Standing in front of press after getting his Hall of Fame ring in advance of Monday’s induction ceremony, Dave Andreychuk admitted that he didn’t know how the Hall of Fame process worked. He wasn’t sure when the call would come in. Was it the night before? Hours before? He had no idea. So he wasn’t particularly worried on that special day in June, in fact, he was being a good husband - driving to the Tampa Airport to pick up his wife. So where was he when he received the news that he was going to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame? On the side of I-275.
Not exactly the most glamorous place to receive the such great news. At least he actually got the phone call. Fellow inductee Paul Kariya was out surfing when his call came through. He actually learned of his induction, not from Chair of the Board Lanny McDonald, but from former teammate Teemu Selanne.
For Andreychuk, whose phone didn’t ring on eight previous announcement days, the one thing that critics often cited the most as a reason why he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame was the thing he was the most proud of.
“The games played,” Andreychuk said. “The 1600 games to me is pretty important. It means that you’re prepared every night. You get ready every summer. I’m very proud of the games played.”
A player doesn’t play 1600 games in the NHL, especially the style that Andreychuk played, by simply being good. The mental and physical preparation required to spend more than 20 seasons in the NHL is incredible. It also doesn’t happen unless he’s producing, as evident by his 640 goals (a record 274 on the power play) and 1,338 points.
Despite being recognized for his extraordinary career, he was characteristically humble. When asked for the “secret” of his success in the league hir didn’t talk about his skill or his determination or his willingness to get the tar beat out of his body in front of the net. Instead his first response was, “Good players around me.”
Andreychuk reiterated that point later when he described playing in front of the net as, “The only way it was going to happen for me. I played with a lot of good players that got me pucks in front of the net and I was able to finish them off.” It wasn’t easy for him and he chuckled when asked who gave him the harshest treatment in front of the net (this was back in the days when cross-checking and slashing was ignored by refs unless there was blood, and sometimes even then) before mentioning Chris Chelios name.
To the end, Andreychuk was the ultimate teammate. That sense of team commitment is a huge reason why he is revered by fans and players alike, in Tampa, Buffalo, and Toronto, the three cities where he had his biggest influences. In typical self-deprecating Andreychuk fashion, when asked if anyone goal stood out in his career he talked about his “one slapshot goal” against Arturs Irbe before being prodded into remember some slightly more memorable goals.
It wasn’t the chance for a Stanley Cup that brought him to Tampa in 2001. Nor was it the scoring prowess of his younger days. It was familiarity and a challenge. A challenge to bring respectability to the franchise, a franchise run by Rick Dudley, John Tortorella and Craig Ramsey, three gentlemen that he was familiar with from his previous time in Buffalo. That trio knew he brought more than his abilities on the ice to the franchise.
When he arrived in Tampa he was met with a team that needed the voice of a seasoned vet. The team had promising young talent, but was missing a key ingredient that successful teams possess.
“Accountability,” Andreychuk said when asked what the biggest difference he saw from the team he joined in 2001 to the Stanley Cup team, “Being prepared...They were all just young guys at the time and I think their level of commitment went up 100 times [post] us getting there.”
Being prepared is a trait Andreychuk learned from Oshawa Generals coach Paul Theriault. He credits those two years in juniors as being huge for his development as a hockey player (it’s also the time he learned that to make it in hockey his role was to plant himself in front of the net).
It’s obvious that the 2004 team holds a special place in his heart. When asked about that team he referred to them as “my boys” and beamed like a proud father when talking about them. He also admitted that there were lots of tears last week when the team got together prior to the game against Columbus. He thinks that the closeness of the 2004 squad is an example for this season’s Lightning team.
Instead of being frustrated that he was stuck in the penalty box for the last 20 seconds of Game 7 he referred to it as “awesome”. He recalled watching the team celebrate on the ice, admitting that he lingered in the penalty box a little longer (“I was the last guy in the pile”) and talked about seeing his family in the crowd. Family is big for him, his wife was instrumental in helping him decide to come to Tampa in the first place. He plans on being a tour guide in Toronto this weekend for a large group of friends attending the festivities.
For the Hamilton native, the best thing about being inducted this year was that his mother and father are still alive to celebrate it with him. He was confident that his numbers spoke for themselves and he would eventually be inducted. The first call he made after learning of his induction - his mom and dad,
“I think it was one of the few times my dad has cried,” he told the assembled crowd. His mom’s response, “It’s about time.”
About time, indeed.