NHL Loses One Of Its Greats As Joe Sakic Retires

Red Wings Avalanche HockeyTotal Pro Sports – He spent his entire career with the same organization, leading them to two Stanley Cup championships.  His name will rank just below those of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux, among the likes Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier, Marcel Dionne and Ron Francis, as some of the greatest players to play the game of hockey in the NHL.  Now Joe Sakic will join such individuals in the hockey after-life as his retirement was made official yesterday during a press conference at the Inverness Hotel in Colorado.

Sakic was just one year away from the possibility of leading his home country into the 2010 Olympic Games, which are to be played in Vancouver, just a few kilometers from Burnaby, where he was born.  Unfortunately, his body and physical strength were just not fit to go, forcing the long-time Colorado Avalanche captain to hang up his skates at the age of 40.

“Burnaby Joe”, which many liked to call him, spoke yesterday to the media at the conference stating the following about his decision:

“I thought this was going to be a lot easier.  You know there comes a time when every athlete … has to decide when it’s time to move on.

“I couldn’t sleep (Wednesday) night.  I was nervous about falling apart during my speech. (But) it feels good. I know I’m going to miss the game, but I’m at the point where I’m very comfortable with my decision. I’m ready to move onto the next chapter in my life.” [NHL.com]

Sakic now moves on, but not before making his mark on the NHL as one of the more decorated players to have ever played the game.

Drafted in the first round (15th overall) by what was then the Quebec Nordiques, Sakic began his career with the club in 1988-89 and has since won two Stanley Cups (1996 and 2001), Hart, Lady Byng and Lester B. Pearson Trophies in 2001, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in ’96.  He also led Team Canada to Olympic Gold in 2002 at Salt Lake City, earning the tournament MVP as well.

His final career stats put him among the top in most categories.  He finished with 1641 points (8th all-time), 625 goals (14th all-time), 1016 assists (11th all-time), 84 playoff goals (7th), 19 game-winning playoff goals (3rd), 13 Career All-Star games, six 100+ point seasons, 16 consecutive seasons as captain of the Avs, and an astounding 8 career playoff overtime goals, which ranks him first all-time.

These are all remarkable achievements, but one accomplishment that Sakic seems to be unable to escape is his victory in a fight over another great, Doug Gilmour.  The clip of the two fighting made its way onto Sakic’s tribute video that was played at the press conference yesterday.  When asked afterwards whether Gilmour ever stood a chance, Sakic replied by stating that he wished the clip had never made it onto the highlight package.

That is just one example of the class act the Sakic was throughout his career.  Any player in the league will tell you the same thing.  This guy could lead a pack of blind men out of a giant blizzard.  He was that great as a player and a captain.  His respect extended beyond the arena, as he was also looked at as a great family man.  He will now have time to spend with his wife, Debbie, and their three children, after they supported him throughout his great career.

Good luck Joe in the hockey after-life.  You may be gone from the game, but your legacy will remain forever.

Here is the highlight package put together for his press conference.

And here is a clip of his fight with Gilmour.  What great commentary.

Tags: 2010 Olympic Games, burnaby joe, Colorado Avalanche, Doug Gilmour, hockey, joe sakic, NHL, retirement, stanley cup, Vancouver,