Wednesday, 10 August 2011 13:58

Broncos launched Sakic to Hall of Fame career

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

During the summer of 1986, Joe Sakic wasn’t sure if he wanted to come to Swift Current.

The Burnaby, B.C., native was debating whether he wanted to move to the Broncos in the smallest market in the Canadian Hockey League. After spending a few days in southwest Saskatchewan, Sakic came to like the area.

Twenty-five years later, Sakic knows it was the best decision of his life.

He tore up the Western Hockey League during his two seasons with the Broncos, recording 133 and 160 points respectively. He was named WHL player of the year in both 1987 and 1988 and named CHL player of the year in 1988. He also led the WHL in scoring during the 1987-88 season.

His time in Swift Current helped launched Sakic into the National Hockey League, where he won two Stanley Cups (in 1996 and 2011) with the Colorado Avalanche, a Conn Smythe Trophy (1996) and the Hart Memorial Trophy (2001).

Swift Current is also where he met his wife.

The smallest city in the CHL has a special meaning to Sakic, which is why he felt honoured to be inducted into the Swift Current Broncos’ Hall of Fame Aug. 6.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Sakic, who is eighth on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,641 regular season points. “I was a Swift Current Bronco when we first started in 1986 and spent two years here. I met my wife here and we have three kids and we come back here every year. It’s just a great place and we have great memories here. I had two incredible years here.”

Looking back on his playing years in Swift Current, Sakic remembers the energy that filled the Civic Centre, now known as the Credit Union i-plex, and how loud the fan were in the arena.

If that didn’t make his time on the ice enjoyable enough, he played in an open, offensive system that allowed him to showcase his talents. He really enjoyed that system in his second year with the club when he played on a line with Sheldon Kennedy and his brother, Brian.

Although he moved to the National Hockey League as a member of the Quebec Nordiques during the Broncos’ run to the Memorial Cup championship in 1989, he still has fond memories of that game and feels like he was a part of that team.

“I was at that game,” said Sakic. “We missed the playoffs in my first year, but I came (to the Memorial Cup), spent some time there and watched a few games. What a great game that was. I was so proud for them and my brother.”

Even though he missed out on a Memorial Cup in the 1988-89 season, that year, his first in the NHL, still holds the greatest memory for a man who dominated the 2002 Olympic gold medal game that Canada won 5-2 over the United States.

“One of the biggest (memories) was making the National Hockey League and playing that first game,” he said. “I was in Hartford sitting in the dressing room and realizing it was a dream come true. Without that, nothing else happens.

“You have to start (somewhere) and obviously the two Stanley Cups and gold medal in Salt Lake were pretty impressive.”

For all of his success in his career, Sakic believes his attitude was the biggest reason for it.

He stayed even-keeled after every game, even if he didn’t play that well. Sakic hated having a bad game so much it inspired him to get up the next day and practise even harder to make sure he didn’t have another one.

Now an executive advisor and alternate governor with the Avalanche, Sakic is seeing hockey from the management side of things.

With his limited upper-office experience, and history in Swift Current, he believes the Broncos should be able to survive in the smallest market in the CHL, but they need a lot of support.

“It’s a great franchise,” he said. “You have a lot of history here. This organization won a Memorial Cup here and went to another Memorial Cup. There’s that history, but it boils down to community support.

“I know as a player it was unbelievable to play here and players like being part of this team and community because people care. For it to continue like that, you need the support from the business community and the fans.

“Small markets are different than the big market. It’s a lot easier for the big market. A smaller market needs more support from the community and the reason the Broncos have lasted 25 years is because they’ve had support and you have to keep it up.”

Read 460 times

More In SW Sask Sports...

More In Entertainment...