‘Burnaby Joe’ Sakic returns home for Giants honour
Hockey Hall of Famer and former Canucks tormentor will be celebrated Friday at Pacific Coliseum
VANCOUVER — Normally a player who kicked the Vancouver Canucks’ butt for years on end would not be a welcome sight in the city. Even Joe Sakic wondered why the Western Hockey League’s Giants wanted to throw a night for him given his torment of the Canucks.
But Burnaby Joe is no ordinary Joe and chances are excellent he’ll hear only heartfelt applause Friday on “Joe Sakic Hall of Fame Night” at the Pacific Coliseum.
“Well, you know what?” said Burnaby Joe over the phone from Denver. “When Ron Toigo called me, that did get brought up. He was, like, ‘Yeah, I know you didn’t play here but you’re a local boy,’ and that was the big thing. So I’m excited to have a chance to get back to Vancouver. It’s going to be a great night.”
Born and raised in Burnaby, Sakic played junior for the Swift Current Broncos, was drafted in the first round by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987 and broke into the NHL a year later. He didn’t really morph into a Canuck killer until the Nordique franchise relocated to Colorado, became the Avalanche, captured eight consecutive division titles and beat the Canucks twice in the playoffs en route to their two Stanley Cups.
“The fans in Vancouver, I know they didn’t like the Avalanche but they always treated me well,” chuckled Sakic, now 43. “Vancouver was my favourite place to play on the road. I remember getting my 500th goal in Vancouver and getting a standing ovation from the fans at GM Place. That was a pretty special moment and my whole family was there for it, too.”
Sakic is arguably the greatest player to come from British Columbia. In addition to his two Cups, he’s won numerous trophies including a Hart, a Conn Smythe, a Lady Byng and a Pearson (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award). He finished his 21-year NHL career with 625 goals, 1,016 assists and 1,641 points. He collected another 188 points in 172 playoff games. He won Olympic gold in Salt Lake City with Team Canada and was named tournament MVP.
Last November, Sakic was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which prompted the Giants to invite him to town for Friday’s little celebration. Asked for his fondest memories, he had a few.
“Obviously I think it’s winning the two Cups and the Olympic gold in Salt Lake,” he replied. “That gold-medal game was the best game I’ve ever been a part of. If I had to pick one single game in my career, and only one, that would be it, for sure, what with the 50-year drought and everything else.
“Just being in the Olympic Games, the biggest event in the world, was special and then winning the gold medal.”
Sakic is also finding retirement special in that it allows him to be a full-time dad for son Mitch, 16, and 12-year-old fraternal twins Chase and Kamryn. The boys play hockey and daughter Kamryn is involved in gymnastics. Professionally, he is a non-travelling adviser in the Avalanche hockey department and works closely with general manager Greg Sherman. He has no interest, at this time, in becoming a GM himself.
“Honestly, right now, I’m really enjoying what I’m doing, especially with the kids at their age,” he explained. “It’s been good being able to go to the rinks and to my daughter’s gymnastics and their school activities. So that’s been keeping me busy. I don’t think I’d want to be on call every day 24/7 as a GM. It’s a commitment that I’m not ready for. I’m enjoying what I’m doing and I can’t see myself travelling and doing all of that.”
Burnaby Joe won’t mind getting on a plane Friday for his big night as the Giants meet the Kelowna Rockets. The festivities are scheduled to begin at 7:30.
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