Thanks, Joe: A Tribute to Joe Sakic

Jeff DillonCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2009

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 03:  Joe Sakic #19 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Chicago Blackhawks  at the United Center on November 3, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Despite the recent hot streak of the local baseball team, the past year has been a rough one for Denver sports fans.
They watched as an inexperienced coach dismantled a talented team in a matter of weeks. They witnessed a spoiled young quarterback demand a trade and, a few months later, a spoiled young wideout get in trouble with the law (again)... and then demand a trade as well.
And speaking of the baseball team, Denver fans had to stomach seeing their All-Star outfielder turn down a $16 mil/year contract in hopes of finding a better deal elsewhere.

It's enough to make even the most dedicated local fan nauseous. It sometimes seems as if there is no longer any remnant of loyalty, class, or commitment in pro sports today.

But then there's Joe Sakic.

"Burnaby Joe," as he is known internationally (or "Super Joe" as he is known to Colorado Avalanche fans), was the type of athlete who made you proud to be a sports fan. 

Sakic, who will be honored in a pre-game jersey retirement ceremony Thursday in the Avs' opener against San Jose, was a once-in-a-generation kind of athlete and role model for fans in the Mile High City.
Not only did Sakic remain with the same franchise (Quebec/Colorado) for all 20 of his seasons in the NHL (and several times turned down potentially bigger contracts to do so), he excelled enormously throughout his career.

Sakic ranks eighth all time in the NHL for points, seventh in postseason points, and first in playoff overtime goals—a stat that helped make him a Denver legend, leading the Avs to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001.

He is one of just six players in NHL history to record 600 goals and 1,000 assists in his career, alongside some guys named Gretzky, Howe, and Lemieux.

And Joe not only excelled in the NHL, but also in international play, leading Canada to the Gold Medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics, becoming one of only 22 players in history to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, and a World Championship gold medal.

But what made Joe so endearing to fans was his quiet demeanor, his "lead by example" style, his selflessness and commitment to his family and community. Sakic's charity work is estimated to have given over seven million meals to underprivileged children.

With all of the records, statistics, medals, and cups, the thing that Avs (and Nordique) fans will always remember about Joe was that he was the ultimate professional—a man who never placed himself before his teammates or his work.

No Avs fan will ever forget June 9, 2001. The Avs had just won an emotional second Stanley Cup, made more dramatic by the recent addition of Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, who joined the Avs in hopes of winning the first Cup of his career.

Though tradition holds for the captain of the Stanley Cup winner to receive and take the first skate with Lord Stanley's cup, "Super Joe" immediately handed it off to an ecstatic Bourque.

Joe knew he would have his time in the sun, though he never asked for it.

Here's hoping the sun shines bright over Burnaby for the rest of his life.

Thanks, Joe.