“Something magical”: Dave Andreychuk inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

Surrounded by friends and family, Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain finally gets his due.

On one night a year, the luminaries from hockey history gather together in Toronto to celebrate the history of their sport. There may be games going on throughout the League, but on Hall of Fame Induction Night, the Allen Lambert Galleria is the center of the hockey universe. Players from the history of the sport, from Frank Mahovlich to Steve Yzerman, gather to welcome the newest honored members of the Hall of Fame.

For Dave Andreychuk, who grew up an hour away in Hamilton, there was a retinue of family and friends that made the trip into Toronto. As he mentioned in his speech, he was blessed to play the first 15 years of his career within an hour or two of where he grew up.

It wasn’t only his blood family that showed up, it was also his hockey family from Tampa that made the journey. Steve Yzerman, Phil Esposito, Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis were some of the legends that showed up to honor their friend and teammate.

For Esposito it was truly a special moment.  The hall-of-famer, whom Andreychuk admitted he styled his game after, said that without him there would be “no Stanley Cup in Tampa.”  Andreychuk is such an important figure to the franchise that Esposito returned to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for the first time since his own.

“I didn’t even come for my own brother’s,” Esposito said, referring to Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito. “Think about that.”

Esposito credits this all-time power play goal leader (a record that Esposito held) as serving as an important buffer between the occasionally caustic head coach, John Tortorella, and the young, impressionable team. He also dismissed talk of Andreychuk being a “complier,” stressing that to play in the league for over 1600 games requires a lot of talent. His reply, when asked about Andreychuk being passed over nine times before being inducted?

“He scored 600 goals,” Esposito said, before stating that Andreychuk should have been inducted in his first year of eligibility. Ever entertaining, Esposito did have to point out that it “took [Andreychuk] 23 years” to beat his own power play record.

Steve Yzerman, who played against Andreychuk since their days in junior hockey, talked about his influence in the community. As part of the Stanley Cup winning team, Andreychuk, Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis were the players that fans connected with due to their success.  That team helped grow hockey in Tampa.

Dressed in a monochromatic black suit, black shirt and black tie, a look that he credited to his youngest daughter, Andreychuk thanked his family for being with him during his long journey and providing a haven outside of the hockey world: “When I came home we didn’t talk about hockey.”

He detailed his journey from his days as a 7 year old in Hamilton (“A late start these days”) to his days in Oshawa where he began to believe that he could play in the NHL, to being drafted by Buffalo.  From there he got to play for his childhood team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After that, Andreychuk started to drift around. New Jersey, Boston, where he played with Raymond Bourque (“the best player I ever played with”) and then Colorado. He was part of the trade that sent Bourque to Colorado and said that the nice thing about being in a trade* with Bourque was that “they sent a private jet.” He then went back to Buffalo for a season (missing out on Colorado’s Stanley Cup victory) for what, at the time, seemed like a swan song for the team where it all started.

In 2001, he was “sitting in his cabin two or three hours north ready to retire” when his wife convinced him that he still had a chance to play.  He went down to Tampa, reuniting with Rick Dudley, Tortorella and Craig Ramsey, coaches he knew from his days in Buffalo.  When he got there, despite a rough first season, he saw the core of a team that could develop into something “magical.”

In his speech Andreychuk said he was “humbled and honored” to be inducted, and that he had a lot of help around him. In Tampa, that help came in players like Richards, St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Dan Boyle and Nikolai Khabibulin.

They were “good players who just needed to be pushed in the right direction.”  And push he did. Brad Richards, who was 21 years old and roomed with him at Tortorella’s direction, said that the advice that Andreychuk dispensed was “Endless. When things got a little shaky we knew we could ask Dave what was going on.”

Andreychuk might think of himself as just a “little boy from Hamilton” who was “slow as molasses, but somehow got it done” (in Tortorella’s words), but he is larger than life in Tampa, and this honor, so deserving, was so long overdue.

The other Honored Members:

Mark Recchi - Three Stanley Cups with three different teams in three different decades.  You know who else has done that? No one.  Like Andreychuk he also played in over 1600 career games. He recorded 577 goals and 956 assists. Also like Andreychuk he wore the black, blue and white of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  In 2008 he was brought in as veteran leadership to a young team with a superstar center.

It didn’t work out as well as it did for Andreychuk. Recchi lasted 68 games in a Lightning uniform during a chaotic 2008-09 season before being dealt to Boston for Martins Karsums and Matt Lashoff.  Well, it worked out for Recchi, as he won his third Cup with Boston.

Paul Kariya - Kariya has one of my favorite NHL stats - 989 points in 989 games. It’s such a random number to match. Sadly, it’s a number that should have been much, much higher. With a career ending way too soon due to concussions, Kariya was a true joy to watch play.  One of the highlights of the weekend has been his return to NHL prominence after a self-imposed exile following his retirement.

Teemu Selanne - It seems that when you talk about Kariya, it isn’t long until you mention Teemu Selanne.  “The Finnish Flash” burst onto the NHL scene with 73 goals in his rookie season. He was then traded to Anaheim (for Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round pick) where he became a outgoing foil to Kariya’s more reserved nature.

Jeremy Jacobs - He is an owner. He’s been around for a long time.

Clare Drake - I first ran across Drake’s name in the Ken Hitchcock section of Behind the Bench by Craig Custance. Drake is revered in the coaching community because he believed in sharing his knowledge with everyone.  While he never achieved coaching success in the NHL, his legacy at the University of Alberta is unparalleled. His resume reads as such: 28 seasons, 697 wins, 6 national championships and 17 conference championships.

Danielle Goyette - Eight Gold medals and one silver?  Yeah, that is most definitely a hall of fame resume.  Add 113 goals and 105 games in 107 international games and she is a lock. She is currently coaching the Women’s team at University of Calgary.

*Boston’s return for one of the greatest players in their history and Dave Andreychuk?  Martin Grenier, Samuel Pahlsson, Brian Rolston and a 2000 first round pick that Boston used on Martin Samuelsson. All told those players had 411 career NHL goals, with Rolston scoring 342 of them.  Not exactly a balanced trade.