini, wearing an old style 3rd #14 jersey, (because Ernie would never, ever be caught in a Unipron). He would also sit there watching Lappy with an understated smile, because Ian Laperriere is the embodiment of the "Hemingway code hero".
[The Hemingway code hero is someone who] offers up and exemplifies certain principles of honor, courage, and endurance which in a life of tension and pain make a man a man.Ian Laperriere will play his 1,000th NHL game today. Sakic is the face of the franchise, but in the 205 games Laperriere has played with the franchise he has become the guts, heart and soul thanks to his Hemingway heroism. The guy does all the dirty work with a smile of his face. Lappy always has your back, whether he's rushing to get the puck after a rookies first career goal (Chris Stewart, TJ Galiardi), going toe-to-toe with someone whose got 20lbs on him just to stick up for a teammate, or throwing himself wrechlessley in front of a Sheldon Sourey slapshot. Oh, and just to throw it out there, he has been underpaid all four years he has been with the Avs.-Scholar Philip Young
Of all the great players that Avs fans adore, Lappy is the only one with a fan website entirely dedicated to him. But that's not surprising because, as every Avs fan knows:
After his 1,001st game, 207th with the Avs, he will be a free agent. The Avalanche have until July 1st to re-sign him, and then his services will be open to any team. If the Avalanche allow Laperriere to reach this point it may be the only completely unforgivable thing the franchise has ever done.
Talking only about Laperriere's grit and teammwork is a crime, b ecause he's still a viable hockey player as well. The Avalanche seem to be worried about his durability combined with his age. while it's a valid concern, Ian Laperriere has not played less than 62 games in a season since 1996. Since he's been with the Avs he's never played in less than 70 games in a season. Even at 35 it's difficult to question his durability.
Ian Laperriere's production hasn't slipped at all either. He's never been a hockey player about points, but he's scored 19, 19, and 29 points his last 3 seasons. That's well within his career average. But where he really shines is on the forecheck and on defense. He still regularly kills penalties and has never met a check he didn't finish.
The Avalanche may be looking to the Cody Mcs (McCormick and McLeod) to replace Lappy. Both players have made strides, but there isn't a player in the NHL that can replace Lappy right now. Neither of those guys can stick up for their teammates the way Lappy can. Neither bring the defensive skills that Lappy has. In the next few years the Avalanche roster is going to be filled with young players, and the Avs need an everyman leader to help those kids through. The Cody Mc's cannot fill that role. No one on the Avs, save possibly Ryan Smyth, can fill that role (and any contribution Smytty makes is probably cancelled out by Darcy Tucker.).
Another area Lappy has become vitally important is in fan relations. The Avalanche have always took their fans a little for granted. Just win and the fans will come out. Well the Avs aren't winning so fan unfriendly policies, such as astronomical ticket prices, signing guys like Brad May and Darcy Tucker, insulting our intelligence by not allowing anything that could be possibly construed as criticism, have contributed to the decline in attendance at the Pepsi Center. Ian Laperriere is the best player-ambassador they have. He does tireless charity work, especially with sick kids in the Denver area. He relates to the fans.
In the next 2-3 years Ian Laperriere is going to be even more important than ever. There is not a hockey player who has more guts, grit, heart and soul than Ian Laperriere. Grit, guts, heart and soul is how you work your way out of the basement and back into the elite.