While we all stay home and practice social distancing, another in a series of stories of the Avalanche’s past to help pass some of the time.
I hadn’t seen this article (see pic above) probably since the day I put it in a bin and closed the lid on it, some 23 years ago almost.
If you zoom in, you can see some of the quotes Joe Sakic gave to me, over the phone from his off-season home in White Rock, British Columbia.
“Don’t worry. Denver is still my No. 1 choice. I don’t want to leave,” he said.
The date on this newspaper is July 1, 1997. Starting that day, teams were eligible to make offers to free agents, something Sakic could be in the “Group II” category (we call them just “restricted free agents today). Sakic said not to worry, that he didn’t think he was going anywhere. And for more than a month, nothing happened. Teams knew that, as part of the Group II rules, any team had one week to match the offer for such players, and with no salary cap back then, teams didn’t worry too much predatory offers like that. Besides, teams always traded such players before they could get to Group II status, if they were worried they wouldn’t be able to afford them anymore.
But on July 28, the hockey world was rocked when the New York Rangers lost Mark Messier as a pure unrestricted free agent to the Vancouver Canucks, to a three-year, $18 million deal.