Joe Sakic retires after 20 NHL season

One of the greatest players in N-H-L history has officially called it quits. Joe Sakic announced Thursday that after 20 seasons in the NHL he’s played his last game.

DENVER — Longtime Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic is officially retiring after 20 seasons and two Stanley Cup titles.

The 40-year-old Sakic has been the face of the franchise since the team moved to Denver in 1995. He will formally announce his retirement plans at a 3 p.m. ET news conference on Thursday.

Known for his lethal wrist shot and precision passing, Sakic leaves the game among the NHL’s career scoring leaders. He’s eighth in points (1,641), 11th in assists (1,016) and 14th in goals (625).

Sakic’s No. 19 sweater will also be retired, getting raised to the Pepsi Center rafters during a ceremony at the season opener, which is not yet scheduled. It will be just the third sweater retired in the 14-year history of the Avalanche, joining Patrick Roy (33) and Ray Bourque (77). The organization also retired four sweaters when they were the Quebec Nordiques.

“It is appropriate and deserving that we launch the season by honouring Joe’s accomplishments,” Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix said in a statement. “We can’t put into words what he meant to this franchise and to our hockey fans.”

Sakic was regarded as a quiet superstar, known for his clutch scoring — tallying an NHL-record eight overtime goals in the playoffs — and his class.

He captured the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship in 2001, showing his true character by handing the Stanley Cup over to Bourque after winning the title and letting the longtime defenceman skate it around the ice.

Over the last two years Sakic has been riddled with injuries. He missed most of the 2008-09 season with an aching back that required surgery to repair a herniated disk. He also damaged three fingers on his left hand in a snow-blower accident.

Sakic tried to make his way back onto the ice before the end of the season, but his body didn’t co-operate.

He departs with an impressive resume.

Sakic wore the captain’s “C” for 16 straight seasons, making him the second-longest serving captain in league history. He guided the team to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001, won league MVP honours in 2001, was a 13-time All-Star and led Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002.

He skates away with no regrets.

“After having the privilege of playing for 20 years, I’m leaving the game of hockey with nothing but great memories and a sense of accomplishment,” Sakic said. “The game has given me more than I ever dreamed of, and for that I am truly grateful.”

Never an intimidating presence — he’s only five-foot-11 and 195 pounds — he made up for it with speed, determination and intelligence. There are only 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 with Pittsburgh (1,723) and Wayne Gretzky with Edmonton (1,669).

Sakic also was remarkably consistent, scoring 30 or more goals in a franchise-record nine different seasons.

He leaves as the team’s leader in virtually every offensive category.

“His leadership, sportsmanship and respect for the game of hockey are legendary,” Avalanche owner E. Stanley Kroenke said.

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