The smart, hard-working, smooth-skating, playmaking center with a wicked wrist shot was selected 15th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques. "Burnaby Joe" -- nicknamed after his hometown in British Columbia -- opted to spend a season with Swift Current of the WHL before his impressive debut season in the NHL (1988-89) was marred by an injury that many believe cost him the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
2 of 11Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
In 1989-90, Sakic blossomed into an All-Star, scoring 39 goals and 102 points for a woeful team that was in the process of finishing at the bottom of the NHL three years in a row.
3 of 11Robert Laberge/Getty Images
In 1992-93, Sakic was named team captain, and his 48 goals and 105 points powered the Nordiques to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
4 of 11Tim DeFrisco/SI
In 1994, Sakic played for Team Canada at the 1994 World Championships, scoring seven points in eight games as Canada won its first gold medal in the event since 1961. For the 1994-95 NHL season, he received a gift in the form of rookie center Peter Forsberg who arrived from Sweden and went on to win the Calder. The two were virtual sidekicks as the Nordiques moved west to Colorado after the season.
5 of 11David E. Klutho/SI
Sakic had a career year with the Avalanche in 1995-96, scoring 120 points during the regular season and leading the NHL with 34 in the playoffs, including six game-winning goals among his 18 tallies. His performance earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Avs swept Florida to win their first Stanley Cup.
6 of 11David E. Klutho/SI, AP
During the 1999-2000 season, Sakic reached 1,000 career points and also passed Hall of Fame forward Peter Stastny to become the franchise's all-time scoring leader (1,049 points).
7 of 11AP
Sakic's 2000-01 season was pure brilliance. He won the Hart and Pearson trophies at NHL MVP by scoring 118 points, including a career-high 54 goals while leading the Avalanche to their second Stanley Cup, which they won in an epic seven-game battle with the New Jersey Devils.
8 of 11Darren Carroll/SI, David E. Klutho/SI
Sakic was revered by his teammates. In one of the signature moments of his career, upon the presentation of the 2001 Stanley Cup, rather than raise it as is the captain's right, Sakic immediately handed it to defenseman Raymond Bourque, who had waited 22 years to win it.
9 of 11Damian Strohmeyer/SI, Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Sakic made his second Winter Games appearance in 2002 and became a national hero. He won tournament MVP honors, scoring four points against the U.S. in the championship game as Canada won its first Olympic gold medal in 52 years.
10 of 11David E. Klutho/SI, Dave Sandford/Getty Images
At the 2004 NHL All-Star Game in St. Paul, MN, Sakic scored a hat trick for the Western Conference and earned MVP honors although it was in a losing cause.
11 of 11David E. Klutho/SI
As injuries began to take their toll, Sakic's last great season came in 2006-07 when he scored 36 goals -- including the 600th of his career -- and 100 points. The 13-time All-Star retired, at age 40, in July 2009 ranked eighth on the NHL's all-time scoring list (1,641 points). He also holds the league's postseason marks for overtime goals (8). Most of all, he will be remembered as one of hockey's truly great leaders.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!