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In 1995 a hockey team came out to one of the epicenters of the old frontier. There are two types of heroes that are typical of stories told in frontier towns. One western hero is the the brash, cocky son-of-a-bitch who takes on the establishment and all that get in his/her way, like Billy the Kid or Molly Brown (the Avs would fill this hero role later with Patrick Roy). Then there's the noble lawman, the Teddy Rooseveltian hero who speaks softly and carries a big stick. No one speaks more softly than Joe Sakic, and no one carried a bigger stick.

And that was Joe Sakic. He let his stick do the talking. And the damn thing never shut up. His wrist shot is now the measuring stick for a generation, my generation, the way our fathers compare every offensive defenseman to Bobby Orr, or every tough guy scorer to Gordie Howe. Every young sniper with a wrist shot is going to be "The next Joe Sakic", except none of them ever will be. His 18 goals in the '96 playoffs is one of the truly legendary performances of all time, in any sport.

Only talking about the wrist shot is almost insulting, because he was so much more than that. He was a superb 2-way center, who never got nearly enough credit for his defensive adeptness. He was a great teammate who could pass nearly as well as he could shoot. His steady hand guided the Avs to multiple Cups and a plethora of successful seasons. And he was the classiest athlete I have ever seen.

In the same way a calm breeze can transform a fire into an inferno, Joe Sakic's steady, classy excellence amplified the Avs-Red Wings clash and kept it a rivalry. Fans of Les Ailes de Rouge could easily dismiss and hate Roy because of his brash ego, or Forsberg because of his occasional dive, but they could do nothing but envy Joe Sakic. They envy'd his class, his greatness, and they hated him because they never got to enjoy all that greatness, but just be burned by it. He never gave Les Ailes fans a reason to hate him, and they hated him for it. And they hated him even more because he made them envious of Avs fans, something that was infuriating. Avs fans had the privilege of experiencing the joy from Joe Sakic's hockey, whereas his greatness only caused them disappointment and frustration. And this joy that we Avs fans felt was salt in the wound to Les Ailes fans whenever we won. That envy, that helplessness of trying, and failing, to hate the person causing you so much pain is what drove the greatest rivalry in sports for years (And I'll admit it went the other way with Steve Yzerman). Without that envy the rivalry would have fizzled out long before it did. But Sakic (and his counterpart #19) kept that rivalry alive with the envy of opposing fans.

Now it's time to say goodbye and every time I try I search my memory for one of the countless joyous memories Joe Sakic has created in my life, I'm hit with the melancholy realization that there will be no more Sakic themed happy memories to file into my brain. That's why saying goodbye is so hard, that no matter how much I try to celebrate the career, no matter how much I smile, laugh and get excited at all the magic Joe Sakic created, I know it will never be anything more than a memory from now on, and that makes me sad. Every good memory I have just reminds me that he will create no more.

So with that melancholy sobering epiphany that Joe Sakic will no longer be a part of my hockey-loving life I think this quote from the musical Annie sums it up the best:
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Goodbye Joe Sakic, I will miss you.