I've had this screen open for a good 20 minutes now, and I'm still not sure what to write. Honestly, I've tabbed over to to Adrian Dater's Denver Post story several times just to see if maybe there was a late breaking "wait, not so fast" update. I'm grasping for any thread of hope that the "special announcement regarding his hockey career" on Thursday is something other than Joe Sakic's retirement.
I know that it's not going to happen, no matter how many times I close my eyes and tap my ruby slippers together.
My favorite player is retiring. I've idolized exactly two athletes in my life: Tony Dorsett and Joe Sakic. #33 was my favorite player as a kid, and #19 has been my favorite player as an adult. I am not the idol worshiping type, and it is doubtful that I will ever again cheer for a hockey player like I have for Joe Sakic. I know that this is the right time, that it would be wrong to ask Sakic to endure what would no doubt be a difficult season next year. Yet I still feel like a teenage girl who has broken up with her boyfriend right before the prom; I just want to lock myself in my room tonight with a bowl of ice cream, fighting back the tears as I clutch his picture in my hands.
For me, it goes back to the fall of 1991. I ran a couple of fantasy baseball leagues with some friends, using my Apple IIc to calculate the weekly stats (my NL team was called the "Draft Dodgers" which is where my old screen name came from). Anyway, we were big fantasy geeks, watching SportsCenter every night and pouring over box scores and pitching probables every morning. One of us decided we should come up with some sort of fantasy league for the baseball offseason. We thought about doing basketball, but ultimately settled on hockey. There wasn't any established format for fantasy hockey back then and we didn't really know much about the sport, but we decided to give it a whirl.
I don't recall many players from that first Screaming Ice Demons team, but I do remember one: Joe Sakic. I had no idea who Sakic was when I drafted him. In fact, I think I assumed he was European. I just knew he scored a lot of points on a terrible Nordiques team and had a brutal +/- (-102 for his career at that point). Over the years, through different fantasy teams in different fantasy leagues, I always seemed to end up with Sakic. Needless to say, I did rather well, but the incredible numbers Sakic put up year after year is only a small part of why he became a favorite.
I'm a relatively quiet guy. I tend towards boisterous and gregarious when with family and friends, but, among more casual acquaintences, I tend to keep to myself and I don't really like to talk about myself in any situation. I think that's what I've admired the most about Super Joe. He's one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the league, but he's not a fist pump type of guy. He just played the game. He didn't spend the game chirping at refs or other players, he didn't talk himself up to the press, he didn't get caught in hotel rooms with a couple of hookers and a bunch of blow. He just went out and kicked ass every night, quickly raising his stick when the team scored and that was that. My admiration was as much for the way Sakic carried himself - on and off the ice - as it was for the tremendous skill that he possessed. Not surprisingly, my favorite Joe Sakic moment was in 2001 when he held the Stanley Cup for about 19 milliseconds before handing it off to Ray Bourque. Other players might have done that, but no one could have made it look as natural as Joe Sakic did.
The above photo was taken by me on my birthday in 2007. It was the one and only time I got to see Joe Sakic play in person. My idol didn't score any points that night, but that didn't matter. I was simply ecstatic to be watching my favorite player and my favorite team with my favorite person - my wife - by my side. It doesn't get any better than that.
And it didn't get any better than Joe Sakic. Thank you, Joe, for the Cups, the inspiration and all the great memories. I wish you were sticking around a while longer *tear drops dripping into the ice cream*, but you have to do what you have to do.
It's a sad day for Avalanche fans. The franchise's greatest player of all-time is finally saying goodbye. I just wish I could allow myself to let go.