Veteran Sakic will captain Western Conference team in 12th all-star game

He doesn’t remember too much from that evening in Pittsburgh on Jan. 21, 1990, and certainly not the fact that he assisted on the winning goal by Kirk Muller in the 12-7 win by the Prince of Wales conference over the Clarence Campbell conference.

But he can’t forget the feeling of entering that Prince of Wales dressing room and feeling out of place as a 20-year-old sophomore NHLer.

“I just remember how nervous I was,” Sakic said Thursday. “Going into the dressing room, sitting there and seeing Mario (Lemieux) and Ray Bourque, wondering to myself that the year before I was in junior and what the heck was I doing there? But it was exciting.

“I will tell you I didn’t say too much in the dressing room,” he added on a league conference call.

Now the native of Burnaby, B.C., is the greybeard centre headed to his 12th all-star game and this year’s young players will look up to Sakic in awe next week in Dallas. Sakic was named captain Thursday for the Western Conference all-stars while fellow 2002 Olympic gold medallist Brendan Shanahan got the honour for the Eastern team.

While some veteran players would prefer using the five-day break to sit back and relax somewhere under the sun, the 37-year-old Sakic sees the importance in playing in the all-star classic, which goes Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET).

“Well, I think for me, any time you get a chance to go to an all-star game, first of all it’s just an honour,” said the Colorado Avalanche captain. “It means people think you’re still playing well and that’s a big thing.

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“If you go to the game, you have a great time. It’s not like we’re going there and wasting a lot of energy. We’re in a relaxed environment. You catch up with friends from around the league, it’s a lot of fun when you’re there.”

It’s also a thrill for the players’ families, many of whom make the trip.

“I’m going to bring my wife and my three kids,” said Sakic. “My three kids haven’t been to too many I think. My oldest one went to the Vancouver one (in 1998) and the other one here in Colorado (2001).

“The whole family is going to come this time.”

Sakic has learned a few tricks over his many all-star games. For starters, he’s into the habit of bringing back mementoes.

“It’s a funny thing, when you first start out, you don’t think about things like that, getting autograph jerseys, but now that I’m a little bit older, you get things and you maybe get two or three, give one or two away for a charity and you definitely keep the other one for a memento,” said Sakic.

But he’s there to play as well. Sakic was the MVP of the last all-star game in Minnesota in February 2004, scoring a hat trick in the Western Conference’s 6-4 loss to the East.

“Still driving the truck proudly,” Sakic said of the Dodge Durango handed to him that day.