Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato is returning to Colorado today for the first time since he was fired as the Avalanche's head coach in the 2009 offseason.
During his time with the Avalanche, Granato had the opportunity to coach elite talents such as Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya and of course, the recently retired Peter Forsberg.
In the wake of Forsberg's retirement Monday, Granato talked about "Foppa."
On Forsberg's latest comeback attempt:
"He’s a great competitor. And he knew he had some gas left in the tank. He’s got an unbelievable way of competing and a desire to play again. From that standpoint, I think he had to try it. I think he gave it a great try. But playing 18 games his first game, and playing in back to back games and being in a position where their team needs to win every single game to have a push for the playoffs. There was a lot of pressure on him. He was banged up a little bit from the first couple of games and health-wise, he couldn’t pull it off."
What defined Forsberg:
"His competitiveness. How physical and how hard he competed for loose pucks. How hard he battled, protected the puck. The one player, when people ask me to compare who (Sidney Crosby) is closest to, that’s the guy Sid’s closest to for how he competes. I think that’s a great compliment to Peter. I was with him for probably five years in Colorado, played against him for a couple years, and that’s the one thing you remember about Peter, how he competed. He made a comment (Monday) in his press conference. He wants people to remember him for that. Now how good he was but for how hard he played every night. He left it on the ice. That guy competed as hard as any player I’ve seen up until Sid. He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous guy to coach. He’s certainly a hall of famer."
On the edge or nastiness of Forsberg's game:
"He did, that’s all from his competitiveness. I think as a coach at times, we wanted to try and pull that away from him and have him not try and be so physical. Especially when he started to get banged up. When you see the number of surgeries he had in his career, that’s a lot of wear and tear. It was all because he played so hard, so physical and so competitive along the boards and protected the puck. That’s why he was special. If you talk about guys that were hard to play against, and you talk to defensemen who had a hard time checking guys, in that ear, he would probably be the toughest guy to play against."
On Forsberg winning the Art Ross and Hart Trophies for the only time in his career during 2002-03, Granato's first season as head coach:
"He obviously had linemates with (Alex) Tanguay and (Milan) Hejduk who were a perfect match. The last 45 or 50 games that year, they were the best line in hockey and he certainly was the best player in hockey. I saw him have an MVP season and I saw how hard and how bad he competes for his teammates. I learned a lot from him and I certainly have a lot of respect for what he brought to the game."
On Forsberg combating the preception of European players being soft:
"That was a generalization I think a lot of people made about Europeans when they first started coming over. But that’s certainly not the case. There was nothing soft about that guy at all. He was a gamer."
(Photos: First and second-Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images; third-Kevin Frayer/Associated Press)