Joe Sakic: One of the NHL’s true greats
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One of the greatest names in NHL history has called it a career.
Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic announced his retirement today following a distinguished 20-year career that included a couple of Stanley Cups, a league MVP award and the satisfaction of knowing he did it all with the same team.
Sakic played a leading role in transforming the Quebec Nordiques from mere Eric Lindros repellent to one of the best teams in the league. After years of trudging the icy depths of the Adams Division, Sakic was already wearing the ‘C’ for two seasons by the time the Nordiques finished first in the Eastern Conference during the lockout-shortened season.
The next season, Sakic brought a Stanley Cup to the team’s new home in the Rockies. Sure, it would have been great to see the Stanley Cup awarded in the old Colisee de Quebec, but Montreal would have never traded Patrick Roy to its providential rivals.
With Roy and Peter Forsberg by his side (and, later, Rob Blake and Ray Bourque) the Sakic-led Avalanche were one of the most dominant teams in the NHL for about a decade. Their feuds with the Detroit Red Wings are worthy of more than just YouTube reminiscing.
And who can forget Sakic’s memorable 2001 season? Not only did he help Colorado rally back from a 3-2 game deficit against the New Jersey Devils to win the Cup, Sakic also helped Bourque fend off what looked like a nasty case of the Phil Housleys. He then capped it all off with a Hart Trophy.
But more than anything, he did it all with class. He didn’t need to go all Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper or challenge Chris Osgood at center ice.
Sakic became the NHL’s No. 8 all-time leading scorer in the humblest way possible. He also turned one of those Mickey Mouse-type franchises of the 1980s into a legitimate Cup contender.
No. 19’s impact on the game should never be underestimated or forgotten.
-- Austin Knoblauch