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Sakic a Flame? You Gotta Be Joe-king

Anthony Patrick

June 04, 2001

The rumors are out there.  Word is on the street.  The Calgary Flames are trying to put a war chest together to make a bid for the largest of all free agents available this summer, Joe Sakic.  So what are the odds of the Flames being able to make a winning bid for the likely winner of the Hart Trophy for the past season?  Could the Flames realistically put together an offer that would make the team attractive to Sakic and his agent?  Could the Flames really have any hope of grabbing such a high profile player?  Doubtful, but here’s a suggestion about how the ownership could seriously take a run at the best player in the game today.

The Flames ownership must consider Joe Sakic to be like any C-level executive that they are going after for anyone of their other ventures.  They should approach this situation as Joe Sakic is the next CEO of the Calgary Flames, because in reality, like a CEO, he is the guy that will make or break this organization.  So how do they attract this executive?  The same way you do with any other executive.  You use those four motivational factors that every person wants in their next job.  Money.  Challenge.  Lifestyle.  Security.

Money

The first problem many people bring up with bringing Sakic to town is we’ll never find the budget space for him.  The guy is going to be demanding $10 to $15 million a year on the open market.  We’ll never be able to make the deal attractive enough to get a player of his stature to settle on Calgary.  I disagree.  I think it is indeed possible; all it takes is a commitment from the ownership and management, and some creative financing to do so.  Consider that the Flames were willing to offer Theo Fleury close to $7.5 million for a long-term contract to stay in Calgary.  The money is there. 

There are some that may argue that our money is all tied up in other players that we would have to get rid of.  Well, that is true, but sometimes you have to write off a bad investment and start over again.  If you have to waive a couple players to free up salary, then you do so.  If you have to buy a couple players out, then you do so.  The long-term health of the organization is more important than the one-year approach to budget management.  Take the short term hit for long-term prosperity.  So you have to pay a penalty of several million dollars to get rid of Vernon, Housley and Kravchuk.  To get Sakic into the fold, you take that hit.  But the big question is, is $7.5 million near enough to compete for Sakic’s services?

Maybe not enough to compete on par with the real big boys, but there are other factors to sell Mr. Sakic during negotiations.  Cost of living is one thing.  Living in Calgary is substantially cheaper than most major cities around the continent and your dollar goes a real long way.  So $7.5 million a year in Calgary is the equivalent of $12 million in Toronto or $15 million in New York.  And when you consider the tax situation and the end to personal Provincial taxes, Calgary (and Alberta in general) starts to become that much more attractive.

Challenge

Most people would look at Joe Sakic and think that there is no way this guy would ever consider a team like the Flames.  Why would he want to come to Calgary?  This is a losing organization.  The players suck.  There’s nothing here that is attractive to Joe Sakic.  I think that is wrong.  Joe Sakic could very well win the Stanley Cup this year.  That will be his second.  He could very well win the Hart trophy for the league’s most valuable player this past season.  The guy is at the top of his game.  What else does he have to prove?  What is his next big challenge?  How about bringing a once proud organization back to respectability and developing a crop of superstar players along with it?  Is that a huge challenge that a player of Joe’s character would not look at and consider?

The challenge for Joe Sakic would be working with young talent like Jerome Iginla, Marc Savard, Daniel Tkaczuk, Sergei Varlamov, Blair Betts, Jarret Stoll, and Rico Fata in becoming NHL players.  When he looks on the blueline and sees Derek Morris, Robyn Regehr, Toni Lydman and Denis Gauthier the defense is looking good.  Add in Jordan Leopold and Kurtis Foster and it looks great.  With goaltending prospects like Krahn and Szuper he would have to know the battle is not nearly as bad as it seems.  This is a team that is ready to turn a serious corner.  This team is like his Nordiques were before they left Quebec.  His presence could be the difference.  He could do something that Wayne Gretzky never did.  Turn an organization around in short order and win a Stanley Cup. This is a team that could make Joe Sakic a legend amongst hockey legends.

Lifestyle

For the Calgary Flames owners to get Sakic they must look across the Atlantic and take a page out of the books of European sports.  They must make an offer of money, lifestyle and security.  The money issue has already been examined.  There are moves that would have to be made to make that money available, but it looks like it could be accomplished.  But what about lifestyle?  In this writer’s opinion there is no better city on this planet than Calgary.  The number of NHL players that retire in the area seem to be support of that theory.  Calgary is a very cosmopolitan city, but on a small scale.  Calgary offers almost everything that any other North American city has to offer but still retains that small town attitude and feel.  What a great place for a guy to watch his family grow-up.  But is that enough for Joe?  Do it right and it is.

The Flames should take the Sakic’s out to Elbow Valley and allow them to pick their building site, give them a list of the best architects around and make their dream home become a reality.  No charge to Joe and his family, this is part of him signing bonus.  Don’t worry about furnishing the place, that’s covered, too.  Same with the cars in the garage.  We’re going to look after you.  The owners should go out of their way to get Joe connected in the city and build a network that will allow him to do the off season work that he wants to do for the rest of his life, right here in Calgary.  The Flames should stress that Calgary is the home waiting to embrace the Sakics, and live up to that promise.

Security

Here is the kicker.  This is the plum that gets Joe Sakic and sets this organization up for a good long time. Owners Harley Hotchkiss, Doc and B.J. Seaman, Murray Edwards, Alvin Libin, Allan Markin, and Bud McCaig welcome Joe Sakic into the fold.  They offer Joe Sakic a chunk of the ownership shares in this hockey club in lieu of salary.  With the recent departures of Calgarian Grant Bartlett and Hamilton businessman Ron Joyce, the ownership are looking for someone else to share the risk associated with the hockey club.  Who better than the franchise player?  This is not a substantial risk.  Joe Sakic was one of the original owners of the Calgary Hitmen.  He believes in the market here and this could be a huge plum that attracts him.  Joe Sakic would have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an opportunity that is about to go big.  He could be the player that turns the organization around and increases its value by a large percentage.  More money in his pocket by playing for his own team.  Haven’t we seen this picture somewhere else this past season?

Is It Enough?

Bringing Joe Sakic to Calgary is a huge challenge, but one that should be seriously considered, and one that can be accomplished.  There are ways to make it work.  This is one that appeals to the hockey player, the family man and the businessman in Joe Sakic.  This is an offer that no other team in the league could possibly come close to matching.  Only Calgary’s nature as a community makes this plan a possibility.  From community ownership to community spirit, Calgary has the goods to pull this off.  Joe Sakic a Calgary Flame?  Yeah, that has a pretty nice ring to it.