Friday, July 10, 2009

Farewell, Super Joe



Super Joe, Burnaby Joe, No Ordinary Joe, Quoteless Joe, Captain Clutch, Joe Sakic.

No matter what name you knew him by, Joe Sakic will forever remain one of the greatest hockey players to ever grace the NHL.

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My first Sakic-related memory dates backs to the mid-90s. I was at a sports store in a mall in New Jersey and my parents finally decided to buy me my first Avalanche jersey. The man at the store only had two available - Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic. Though I couldn't have gone wrong with either, I made my choice with only the slightest hesitation. Sakic it was.

I still have that jersey, and I actually sent it in to Frozen Pond to be autographed by Sakic. It has become one of my most valued possessions.

Growing up just outside of Philadelphia, I didn't have the opportunity to watch many Avalanche games. Instead, I relied on The Hockey News to follow the team. The more I read about Joe, the more I liked him.

He was talented and humble. The perfect combination for an athlete.

Since 1998, I have not missed an Avalanche-Flyers game in Philadelphia. Joe is a huge reason for that. I never realized what I had witnessed until he officially announced his retirement on Thursday. We all hear stories about Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe. In 20 years, those stories will be about Joe Sakic.

Who will ever forget the '96 Final and his 18-playoff goals?

Who will ever forget his penalty shot against the Blues in the 2001 Conference Finals?

Who will ever forget his handing the Cup to Raymond Bourque?

Who will ever forget the 2002 Olympic Final?

What about his record 8 Playoff overtime goals? What about the fact that he's 8th on the all-time scoring list? What about his fight against Gilmour or his class against the once-hated Wings?

Remember the time he knocked down Scott Stevens? Or the season when he became the oldest player to record 100 points? How about his now-legendary wrist shot?

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Sakic's legacy won't simply be that he was an unbelievable scorer. He will be remembered as one of the most respected players in the game. In terms of value to a franchise - over the last 20 years - Sakic may only be matched by Steve Yzerman. But even Stevey Y didn't change hockey in Detroit as much as Sakic did in Denver.

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Now that Sakic has retired, a new era of Avalanche hockey will begin. Sakic's number 19 will be retired on the opening night of the '09-'10 season, and if my hunch turns out to be correct, the Avs will wait a year before naming a new captain.

Will anyone ever replace Joe Sakic? Absolutely not. He was a once-in-a-lifetime player. A true legend. A great role model.

Thank you, Super Joe. My love for hockey is all thanks to you.

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