Retired Forward was MVP of 2002 Olympic Hockey Tournament

An estimated one-third of all Canadians watched in February 2002 as “Burnaby Joe” took a pass in the slot and wired a wrist shot past Mike Richter. The goal, which broke a tense 2-2 tie, clinched for Team Canada its first Olympic gold medal in men’s ice hockey in 50 years.

Joe Sakic, of Burnaby, B.C., scored four points in that gold medal game in Salt Lake City. Canada’s assistant captain finished the Olympic tournament with seven points (four goals, three assists) and a plus-6 rating, an effort that earned him the tournament Most Valuable Player award. He is the shining face of that gold medal game, which remains arguably the biggest event in Canadian sports history.

On July 8, 2009 – one day after his 40th birthday – Sakic announced his retirement from the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche and put to rest speculation about whether he would strive to play at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. He retires as one of Canada’s most memorable Olympic hockey players, challenging the world in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

“I have so many great memories from my career, but having the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics was both an honour and a thrill that ranks among the best,” Sakic told Olympic.ca.

“As a kid growing up in Canada, you dream of playing in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup, and one day wearing a Team Canada jersey. Having the chance to play for my country at the Olympics, and especially winning a gold medal in Salt Lake City, was an amazing and memorable experience I’ll always cherish.”

At both the Nagano 1998 and Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Sakic had identical numbers: one goal and two assists. Over his Olympic career, he scored six goals and had seven assists. In 2006, veteran Sakic was honoured with being named team captain.

Earlier in his career, Sakic suited up for Canada at two World Championships. He captured gold with Team Canada in 1994, scoring four goals and three assists in eight games. In 1991, the team won the silver medal, with Sakic netting six goals while adding five assists in 10 games.

Throughout his years in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, he carved a tremendous professional career. Sakic twice won the Stanley Cup (1996, 2001) and was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy in 1996 and the Hart Trophy in 2001. He was voted to the All-Star Game 13 times. In 20 seasons, Sakic had 1,641 points in 1,378 games.

One thing is certain: the forward rose to the occasion when the stakes were high. Along with his impressive Olympic performances – especially in 2002 – Sakic has 188 playoff points in the NHL, including a record eight goals scored in overtime.

Joe Sakic was invited to the Olympic orientation camp in late August, but largely due to the back injury he suffered last season, has decided to forego the chance to play in a fourth Games.

He will be missed by Team Canada.