The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee announced Tuesday that first-time eligible candidates Mats Sundin and Joe Sakic would be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 in Toronto, along with holdovers Pavel Bure and Adam Oates.
Sakic and Sundin both retired from the NHL following the 2008-09 season and as per the Hall’s rules were eligible following the required three year waiting period. Bure – who retired in 2003 – has been eligible for induction since 2006 and Oates –who retired in 2004 – has been eligible since 2007.
While Sakic was a shoo-in in his first year, another first-timer didn’t earn the honor this year. Brendan Shanahan will now have to wait another season along with Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph, Eric Lindros, Dave Andreychuk, Phil Housley and plenty of others.
But the four inductees were excited to be honored with the game’s all-time greats.
“I fell in love with playing hockey. That's all I wanted to do, whether it was on the ice or street hockey, it didn't really matter,” Sakic told NHL.com.
Drafted 15th overall in 1987, Sakic won everything he could have in his 20-year NHL career, including two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, the Hart Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2002, where he was tournament MVP. He played his entire career with the Quebec/Colorado franchise and finished with 1,641 points on 625 goals and 1,016 helpers.
Sundin was a former teammate of Sakic’s during his days in Quebec but played his best during his Toronto Maple Leafs years. Though he never won a Stanley Cup with the Leafs, he was the face of the franchise and the team’s captain for 11 seasons and he also holds the honor of being the first European-born player to be drafted first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
Much like Sundin, Bure failed to win a Cup during his 12 seasons in the NHL. He only played in 702 games because of chronic knee problems but scored 779 points, averaging 36.7 goals per season. He broke into the league with Vancouver in 1992 after defecting from Russia and went on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie, finishing with 34 goals and 60 points. He still holds several Vancouver records including most goals in a game, most goals in a season and most shorthanded goals.
Bure was instrumental in leading the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994, taking the New York Rangers to the brink of elimination before losing in Game 7. He went on to play for Florida and the New York Rangers before calling it quits in 2003.
The last inductee hasn’t given up on his chase for the Cup. Oates was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils this past season and agreed to become the head coach of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, hours before the news of his Hall of Fame induction. He was the only member of the class who was undrafted, as he bypassed the NHL to play college hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and won a NCAA Division I championship in 1985 before Detroit signed him as a free agent.
He eventually found his niche in St. Louis playing alongside Brett Hull and the two combined for one of the best lines in the league. In 1992-93, Oates put up 142 points with Boston and followed it up the next season with 112 points and like a fine wine, he only got better with age. In 2000-01, at the age of 39 Oates was still the NHL’s best helper, finishing the season with 69 assists.
“I was kind of a late-bloomer,” Oates said. “When the scouts look at the draft, they look at the big kids. I was a small kid, a late-bloomer that slipped through the cracks. It allowed me to go to college, and then came that second wave of guys that got signed. I got to play 19 years in this League, and I'm very fortunate.”
These four players helped define the NHL during the 1990s and were as fun a group to watch as any other in history. Each player deserves to be inducted and we’re sure it will be an emotional entrance into the Hall of Fame.
Photo Credit: AP