Kukla's Korner

Sakic: A Class Act

Super Joe. Burnaby Joe. Quoteless Joe.

Of all the nicknames that stuck with Joe Sakic, perhaps the friendly mockery of “Quoteless” summed up Sakic’s persona the best. He didn’t blurt out thoughts without the brain/mouth filter a la Jeremy Roenick and he certainly never grabbed the attention of Extra or the E! channel a la Sean Avery. Instead, he spoke with his on-ice performance, a mixture of top-level skill and pure class.

I think we all respect (and possibly even like) Joe Sakic. Maybe it’s because of this “Quoteless” nature; with that, there’s not that much bulletin board material so you leave it to his play on the ice. He wasn’t dirty, crass, or obnoxious, and while you’d see him sticking up for his teammates, you’d have to look hard to see any Pronger-like cheap shots in his career.

What type of impact did Sakic make? I like to think that you could tell how highly everyone thought of him by seeing how fans of his hated rivals treated him during the peak of their feud. For me, that rewinds the clock back to college, where my apartment had four hockey nuts living together up in Davis, California (definitely not hockey country). While geography kept us all supporting the Sharks, we each had our other teams, including my one roommate who loved the Red Wings and loved to hate the Avalanche.

This was the guy who had a signed photo of Darren McCarty pummeling a turtled Claude Lemieux on his wall next to his Steve Yzerman Starting Lineup figure. And this was the time when Avalanche/Red Wing games were mandatory household viewing, when we’d try to predict how many PIMs there were in each game, and when we’d debate the fighting abilities of all of the involved goaltenders.

Yes, good times indeed.

In sports, writing, music, whatever type of public forum, there’s the old notion that you don’t care what sort of response you draw as long as you get a response. Indifference is the worst thing in the world. While my buddy hated the Avs, I also knew he secretly loved them—or loved playing them, because it was always such a good time, much more so than when a random Kings/Bruins game came across ESPN2. Still, he fired off his vitriol like a good sports fan, yelling about the dirty way Adam Foote used his stick to pitchfork people, or how Peter Forsberg was a pansy diver (something he still talks about to this day), or how Patrick Roy was…well, Patrick Roy, and that generally was enough.

(Strangely enough, he always used Roy when we annually drafted our EA Sports mega-teams. At what price, victory?)

Through all of that, I can’t recall him saying anything bad about Sakic. Sure, he’d get upset when Sakic scored, but it’d often be accompanied by something like, “Stupid freakin’ Sakic” (or “Damn it, Ozzie”). It certainly was a far cry from the mountain of curse words someone like Adam Deadmarsh or especially Forsberg would earn.

With Sakic, there was always a line of respect. Even as he captained their greatest rival, you knew he did it with class, and while my friend could get upset about the result, he never got to the point of hate.

I know it’s easier to spew sports hate these days thanks to message boards, blogs, etc.—just look at the war of words between Penguins fans and Caps fans about how Crosby is this or Ovechkin is that. I wonder if we had that ten years ago, what would be said between Avs fans and Red Wings fans about their bitter rivalry? I like to think that most of the folks involved would feel that same level of respect for Sakic that my roommate did—he hated what Sakic accomplished because he was so damn good but he couldn’t find reason to hate the man himself. Sakic’s class act simply rose above that.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: joe+sakic

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