Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NHL Fire in Lieu of the Lockout, Round 6: Hall of Fame Inductees 2012

By Jason Klau

"Even in difficult times we find ourselves reassured to be here to recognize ultimate achievements on the ice"-- Gary Bettman on the Hall of Fame

The hockey hall of fame inducted its newest members this week and it's a class that is so very deserving: Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure (pictured left to right below) were members of a generation of hockey that has passed us by, but won't be forgotten.


Before Mats Sundin was the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise for 13 years, he started his NHL days alongside Sakic and the Quebec Nordiques for four seasons. His 18-year career finished with the Vancouver Canucks and resulted in 1,346 games, 564 goals, 785 assists and 1,349 points. Although he never got his name on the cup, his amazing career saw him an All-Star nine times, as well as a gold medal in the 2006 Olympics with Sweden, a team he captained. In 1989 he was the first European to be taken first overall in the NHL Draft. 23 years later the pick is clearly justified.

Joe Sakic played for the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise for 21 amazing seasons. He played 1,378 games, tallying 625 goals and 1,016 assists for 1,641 points. In that span he played for 13 All-Star teams and won two Stanley Cups, one of which was one of the best moments in hockey history, where he famously gave it up to the legendary Ray Bourque. His consummate leadership and professionalism is something not equaled by any player today.

Adam Oates went undrafted and now, every GM who was employed at the time is wondering what could have been if they spent a late pick on the college standout from RPI.  The five-time All-Star won an NCAA championship in 1985, but was ever able to win a cup. Still, in 19 NHL seasons, Oates played 1,337 games, tallying 341 goals, and 1,079 assists for 1,420 points. His career started with the Detroit Red Wings, before moving to the St. Louis Blues, then to the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals, before ending his career in brief stints with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. Clearly he was a guy that every GM wanted to employ. He most recently was an assistant coach for the Devils in their run to the finals this past season, and was hired to coach the Washington Capitals for the 2012-2013 season. He was also previously an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. A great hockey mind with a lot still to give to the game, Oates is deservedly being recognized for an amazing career.

Pavel Bure aka the Russian rocket was one of the quickest players to ever lace up the skates. Ranger fans remember him getting stopped on a penalty shot by Mike Richter in the finals, utilizing the signature Bure deke. But Canucks fans, who will get to see his number retired whenever hockey comes back, well, they remember the penalty shot too. Regardless. A great and talented player. His numbers were not as high as other inductees, playing in only 702 games in 13 seasons, notching 437 goals and 342 assists for 779 points. A career ended by chronic knee injuries, one wonders what else could have been. His is mostly known for his days as a Canuck but he also saw stints with the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers, and now he will forever be an HOFer.

These four men gave their hearts and souls to the game. Their amazing achievements are worthy of recognition and are truly some of the best the game has to offer. Even in the midst of a bitter lockout, there is at least one thing the hockey world can agree on: these great players are getting their due, and no lockout can change that.

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