Hockey lost another one of its greats as Joe Sakic announced he will be retiring from a game that he has enjoyed, and thrived in, for the past 20 years. In a storied career, where Sakic technically played for the same team (the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado and became the Avalanche in 1995), Sakic stands as a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, a Conn Smythe winner, a four-time Gold Medal and two-time Silver medal earner on the international stage with Team Canada, a Hart Memorial Trophy winner, a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy Winner and a Lester B. Pearson Award along with a Winter Olympics MVP in 2002.
If that wasn’t enough, Sakic is just one of six players to score over 1500 points with one club. He has over 1000 career assists, is the second oldest player to score 100 points in a regular season behind Gordie Howe, and is the longest tenured captain of any NHL franchise in history.
The last accomplishment is perhaps what Sakic will be remembered for. He was a leader through and through. He was the type of player that you wanted to play for. He was a class act at all times, a team player, never causing any drama and always bringing his all to the rink each and every night. Perhaps, in one of the more touching moments in NHL history, Sakic elected to let Ray Bourque hoist the Stanley Cup trophy after the Avs came back from a 3-2 deficit in the final series against New Jersey. Hoisting the Cup is every captain’s dream, and Sakic allowed one of his respected peers to do the honor instead, since Bourque had been such an integral part in getting the Avalanche over the hump. That was the kind of selfless character Joe Sakic was in the past, and remains today.
Certainly, the final two years of his career have been disappointing. The Colorado Avalanche have struggled immensely, and Sakic played in just 44 and 12 games in his final two seasons. Last season he scored just 12 points, two of those were goals. After twenty years, and accomplishing just about every possible accolade you can in the sport of hockey, Sakic is hanging up the skates. And he will be missed.
On Thursday, the focus will be on Sakic who will make the announcement official. Starting Friday, the Avalanche will have to find a way to move on and bolster their +6600 odds of winning the Cup in 2009-10. It’s a daunting task, but moving in without one of the greatest leaders to ever don a “C” in the NHL could prove to be even more challenging.
The task is even scarier given that Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota and Edmonton are getting stronger and stronger. The Avs are infused with a bevy of young talent, including Wojtek Woslki, Paul Stastny, Marek Svatos, Tyler Arnason and the always electric Milan Hejduk. But only Hejdux was able to bridge the 50 point barrier last season, and the Avalanche were outclassed on many nights. This team has a long way to go, but with Sakic stepping aside it will be easier to look to the future and rebuild.
For now, the game bids adieu to one of the greatest to ever play the game. On Thursday, the entire hockey community, the NHL betting fans and the Avs supporters will tip their glasses and raise their hats to one of the legends. To those who doubt just how incredible his leadership was, all you have to do is consider his nickname. He was, and will forever be, “Captain” Joe Sakic.