DENVER (AP) – Joe Sakic is launching his second hockey career with the franchise he helped turn into a Stanley Cup champion.
The longtime Colorado captain will serve as an executive adviser, involved in all facets of hockey operations. He will also represent the team at the board of governors meetings as an alternate governor.
He assumes his new position at the end of the regular season.
The 41-year-old Sakic retired nearly two years ago after a 20-year playing career with the franchise in which he set virtually every offensive mark.
With a quick wrist shot and precision passing, Sakic finished with 1,641 points, 625 goals and 1,016 assists, numbers that rank among the best in NHL history.
The pride of Burnaby, British Columbia, Sakic has been a fan favorite since the day the team relocated to Denver from Quebec City before the 1995-96 season. He donned the captain’s “C” for 16 straight seasons and guided the Avalanche to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001. He also won league MVP honors in 2001, was a 13-time All-Star and led Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
“Joe has been the face of our franchise for two decades,” Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix said in a statement. “He led our organization to success with his contributions both on and off the ice. Right after his retirement we kept him involved, and now his presence and contributions to our team will be a huge asset going forward.
“Joe will not only serve as an adviser but will also be an invaluable resource.”
Sakic joins a squad that has struggled on the ice this season, plummeting to the second-worst mark in the league. The slide comes a year after the team made the playoffs and appeared to be on the right track, especially with a bevy of up-and-coming players.
But the Avalanche fell into a funk in late January, losing 20 of 21 contests. They traded away several pieces to shake things up, dealing forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis for defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Jay McClement. They also acquired goalie Brian Elliott from Ottawa for Craig Anderson.
Peter Forsberg even tried to rejoin the team, yet abruptly called it a career after two games because of his chronic foot ailment.
Sakic becomes the second high-profile athlete from the Mile High City to leap into the front office. Hall of Famer John Elway recently rejoined the Denver Broncos as chief football executive after a franchise-worst 4-12 season.
“I feel that now is the time for this new challenge,” said Sakic, who was originally taken by Quebec with the 15th pick in the 1987 draft. “I feel excited about getting involved more with the organization. The fact that the Avalanche is giving me this opportunity shows how much they trust my background and hockey experience. I look forward to this new expanded role with the franchise.”
At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Sakic was never an intimidating presence, making up for it with determination and grit.
Not to mention that lethal wrist shot.
There have only been four players in league history that have scored more points with one franchise than Sakic: Gordie Howe (1,809) and Steve Yzerman (1,755) with Detroit, Mario Lemieux (1,723) with Pittsburgh and Wayne Gretzky (1,669) with Edmonton.
Sakic had his No. 19 sweater retired on Oct. 1, 2009, joining the jerseys of Patrick Roy (33) and Ray Bourque (77) in the Pepsi Center rafters.
Sakic’s locker also was encased in glass, his equipment hanging in there as if he were preparing to dress for a game again.
And he will.
Only this time, Sakic will be donning a suit instead of a sweater.
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)