Lake Tahoe NHL Outdoors brings back golf memories for Sakic

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It was a $1 million shot the Colorado Avalanche general manager made July 17, 2011 on the 17th hole during the American Century Championship, a celebrity golf tournament played annually at Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada.

It’s the same resort that will be the site of the NHL Outdoors this weekend, Sakic’s Colorado Avalanche playing the Vegas Golden Knights in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN1, SN, TVAS). The Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins play in the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN1, SN, TVAS).

“Never really ever came close before, never ever came close after,” Sakic said of his ace on the 207-yard par-3. “Never one time to even think, ‘Oh, this has a chance.’ But for a moment there I felt like a real golfer.”

The rink that will host the games is built on the 18th fairway, a par-5 framed by Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada, a pitching wedge shot from Sakic’s greatest golfing achievement. 

 

[WATCH: Joe Sakic sinks hole-in-one at Edgewood Tahoe Resort]

 

Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon will try to replicate Sakic’s feat in the One Million Dollar Hole-in-One Challenge presented by Bridgestone on Saturday. If MacKinnon aces No. 17, the NHL will donate $1 million to the NHL/NHLPA Learn to Play program.

Sakic, a Hockey Hall of Famer who won the Stanley Cup twice as a member of the Avalanche, is one of 24 former and current NHL players who have played in the American Century Championship.

Dan Quinn, a center who played 805 NHL games with eight teams from 1983-97, has won the event five times (1992, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2012). 

“It’s like Aspen or Lake Louise and Banff for Canadians, just beautiful mountains with this most spectacular lake,” Quinn said. “I would say free your mind of everything else you’re doing when you’re there, because it’s just so beautiful.”

Mario Lemieux, a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Penguins and now their owner, is the other NHL player to have won the tournament, doing so in 1998.

Mike Modano played in the tournament 14 times from 1996-2019. The Hall of Fame center said he is jealous of NHL players going to Lake Tahoe this weekend. 

“You’re going to have a ton of snow, the mountains, Lake Tahoe, which is just gorgeous … you couldn’t probably ask for anything better TV-wise,” said Modano, who played 1,499 NHL games during his career (1989-2011). “It’s got ‘Mystery, Alaska’ written all over it. I would have loved to have a chance [to play there].”

“Mystery Alaska” is the 1999 movie about the NHL sending the New York Rangers to play an outdoor game against a local rec-league team from the fictional town of Mystery.

“I think it’s going to be an awesome experience for the guys, one that would have been great to be a part of somehow,” said Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski, who has played in the golf tournament four times. “It’s just a cool area. I think guys are going to love it. It’s made for TV, but I think guys are really going to appreciate being there and having a little something different to go do.”

Quinn said he once hit a hole-in-one on the 17th at Edgewood playing a practice round with Lemieux, former NHL player Pierre Larouche, ex-Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan. Unfortunately, the television cameras weren’t on.

“If you’re only going to have one, make sure you catch it on TV,” Sakic said. 

Sakic recalled the wind coming off the lake, the fairway lined with people, the lake filled with boats near the shore and the grandstand jammed with spectators. 

He said he used an 8-iron and hit it straight for the flag.

“I don’t play enough golf to know how close it’s going to be or anything, I just know it was on line,” Sakic said. “I saw it hit the green and that’s all I really saw. We couldn’t tell if it went [in] because of the sun.” 

Sakic was playing with former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux. 

“Trent said, ‘I think it went in,’ ” Sakic said. “I didn’t believe him. I thought it was a setup.”

Sakic split the $1 million prize awarded by American Century for a hole-in-one on 17 with the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Foundation for cancer research.

Pavelski said the the golf course is a special place.

“We rent a house on the lake and have some good friends come from San Jose,” Pavelski said. “It’s just a fun little vacation and you get to play some tournament golf. … It’s just got a special energy about it. It’s definitely a highlight of my summer when I get there for that week.” 

Quinn said No. 18, the temporary home of the ice rink, is his favorite hole.

“Because I won it five times and that’s the one you’ve got to win it on,” he said.

Martin Brodeur agreed. The Hall of Fame goalie played in the tournament from 2011-15.

“I eagled that hole,” Brodeur said. “It was 106 yards (from the pin) and I tipped it in. I have three hole-in-ones, but this one was pretty cool because there were people watching. The rest of the time I stunk, but I made that one good shot.”

Pavelski loves No. 17. In 2016, the Stars center shot baskets with Stephen Curry, a two-time NBA MVP, and kicked footballs into the lake before teeing off.

“It’s a big party,” Pavelski said. “Saturday on 17 has got to be one of the best holes out there.”

Modano joked about the nerves he felt teeing off on 17 and 18.

“It’s about as nervous as I got in any sport,” he said. “Everybody is like, ‘Well, isn’t Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final more nerve-racking?’ Hey, there you’ve got other people you can blame your failure on. You can’t blame anybody [on the course].”

Sakic handled the nerves well on No. 17 nearly 10 years ago. He said he’ll walk the course Friday to reminisce. He’ll probably tell the story of his ace a few more times.

“When people ask me if I ever played the course I say, ‘Absolutely, got a hole-in-one there,’ ” Sakic said. “Hey, why wouldn’t I mention that?”

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