Today, one of the greatest athletes in Denver pro sports history retired. Joe Sakic, the Colorado Avalanche center, hung up his skates after a twenty year career that will certainly land him in the NHL Hall of Fame.
So, what makes an athlete “great”? Everyone has their own definition, consisting of their own set of important factors. Hopefully these “sets” include an athlete's “numbers” - his (or her) statistics, like goals, assists, championships, etc. etc. etc.
Any given athlete's stats can be debated and discussed, and even agreed or disagreed upon, any given day. The most important day may be retirement day; that day is today, for Joe Sakic.
A critical part of my definition of “greatness” includes an athlete's character. That definition for me includes not only “the main or essential nature” of a person, but also how other people really feel about him (or her). Often, that's very easily seen in today's athletes given they're so often in the “public eye”. Closely related to “character” for me is “consistency”. Does an athlete consistently demonstrate good character? That answer is directly proportional to the degree of greatness.
I could list all the things that make Joe Sakic great, but others have already done so,and the list is too long for this article; I'd be writing for hours.
One of the greatest hockey moments you could ever see happened just after the Colorado Avalanche won the 2001 Stanley Cup. After the commissioner presents the Cup to the winning team's captain, it's the captain's right (as well as tradition) to skate around the rink first, with the Cup, before handing it off to a teammate. So does “Captain Joe” do the usual? Nope. Without hesitation, he passes the Cup to Ray Borque instead.
When asked about it at today's retirement press conference, Joe simply said he wanted to do “something”. Well, that “something” was “something else” as far as I'm concerned. That “something” was something special, and it's quite likely we'll never see anything like it again, in any sport. That alone tells anyone all they need
to know about the great Joe Sakic.