Shortly after word broke yesterday about the impending retirement of the Colorado Avalanche's Joe Sakic, Brian Engblom, a hockey vet, Versus TV commentator and onetime mullet king, appeared on Mile High Sports Radio/1510 AM to discuss Super Joe's legacy. During the chat, hosts Joel Klatt and Nate Kreckman asked Engblom to site Sakic's signature play -- the moment that will forever define the captain in the memories of fans. And Engblom couldn't come up with anything.
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An insult? Hardly. As Engblom pointed out, after a moment's worth of uncomfortable struggling, Sakic was more about his play as a whole than a random collection of incidents. His modesty off the ice was matched by his low-key nature on it -- a quality virtually unheard of in an athlete of his caliber.
Atlhough he's in eighth place all-time in points among National Hockey League players, Sakic, who played his entire twenty-year career for the same franchise, was known as much for his assists as for goals scored. He was a consummate teammate who made his comrades better simply by his presence, and while he couldn't have reached the heights he hit without an ego, he kept it to himself rather than wearing it on his sweater. He also played unexpectedly stout defense for such a brilliant offensive force -- and Engblom correctly noted that Sakic's shooting style didn't call attention to itself. In contrast to the sort of booming slappers favored by flashier players, Sakic relied on a wrist shot that required a minimum of extraneous body movement. It was a stealth weapon -- so quick that goalies often didn't know what was happening until the puck was behind him.
At this point, there's speculation aplenty that Sakic stepped down because he didn't want to go through the pain of readying himself for yet another season (after missing much of the past two with injuries) when the Avs are going to blow. But don't expect him to say anything like that at the Thursday news conference where he'll formalize his decision. Instead, he'll be classy and modest, just as he was during the Avs Stanley Cup years, when he was happy to let Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg and Ray Bourque take most of the credit for the championships when he was just as important to the wins, if not more so.
Sakic wasn't about moments. He was about decades.