Last night, one of the greatest hockey players to grace the ice, was honored as an inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Joe Sakic is a class act. His leadership in the sport of ice hockey has been monumental. He’s a great guy too.
Sakic was the gentleman leader who instilled playing an honest game with integrity. He was shy, yet always the ambassador to the hockey world. He brought the NHL and hockey to Colorado, where most poeple were transplants from elsewhere. I knew Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins fans converted into Avalanche fans due in large part to what heart Sakic and his team brought to Denver. They became one of us, on our team.
I remember seeing him ride along downtown Denver atop a fire engine hoisting the Stanley Cup. The thrill of hockey had been reborn in me. Coming from Detroit, I missed the games, the passionate fans, and the hockey players I followed. Joe Sakic became and will always be my favorite Avalanche player. I devoted much of my blog to how the Avalanche and Joe Sakic’s living legacy created competitive hockey and a strong community.
He had skeletons that he locked away and when asked about them in interviews, he would change the subject or conclude the interview. He was there to talk about his team, not a horrific day tha haunted him. Most journalists knew that event shaped his dedication and emotion for playing the game, and respected his privacy.
Sakic was a pioneer for the youth hockey advancement and development in Denver. Kids new to hockey looked to Joe for inspiration. Denver, primarily a football town, was unaware of young hockey stars in waiting.
The University of Denver Pioneers men’s hockey team had a brighter spotlight as hockey rose in popularity. DU groomed two NHL stars in Paul Stastny and Matt Carle, and became NCAA champions. The Frozen Four would never had been hosted by Denver in 2008 if Sakic hadn’t created such an affection for local hockey.
Players respected and emulated him. Fans wore his jersey proudly. We all knew Joe. And we knew Joe saw us too. We were not just a crowd, we were a community. We were The Avalanche.
As a staunch Red Wings fan, Joe was the only guy who could tear me away from Detroit. When the Detroit Red Wings came to town, it was really a battle between Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. I was heartbroken that I had to choose between the two. Both men remain iconic representatives of a generation of NHL fans who can agree on their talented leadership and sportsmanship. Old school fans still ask, “Sakic or Yzerman?”
All the stats in his career can’t replace the years of happiness he has brought to the many fans around the world. He’s a class-act and his induction as a Hall of Famer is testament to the good guys out there making a difference. Thanks Joe!