Tragedy At Swift Current
When Sakic was in his first year at Swift Current, the hockey team was traveling to a game in Regina on December 30, 1986, when it hit a patch of black ice on a highway overpass and plunged to the service road below. Four of Sakic's teammates—who had been playing cards in the back of the bus—were killed. Joe, who was unhurt, and his some of his teammates walked out the bus's broken front window. As the Broncos continued the season in memory of their lost teammates, Sakic came forward as a natural leader. Earning sixty goals and seventy-three assists, he helped the team make the playoffs and pulled his teammates through an emotionally difficult time.
Small for his age, at 5' 11" and 185 pounds, Sakic was the fifteenth pick for the Quebec Nordiques draft in the spring of 1987, but he chose to stay another year in junior hockey with Swift Current to strengthen his upper body and perhaps the spirits of his teammates as well. He finished the season with seventy-eight goals and eighty-two assists and was named Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year. The next day, he signed a contract with the Nordiques.
When Sakic joined the Nordiques in 1988, they were in a slump due to financial problems and management troubles. Although he scored more than 100 points twice during the next four years, the Nordiques did not make the playoffs until 1992-93, the season he was made team captain. Suddenly, sportswriters and the public began to take notice.