Joseph Steven Sakic
Born July 7, 1969 (age 42) in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Center and captain of the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche
Today we profile the man Patrick Kane has said was his idol when he was younger. “Super Joe’s” parents were Croatian immigrants, and Joe didn’t speak English till he entered kindergarten. It was at the tender age of four that he saw a game between the Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames and decided that he wanted to play hockey (aww). While in school, he posted 83 goals and 156 points in 80 games and was picked up by the WHL’s Lethbridge Broncos for part of the 1985-86 season. When the Broncos relocated to Swift Current, Saskatchewan the next season, he was named WHL Rookie of the Year with 133 points (60 goals, 73 assists). But in December 1986, the team experienced a terrible loss – on the way to a game, the team bus hit a patch of black ice and crashed, killing four of Joe’s teammates. For the 1987-88 season, he scored 160 points (78 goals, 82 assists) and was named WHL MVP and Canada Major Junior Player of the Year.
The Quebec Nordiques drafted him in 1987, but he stayed one more year in Swift Current before making his NHL debut on October 6, 1988. He scored his first NHL goal two days later. He would’ve been a contender for the Calder Trophy if an ankle injury hadn’t kept him from it, but he did score 62 goals in 70 games. He scored 102 points his next season, ranking him ninth in the league, and was named captain for away games. Despite his performance during his first four seasons, the team was in last place, but things turned after he was made sole captain – by 1994-95, he had led them to a division title.
When the Nords moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, Joe proved to be a very effective leader – the Avs won the Stanley Cup in their debut season! In the next six seasons, the Avs would be on top, winning the President’s Trophy and making conference finals, even with Joe hurt during two seasons. In 2001 the Avs won their second Stanley Cup, and Joe won the Hart and Lady Byng Trophies as well as the Lester B. Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award).
Fast forward to the 2005-06 season. After the Year That Never Was, the Avs were hit with salary caps and had to let some of their top talent go. No problem, Joe still led the Avs to the conference semifinals. He later signed a one-year deal to stay with the team for the 2006-07 season and led the league in career points. He signed two more one-year contracts with the team, and in the process recorded his 1000th career assist and his 1600th point. He didn’t play very much in his last year due to a herniated disk, and he retired on July 9, 2009. The Avs retired his number 19 in October of that year.
Joe’s international play is just as extensive as his NHL career. As part of Team Canada, he’s won gold in the World Juniors, the World Championships and the World Cup (he won silver there as well), and he won gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. And he has a ton of milestones, among which are:
- 1363 regular season games played
- 1641 regular season points
- 625 regular season goals
- he’s one of only four captains to win the Stanley Cup and the Hart Trophy in the same year
- he’s a member of the Triple Gold Club
- his goals, assists, points and games are all Avs franchise records
He’s now working in the Avs front office as their Executive Advisor and Alternate Governor. That means that he gives them advice on hockey and represents the franchise at Board of Governors meetings. I think that’s a fitting way to pay back a guy who’s stuck with the same team for 20 seasons.