What Joe Sakic's Return Means to the Avalanche

Ron KnabenbauerCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2008


On Wednesday at 1:15 PM (Mountain Standard Time), the Colorado Avalanche announced the return of the only captain they've ever known—Joe Sakic.

It has been reported that the 39-year-old Sakic signed a one-year deal worth $6 million. That’s not a surprise, since Sakic has signed only one-year deals in the past couple of seasons.

Sakic, who was pondering retirement this offseason, says he still has the itch to play in an attempt to win his third Stanley Cup.

“Ultimately it came down to the fact that I still enjoy playing and competing,” said Sakic. “I’m comfortable with my conditioning and my overall health. I’m ready to start camp and am looking forward to the upcoming season.”

His health has been the main concern, with him playing only 44 games last season due to injury. However, he has not been injury-prone because in the last seven seasons, Sakic has played all 82 games four times and 81 games once.

But what does Sakic’s return mean to the team and the state of hockey?

He has been the face of the Avalanche organization since the team was in Quebec and will see his No. 19 in the rafters of the Pepsi Center in the near future.

He is also a great ambassador for the NHL, showing young hockey players the right way to play the game. You don’t have to be a flashy player; you just need to lead by example.

That is why Sakic is an automatic Hall of Famer when he does decide to retire. However, his 1,363 career points and 84 playoff goals also help his case for the Hall of Fame.

Sakic’s leadership is incredible, especially when it comes to young players. Think of some of the players who have come into the NHL under Sakic’s guidance: Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay, Peter Forsberg, and now Paul Stastny, Wojtek Wolski, and Marek Svatos.

That’s what makes him one of the best captains, if not the best captain, that the NHL has ever seen. That’s not a bad company to be in with the likes of Yzerman, Gretzky, and Lemieux.

With Sakic on the team, every player is made better. He is one of those guys who passes first, shoots second, unless he’s given the opportunity to whip his wicked wrist shot top shelf.

He lets other players get the goals, unless the team is on a cold streak. In that case he will step up his game in an attempt to get Colorado the “W” every night.

Sakic’s achievements have been plentiful. He has been the captain of the Canadian Olympic team, winning a gold medal for the team in 2002. He has played in 11 NHL All-Star Games, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1996, and the Hart Trophy in 2001.

However, his unselfishness is what he is most known for.

Such was the case in 2001 after the Avs won the Stanley Cup. He took the quick picture with Commissioner Bettman before lifting the cup and handing it over to Ray Bourque, an older player who played 22 seasons without feeling Lord Stanley’s smooth shine on his lips.

All levels of Avalanche fans know what Joe Sakic means to this team and to the city of Denver.

I think Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere said it best though: “Having him return is great for our franchise and community, but also for the game of hockey.”


Important Colorado Avalanche Dates

Sept. 20, Training Camp begins

Sept. 22, Burgundy/White Game at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs

Sept. 24, Preseason opener vs. Los Angeles

Sept. 27, Preseason game vs. Los Angeles in Las Vegas

Oct. 9, Season opener at home against Boston on Versus

Dec. 15, @ Detroit