Today the Hockey Hall of Fame officially inducts this year’s class, Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, Adam Oates and Joe Sakic. These are four great players, and each of them are well deserving of the honour, but I think that one of them stands above the rest – Joe Sakic. His statistical record is well documented; 1641(625 goals and 1016 assists) NHL points (9th overall). His awards and achievements far outpace the other inductees.
- 2 Stanley Cups 1996, 2001 (1996 Conn Smythe Trophy)
- 12 All Star appearances
- Olympic Gold 2002 (M.V.P. of the games)
- World Championship Gold
- World Junior Gold
- World Cup Gold
- Hart Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, Lady Bing and many others
- 9th All-Time in NHL Regular Season Points
- Most Playoff Overtime Goals
- 7th All-Time in NHL Playoff Points
But it is his quiet determination as a player and leadership as captain of his WHL junior team, the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, and Alternate Captain of Canada’s 2002 Olympic team, that shone through. It is well known in the hockey community that Joe Sakic was a well-liked, respected and admired player, one who gave his all at an extremely high level. A good example of his teammate-first attitude was during the 2001 Stanley Cup presentation when he immediately handed the cup over to Ray Bourque in recognition of Bourque’s long and splendid career. Sakic’s tenacity and desire to win was never more evident than in the 2002 Winter Olympics gold medal game against the Americans where he scored four points, including the game changing goal in the third period and earned MVP for the tournament.
After the 2002 Olympics, Steve Yzerman was being interviewed for a commemorative magazine about Team Canada. He was asked to compare Team Canada and Team U.S.A., the two finalist teams. He commented that the teams were very evenly matched except for one thing, he said, “We had Joe.”
Sakic often made the difference in these key moments as seen by his NHL record for playoff overtime goals, and his Conn Smythe Trophy win in 1996. On a team full of great players in Colorado, it was Sakic who led the way. When a big goal was needed the Avs turned to Burnaby Joe and more often than not, he provided the heroics. His incredible run in 1996 included 18 goals in 22 playoff games, remarkable numbers especially in the NHL’s “dead puck” era.
But it is more than mere numbers that show Sakic’s importance to the Avalanche and to Team Canada. Lets look for a moment at the roles he was given. In 2002, Sakic centred the line with Simon Gagne and Jarome Iginla on the wings. These were the two youngest and least experienced forwards on Canada at the time, and Sakic took the line to new heights. His leadership and his ability to take these young forwards and help them reach greatness at a young age is remarkable. The same often occurred in Colorado where Peter Forsberg was given veteran scoring wingers and it was Sakic’s responsibility to take the young up and comers like Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, Chris Drury, Adam Deadmarsh and others over the years and create a scoring line. His ability to teach his young wingers was a key factor in why so many of them went on to long and productive NHL careers, and to why the Avalanche continued to be a Cup Contender year after year in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Tonight when the NHL honours these 4 legends, I will stand and applaud all of them, but I’ll have a little extra applause for Joe Sakic, one of the all-time legends in the sport.
Feel free to add your comments about what made Joe Sakic so special in the comment box below.