Through a 20-season career in the National Hockey League, Joe Sakic is unique as one of the few players to have won the Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal, gold in the World Cup of Hockey, gold at the World Championships and gold at the World Junior Championships.
Born Joseph Steven Sakic on July 7, 1969 in Burnaby, British Columbia, Joe was four years old when he decided that he wanted to make hockey a career. By 1986-87, he was playing junior with the Swift Current Broncos and was named rookie of the year after a sensational freshman season that saw him score 60 goals and add 73 assists for 133 points. By the next season, scoring 78 goals and 160 points earned Joe the Western Hockey League's most valuable player award and he was named the Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year.
Drafted 15th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Sakic made his NHL debut on October 6, 1988 and enjoyed a fine rookie season with 62 points in 70 games. But in 1989-90, Joe really blossomed as an NHLer, finishing ninth in the league with 102 points. By the following season, he was named co-captain of the Nordiques and finished with 109 regular season points; sixth best in the NHL. Joe became the sole captain of the franchise in 1992-93. That season, he again reached the 100-point plateau, collecting 105. In 1994-95, in spite of the lock-out, Joe finished fourth in scoring, helping the Nordiques win the division title.
The Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver as the Colorado Avalanche beginning with the 1995-96 season. That campaign, Sakic scored 120 points and led the newly-relocated franchise to its first Stanley Cup championship. He was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after notching 34 points, including six game-winning goals, in 22 games.
The Avalanche finished first overall in 1996-97, but although Joe took the team to the conference final, contributing 25 points, they were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings. In February 1998, Sakic was selected for the Canadian Olympic Team, participating in Nagano, Japan. Then, in 1998-99, he collected 96 points and finished fifth in NHL scoring, but were defeated by the Dallas Stars in the conference final.
On December 27, 1999, Joe earned an assist against St. Louis to reach 1,000 career points. In 2000-01, he again reached the 100-point mark, finishing with 118 along with a career-best 54 goals. He was awarded the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league's most valuable player as well as the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player. More importantly, Sakic again led the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup championship, defeating the New Jersey Devils in the final. An indelible memory is the captain being presented with the Stanley Cup by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, then immediately handing the historic trophy to teammate Ray Bourque, who had waited 22 seasons for the opportunity to hoist the Cup.
Sakic finished sixth in league scoring in 2001-02. During that season, on March 9, 2002, he played in his 1,000th regular season game, too. The Avalanche again reached the conference final, but were defeated by Detroit. During the Winter Olympic Gamers that interrupted that season, Joe was a member of the gold medal-winning Canadian team, and was selected as the tournament's most valuable player.
After an injury-plagued 2002-03, Sakic finished third in scoring with 87 points in 2003-04. He had another spectacular season in 2006-07, reaching the 100-point plateau for the sixth time in his career. Earlier that season, Joe captained Team Canada's entry at the Olympic Winter Games.
Injuries continued to dog Sakic and in November 2008, after playing just 15 games, Joe was forced to conclude his season. Two days after his 40th birthday, he announced his retirement on July 9, 2009. Through 20 NHL seasons - 7 in Quebec and 13 in Colorado, Sakic scored 625 goals and 1,016 assists for 1,641 points in 1,378 regular season NHL games. He also had 84 goals and 104 assists for 188 points in 172 playoff contests.
At the time of his retirement, Joe was eighth on the NHL's all-time point leaders, 14th in goals and 11th in all-time assists. Prior to the 2009-10 season opener, the Colorado Avalanche retired Sakic's number 19. Through his extraordinary career, he was voted onto 13 NHL All-Star Games, and was MVP in the 2004 game.
While his career in the National Hockey League was spectacular, Sakic's international play was equally sterling. After being drafted by the Nordiques in 1987, he helped Canada win the 1988 World Junior Championship. He was part of Canada's silver medal effort at the World Championships in 1991, and won gold at the same tournament in 1994. Canada finished second at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, but took gold in 2004. Joe was a member of the gold medal champion Canadian team at the Olympic Winter Games in 2002.
A quiet captain, Joe Sakic let his dedication and skill speak for him, and is remembered as the humble but outstanding leader of the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise.