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Sakic would have quit if Avalanche rushed his decision on this coming season

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - If not for the patience of the Colorado Avalanche, Joe Sakic could have become the NHL's version of Brett Favre.

The Colorado captain said Tuesday he's thankful the Avalanche didn't press him for a decision on his future the way the Green Bay Packers did with their iconic quarterback, an approach that backfired this summer when Favre changed his mind about retirement and forced an ugly separation.

"After you see what happened to him, I'm actually real glad that I did take my time," Sakic said. "If I was forced to make a decision back in May or June, I probably would have retired and I probably would be regretting it right now.

"It worked out perfect for me to have that time and to really think about it."

The native of Burnaby, B.C., announced last week he would return for a 20th season with the Quebec/Colorado franchise, much to the relief of fans and teammates who had begun to fear that no news wasn't good news.

Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere said he never fretted.

"I really believed the more time he was given, the more he'd realize that it was in him to want to play more," Giguere said. "I thought the longer things went, the better it was for our franchise."

Sakic said that when the off-season began, he was just like Favre, figuring his playing days were done.

"Well, at the end of the year I didn't think I was going to come back, no," he said.

Giguere told his 39-year-old captain not to make a hasty decision and, in fact, to take as much time as he needed, even if that meant informing him of his decision on the eve of training camp in two weeks.

Sakic was coming off his most difficult season, having missed 38 games following hernia surgery before returning to the lineup to help the team reach the playoffs after a one-year absence.

"It was just a frustrating year," Sakic said. "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."

One thing that made the wait-and-see approach sensible for the Avs is that they had decided not to be big spenders in free agency the way they had been last summer. Instead, they focused on signing some of their own players to extensions while preparing to negotiate a long-term deal with Paul Stastny, their leading scorer.

Although the Avs lost Andrew Brunette, Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer and Jose Theodore in free agency, they added some grit with the arrivals of Per Ledin, Andrew Raycroft, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Darcy Tucker and Brian Willsie.

Sakic said he likes the roster additions but that they didn't play a role in his decision, which he made in mid-August but didn't announce until last week just to be sure.

"I like what we have here, but the biggest decision for me was whether I was willing to do what it took to play," Sakic said. "And once I started training and got the excitement, I realized I wanted to come back."

Sakic said the time he was given to put hockey on the back burner probably helped refuel him.

"It was a draining year for me mentally and physically, with the injury and coming back, doing the rehab for three months," Sakic said. "At the end of the year, I didn't want to think about hockey. I told Giguere in June that I wanted to start training in July just to see if I was up to the challenge."

He soon realized he still had the desire, and he signed a one-year, US$6 million deal to return.

But he's still year-to-year and said he's not yet even considering suiting up for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"No, not at this point," he said. "We've got another year before that to even think about that. We'll see how this goes. If I bounce back and have the type of year I had two years ago, then I'm really going to have to think about that. But I'm just excited. I'm ready to play this year and this is the only year I'm focusing on right now."


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