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Hockey History

Sakic, Sundin, Bure, and Oates Join Hockey Hall of Fame

Four new members were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night: Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates.

“Everyone here tonight has had a fantastic career and I can’t thank everyone enough,” said Sakic upon receiving the honour. “I had a chance to play 20 years, got to lift the Stanley Cup twice and was able to play for my country and win a Gold Medal. But this is the greatest honour I’ve ever received.”

Burnaby Joe is one of the most decorated and popular Canadian hockey players to ever lace the skates. His wrist shot is probably still giving goalies nightmares years after his 2009 retirement. He certainly knew how to unleash the beast, twice scoring 50 goals in a season and snagging at least 100 points in six different NHL seasons.

Sakic was drafted 15th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987. He chose to spend the 1987-1988 season in Swift Current, however, and prepared for the NHL with the WHL club. That year, he potted 160 points for the Broncos – including 78 goals in 64 games. Sakic made his NHL debut on October 6, 1988 when the Nordiques faced off against the Hartford Whalers. He got an assist that night and scored his first NHL goal two games later against Sean Burke of the New Jersey Devils. He never looked back, going on to score 23 goals in his rookie year to finish on 62 points.

Sakic stuck with the franchise throughout his career, going with it to Colorado where he enjoyed some of his best hockey. He led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 1996 and helped the club win it again in 2001. He also won the Conn Smythe, the Hart, the Lester B. Pearson, and the Lady Byng trophies in 2001. In 1378 regular season games in the National Hockey League, Joe finished with 1641 points.

“It’s a very humbling and tremendous honor to be here today,” said Sundin. “There’s so many people for me to thank that it would take me all night. Hockey has been the greatest thing to ever happen to me and going into the Hall of Fame means more than words can express.”

Born Mats Johan Sundin near Stockholm, he was always going to be a hockey player. He became the longest-serving captain in NHL history to not be born in North America and did more to open the league up to European players in the modern era of the league than perhaps any other player.

Sundin was drafted by the Nordiques in 1989, going first overall – the first European player to go first overall in league history. He debuted with Quebec in the 1990-1991 NHL season and finished second on the team in scoring that year. First on the team was, you guessed it, Joe Sakic.

After four seasons in Quebec, Sundin was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 28, 1994. Quebec sent Sundin along with Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a draft pick to the Leafs in exchange for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson, and a draft pick. The 1994-1995 lockout delayed Sundin’s T-Dot debut, but when the shortened season did kick in he scored at a point-per-game pace. There was no looking back. He scored 420 goals with the franchise and leads in that category as well as assists by a forward (567) and overall points (987).

In 2008, Sundin left the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent and joined the Vancouver Canucks. He spent only 41 games there. In September of 2009, he announced his retirement from the NHL. In 1346 career games, Sundin finished with 1349 points. He hit the 500 goal mark in October of 2006 and enjoyed a remarkable international career as well, winning the gold at the 2006 Olympics as captain of the Swedish club.

“I’m honoured and truly humbled to be in a group of such elite individuals,” said Bure. “Hockey is the greatest game in the world and the growth of our game has been amazing. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is considered to be the highest individual honour, but I did not get here on my own.”

The Russian Rocket is arguably the best player to play in Vancouver. Pasha trained in the Soviet Union and was a Soviet Red Army dynamo before arriving in the NHL. He was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1989, going 113th (!!!) overall. He was instantly noticed for his astounding skating speed and became known for his breakaway prowess, potting many of his goals on the one-on-one with the doe-eyed goalie. His stride, which originated from the outer edge of his skate blade rather than the inner edge, was envied by many.

Bure played with the Canucks from 1991 to 1999. 2,000 fans arrived to simply see him practice at the Britannia Ice Rink and the popularity never waned while he skated for the Canucks. He had back-to-back 60 goals seasons in Vancouver, but he would leave the city with a sour taste in his mouth after telling GM Brian Burke that he wouldn’t play for the Canucks again after the 1997-1998 season. He had a year left on his contract, but he was being courted by everyone from everywhere. Even the president of Belarus offered him $4 million tax free to play in the country, but Pasha turned it down.

Bure became a hold-out, but he was eventually traded to the Florida Panthers in a deal that brought Ed Jovanovski to the Canucks. Bure still had a lot of gas in the tank and almost reached the 60-goal mark twice in the Sunshine State. A series of injuries kept him in trouble, though, and there’s no telling how things might’ve gone had he been able to stay healthy. By March of 2002 he arrived in New York to play with the Rangers, but the best of his career was behind him. In 702 career games, he landed 779 points. He officially announced his retirement after the 2004-2005 NHL lockout and was passed over for the Hall of Fame despite six years of eligibility.

“Since that day I got the phone call, I’ve been reflecting on my career,” said Oates about the Hall of Fame call. “I thought about my family, my friends, my coaches and my teammates, and to them I’d like to say thank you for all you’ve done for me. This is more about you people, than it is about me.”

Born in Weston, Ontario, Adam Robert Oates was a college standout and, according to the Hall of Famer, a “punk.” He played for the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League and put up solid numbers, but the knock was that he was too slow to play with the big boys and he went unselected in the draft. It was his time with the RPI Engineers, the NCAA Division One club, that got him noticed though. At least five teams attempted to sign Oates and he signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings, becoming the highest paid rookie in the NHL in the 1985-1986 season.

Oates scored his first goal when he debuted in October of 1985 against the Minnesota North Stars. Unfortunately, he fizzled out and was sent down to the minor league. He improved significantly with a little work and became a story of persistence. He was eventually traded to the St. Louis Blues in what many Red Wings fans still consider a travesty, going to the Blues with Paul MacLean in exchange for Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney. He spent a good chunk of time with the Blues before heading to the Boston Bruins, playing parts of six seasons. His best individual season was with the Bruins, where he landed 97 helpers in 1992-1993 and solidified himself as a playmaker.

Oates credits his playmaker status with his father’s advice to be unselfish. He carried this with him when he moved to the Washington Capitals, where he enjoyed consistently good results. He was named the ninth captain in franchise history after Dale Hunter departed and continued to lead the league in assists. By January of 2002, he hit the 1000 assists mark – becoming just the eighth NHLer to do so. In March of that same year, he was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers but began to wind down. He spent time with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Edmonton Oilers before announcing his retirement in April of 2004.

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