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Sakic injures hand in snow blower accident

by Phil Coffey
Things have gone from bad to worse for Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic.

Already out of the lineup with a herniated disc in his back, more misfortune befell Sakic Tuesday afternoon when he broke three fingers and sustained additional tendon damage to his left hand as the result of a snow blower accident.

Sakic, 39, underwent surgery on the left hand and is expected to make a full recovery. But he also is expected to miss three months, effectively ruining his 2008-09 regular season.

Sakic has played in 15 games this season, scoring 2 goals and 10 assists.

"Joe's surgery was performed by a hand specialist," Avalanche team physician Andy Parker said in a statement. "The procedure went well and he's expected to make a full recovery."

Sakic originally strained his back in the weight room, causing him to miss a game against Minnesota on Nov. 6. He returned two days after against Nashville before being sidelined for five more games because of the back.

Sakic was described as a "bright, intelligent, 39-year-old who made a mistake," Avalanche Senior Vice President, Communications and Business Operations Jean Martineau told The Rocky Mountain News. "He put his hand where he shouldn't have."

Sakic, one of the NHL's all-time greats, gave some serious thought to retiring after another injury-shortened 2007-08 season in which he scored 13 goals and 27 assists in 44 games and an additional 2 goals and 8 assists in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Sakic was sidelined by hernia surgery last season.

"It was just a frustrating year," Sakic said after signing a one-year deal in September. "With the injury and the rehab, I was mentally tired. At that point, I was almost ready to move on and spend time with my family. It wasn't a physical thing. Just mentally, I was drained."

For his career, Sakic has scored 625 goals and 1,016 assists in 1,378 regular-season games and an additional 84 goals and 104 assists in 172 playoff games.

Sakic has won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1996 when Colorado topped the Florida Panthers. He also has won the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player in 2001, when the Avalanche won another Cup. That season he also was the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL's MVP and the Lester Pearson Award winner as the MVP as voted by members of the NHL Players' Association. Sakic has played in 12 NHL All-Star Games.
"It was just a frustrating year. With the injury and the rehab, I was mentally tired. At that point, I was almost ready to move on and spend time with my family. It wasn't a physical thing. Just mentally, I was drained."
-- Joe Sakic on the 2007-08 season
Back in the day, Sakic was drafted 15th in the 1987 Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques. He spent seven seasons in Quebec, before moving to Denver with the Avalanche for the 1995-96 season.

"They said I was too small," Sakic recalled of going 15th in the draft. "Heck, Wayne Gretzky was only 170 pounds and he turned out alright, didn't he? I remember seeing Gretzky do an interview when I was in juniors. He said, 'The game is too fast to be a thinker. You have to see the play in your head and react. If you are quicker and smarter than the other guy, you will succeed.' That kind of stuck with me."

As you might expect, the classy Sakic has a legion of admirers.

"You never have to say anything to Joe, he's always one step ahead -- sort of like having another coach on the ice," Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told's Larry Wigge last season, when he was the Avalanche coach. "He's instinctive. He's so determined. He takes the job as captain and leader very seriously and knows the right time to say the magic words, even if he's quiet by nature."

According to Wigge, "From the time the Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Avalanche, it's been no ordinary show -- 51 goals, 69 assists in his first season and a Rocky Horror Picture Show for the rest of the National Hockey League as the Avs won the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver with Sakic scoring an amazing 18 goals in 22 games, including six game-winners. "

"His game is self-explanatory. He goes out and competes every night to the best of his ability -- and he's a great leader," Ryan Smyth said. "The way he handles pressure is so obvious for everyone in that locker room to see and learn from. Big goals in big games. It's all a part of who Joe Sakic is."

"Simply put, Joe's a scorer, a great player, and he knows his way around the rink," Quenneville said.

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