Friday, July 10, 2009

From The Vault - Ryan Burke, Avalanche Hockey 2002

After yesterdays news I thought this piece was a fitting one for today's "From The Vault".

It features Ryan Burke, from my cartoon band, OilCan Drive, in his earlier days as a Colorado Avalanche hockey player. I conceived the OilCan Drive concept in early 2001, the same year the Colorado Avalanche were on their way to winning their second Stanley Cup. I'd fallen back in love with hockey a few years earlier and was having fun watching my new team but this was the first year you could really feel something special happening with them. So, of course, putting everything I loved into the concept of OilCan Drive, Ryan Burke became an ex hockey player who still wore (and still wears) his Colorado Avalanche jersey.

This piece was done after the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup and the pose was based on a photo from a Sports Illustrated special edition. Even the background was taken from that photo. I altered it and blurred it a bit to give it a nice effect. The funny thing is that, doing that once on this piece, has become the basis for almost every cover I've done for the Stone Arch line of children's books.

The man this pose and piece was based on was Avalanche team captain, Joe Sakic.

Joe Sakic announced yesterday his retirement from the game of hockey.

After twenty years of playing his favorite game for a living he decided his body wasn't up for it anymore and it was time to hang up his skates. I watched the whole press conference live and it was a very emotional scene. Joe read his statements about his love of the game, his love of his family and teammates, and his reasons for retiring. Fellow players, general managers, and players across the league shared their feelings about Joe. A video montage was shown of one of the greatest players to play the game. It was amazing to just look at the numbers and accomplihments he had made over his twenty year career in the sport.

But, it's not the numbers alone that make him a great player. The things that impressed me about Joe Sakic were the things that made him a great human being. He was a great athlete, yes, but also a great person. With all of his skills he was the humblest of players. He never talked about himself, to the point where the media dubbed him "Quoteless Joe". There was no "I" in his staements. He always talked about the team and other players and how great they were doing. He did community service and always gave back to the town that had taken him in and given him and his family a home. He was one of the most respected players on the ice, by teammates and opponents alike.

In 2001, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in game seven against the New Jersey Devils. As captain of the team, it was Joe who first got a hold of the cup. Most captains would be the first to hoist the cup in the air in victory. But, Joe, being the guy he was, turned to 42 year old Ray Borque, a gray bearded veteran who had played in the leauge for twenty two years but had never won. Joe handed the cup to Ray and Ray, with joy in his eyes, hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head for the first time.

That's the kind of guy Joe Sakic was.

So, for me, a guy who never really had sports heroes growing up, I can say that Joe Sakic is one of my heroes. Not just as a great hockey player, but as a great all around human being.

Joe, you'll be missed.


rob! said...

Didn't I do a portrait of this guy for Forbes once? I seem to recall you asking me about it.

Sean Tiffany said...

Robbo! Yes you did. I still have a copy of it somewhere around here. You did an awesome job!