I always admired Joe Sakic. As I’m sitting here in Denver, CO, a few nights after Colorado retired his jersey, I cannot help but feel nostalgic about his incredible career.
Never mind he was a tremendously prolific scorer, finishing his NHL career eighth in points (1,641), 11th in assists (1,016) and 14th in goals (625). Two 50 goal seasons, six seasons with at least 100 points. Lead his team in Quebec as captain through difficult years (Eric who?). League MVP in 2001. Two Stanley Cup championships with the Colorado Avalanche. Lead Team Canada to its first Olympic Gold Medal in 50 years, earning him the tournament’s MVP.
What defines Joe Sakic? Two moments from his career really cemented his legacy in my mind, and in all those who watched.
The first was in February 2002. Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Canada vs. US. Gold Medal game. As millions across Canada watched breathlessly, Joe Sakic carries the team on his shoulders, scoring four points including the game-winning goal in a 5-2 win, and his place in Canadian sports history is defined. A 50-year Olympic drought is ended by a true legend.
The second moment is a true testament to the character of the man. After leading his team to their second Stanley Cup in 2001, Sakic unselfishly ignored NHL tradition by not hoisting the Cup as the team captain, but intead, passing it to Ray Bourque. Bourque had just been traded to the Avalanche the year before, after spending his entire career in Boston and setting a league record for most games played without winning the Cup. It was truly a classy gesture — and probably one of the most memorable moments in the NHL. For all of us who have dreamed about hoisting the Cup, this was an unbelievable thing for Sakic to do.
“I told him on the ice that as soon as I got it, I was going to pass it over to him,” Sakic said afterwards. “He’s the one that deserved to lift it up first.”
“Hockey is my life. It’s given me everything and I’m so lucky to play it. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Stay classy, Joe Sakic.