And suddenly, Joe Sakic wasn’t on the ice.
It took a few shifts for my friend and I to notice the absence, but it was a void that would never again be filled for the Colorado Avalanche. I kept looking over at the bench, hoping the captain would suddenly re-enter the ice. However, it was the last time I saw number 19 in uniform for the Avalanche; November 8, 2008 against the Nashville Predators. It was the last seven minutes I would witness of my childhood hero and the heart of the Avalanche franchise on the ice as an Avalanche player. Sakic played two more games for the Avalanche; his last on November 28, 2008 in Arizona against the Phoenix Coyotes. However, back and finger injuries (sliced in a snow blower) ended his career.
Sakic was the face of the franchise from the moment the Avalanche moved from Quebec to when his jersey joined Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque in the Pepsi Center’s rafters. He was the only player on the team who played every season from 1995-2008. The franchise has not won a playoff series, which seemed to be his specialty, since his departure. He owns an NHL-record eight-playoff overtime goals.
Sakic’s Hall of Fame induction Monday night was a culmination of his legendary career. However, it continues a stalled existence for the Avalanche, who can’t seem to find their legs without their silent leader. He was such a presence with his shot, his leadership and ability to turn typical races up the ice into scoring plays. He did not have Peter Forsberg’s skill, but he was one of the all-time most consistent players. He had 100 points at the age of 38. Only Gordie Howe did it at an older age.
In Denver, Peyton Manning represents the first player to thrive under the shadow left on the franchise by John Elway’s departure in 1999. For the Avalanche, there is hope that Gabriel Landeskog may one day become the face of the franchise after the lockout. However, there will never be another Joe Sakic on the Avalanche. And I will continue to look for Super Joe to come on the ice for his next shift.