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Tearful Sakic calls time on career

STOIC Joe Sakic finally cracked, allowing for a rare show of emotion.

Delivering a speech that had kept him up most of the night fretting, the longtime Colorado Avalanche captain broke down, his voice betraying him as he stared into a room packed with family, friends and teammates -- even the governor of Colorado state.

Sakic officially hung up his skates on Thursday, ending his standout 20-year National Hockey League career. Try as he might, he simply couldn't get through his prepared speech without choking up.

"So many great memories," Sakic said, fighting back tears.

He had hoped to play one more season, possibly culminating his career by suiting up for Canada at next year's Vancouver Olympics.

His body simply wouldn't allow it.

Sakic missed most of the 2008-09 season with an aching back that required surgery to repair a herniated disk. He tried to make his way back onto the ice before the end of the season, but couldn't.

That's when he suspected his career was finished.

Face of the team

"I didn't think I could be the player I wanted to be," said the 40-year-old Sakic, who has been the face of the team since it moved to Denver in 1995. "I always said to myself that the minute I thought I'd slipped, and not be the player I wanted to be, it was time for me to go."

Sakic's No. 19 sweater will also be retired, getting raised to the rafters during a ceremony at the season opener, which is not yet scheduled. It will be just the third in the 14-year history of the Avalanche, joining Patrick Roy (33) and Ray Bourque (77).

"We can't put into words what he meant to this franchise and to our hockey fans," Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix said.

Sakic certainly had an impressive resume.

He was captain for 16 straight seasons and guided the team to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001, won league MVP honors in 2001, was a 13-time All-Star and led Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002. Sakic also won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship in 2001.

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).


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