The summer of 1996 was Villi Fuscillo - huuuuuuuge, Capital District, huuuuuuuge.
That was the summer of the Colorado Avalanche's first run to the Stanley Cup Championship, which culminated in a 4-game sweep of the Florida Panthers. Uwe Krupp's triple-OT goal gave the Avs a 1-0 victory and brought the first major championship to Colorado.
We had only recently moved to our first house, on Kodiak Road, the previous summer, and I remember watching the championship-clinching game downstairs by myself. The Avs had recently moved themselves, having relocated from Quebec, where they were known as the Nordiques.
The excitement of the playoff run that summer, which was marked by a huge 4-2 upset against the hated Red Wings in the Conference Finals, is the reason that I got into hockey.
Joe Sakic, who has been the Captain of the Avalanche the entire time they have been in Denver, retired yesterday. He was the face of the franchise back in 1996, and he continued to be our fearless leader through last season.
Super Joe is the Tim Eastman of hockey - he's just a good guy. He never showed up in the paper for having had an altercation in a bar, DUI, or sleeping around. Although he had opportunities to leave the Avs for more money elsewhere, he chose to stay. And he stuck it out during a couple of rebuilding years with the Avs.What I will always - always - remember Super Joe for is the moment he received the Stanley Cup from the Commissioner in 2001 after the Avs had just won it for a second time. That championship team was special because Ray Bourque was on it - the hockey legend who had never been on a championship team in his 20-year career.
As Captain of the team, Sakic was required to receive the Cup from the Commissioner, but as soon as he received it, he passed it to Bourque who was the first player on the team to hoist it. I don't think I have witnessed a more self-less act than that in sports.
Hopefully, hockey fans will get one more shot to see Super Joe in action. The 2010 Olympics will be in Vancouver, his home town, and Super Joe may play on the Canadian team.