Stellicktricity: A BOSS class of Hall of Famers | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaStellicktricity: A BOSS class of Hall of Famers

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 | 12:06 PM

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2012 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, from left, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, Adam Oates and Joe Sakic pose for a photo prior to the Legends Game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, from left, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, Adam Oates and Joe Sakic pose for a photo prior to the Legends Game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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There was a much needed and welcome "truce" as NHL lockout talk was put on the back burner so that we could enjoy the greatness of four true Hockey Hall of Famers (Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin) being inducted on Monday in Toronto.
There was a much needed and welcome "truce" as NHL lockout talk was put on the back burner so that we could enjoy the greatness of four true Hockey Hall of Famers (Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin) being inducted on Monday in Toronto.

The loss of the annual Hall of Fame game (scheduled on a Friday this year rather than the usual Saturday) was a casualty of the lockout. Dallas Stars GM (and 2011 HHOF inductee) Joe Nieuwendyk told me on Hockey Night in Canada Radio how that it was a real "wow" moment for him when he was introduced to the Air Canada Centre crowd and walked the red carpet out to centre ice to shake hands with and join the group of dozens of Hall of Fame members.

To me, the Fan Forum on Sunday morning is the real jewel of Hall of Fame weekend. I am likely a little biased as I have been fortunate to have hosted this event beginning in 1999 when Wayne Gretzky was the inductee. It is an informal question and answer session with a few hundred passionate hockey fans.



Bure loved to score

I was most surprised by the number of Pavel Bure jerseys in the crowd, an equal split between his time with the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers. It is as if his time with the New York Rangers never existed.

He was personable with the crowd but remains the most guarded of the four. Teammates talk about never really having the opportunity to get close to Bure. He was and has remained a bit of an enigma. Like we have learned recently how important fitness is to Jaromir Jagr, Bure also pushed himself through a hard fitness program, but it was the late hours of the evening and early hours of the morning that he favoured  for his workouts.

He was probably the most electrifying player of the four being inducted. He loved to score goals as much as anybody in NHL history. Brett Hedican kidded that as teammates with the Vancouver Canucks, Bure often wrote on the chalk board in the team dressing room after practice exactly how many goals he figured he had scored on the Canuck goaltenders during that practice.

Oates made magic with Hull

Adam Oates was coming home to Toronto, where he grew up. He had the best story about how he found out he was going to be inducted. He had just been named as the new head coach of the Washington Capitals and was giving a seemingly never-ending amount of media phone interviews. The call waiting beep sounded often as he continued to talk.

Finally he recognized the number of his new boss, Capitals general manager George McPhee, who asked Oates if he had noticed a phone call from the 416 (Toronto) area code. Oates said he had and figured it was more media from his home city. McPhee told him to return that call before he continued his media marathon. Oates's return call was answered by the trio of Bill Hay, Pat Quinn and Jim Gregory as they welcomed a shocked Oates into the Hall of Fame.

In the span of a few hours, he had realized his dream to become an NHL head coach and to be a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.

Though Oates had a Hall of Fame career in a number of stops along the way, his three years as a linemate of Brett Hull's in St. Louis remain the most prominent. Hull told us on Hockey Night in Canada Radio how the right-wingers on their line would often get ticked off that they were often the "three's a crowd" spectator as Hull and Oates worked their magic. Oates kidded that "we often did not even get to know the name of our right-winger."

After a number of questions about what it was liking setting up Hull for his many goals, Oates quipped, "Hey, I scored a number of goals myself you know!"

Sakic & Popeye

Joe Sakic looked like he had gone full circle as his family joined him to celebrate the weekend.  His parents were there to share in the honour and it must have been a fulfilling payback for the thousands of hours they devoted to their hockey-playing boys. Sakic kidded that his parents still prefer the true Croatian pronunciation of "Sakich," which they would point out to him when they travelled with him for international games in Europe.

His first NHL memory was his father taking him to a Vancouver Canuck game as a four-year-old at Pacific Coliseum. He became a huge Canucks fan and then as an NHL player it was the Canucks that his Colorado Avalanche always seemed to beat up on.

When asked about the December 30th, 1986, Swift Current bus crash that claimed the life of four of his teammates, Sakic chose not to reveal much about his feelings and emotions as it was obvious that is how he has long ago learned how best to deal with that tragedy.

For the future, Sakic had a little bit of a hand in shaping the future of Seth Jones, who will be one of the top players in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.  His father is former NBA player Popeye Jones, who had a decent career with a number of NBA teams. He was playing for the Denver Nuggets and ran into Sakic at a local hockey arena. Though they had never met, Jones sought out the NHL great. He lamented how he wanted his son to play basketball but all he talked about was playing hockey. He had become a fan watching Hockey Night in Canada while Jones played for the Toronto Raptors, and young Seth had also been a big fan of Coach's Corner.

Sakic asked if his son was a comparable size to his physically imposing father. When told yes, he said "get him on skates." He gave Jones some ideas and direction on where best to start his son's hockey career in the Denver area. Great advice and a great decision.

When Sakic was asked about the classy and gracious moment of his almost immediately passing the Stanley Cup to Ray Bourque after their 2001 Cup victory, he quipped, "Remember, that was my second Stanley Cup and his first, so it was no problem. If it had been my first, he would have had to wait for me to do a few laps with it before I passed it to him."

Sundin regrets leaving Toronto

The loss of the Hall of Fame game was especially felt for how Mats Sundin would have been received by the Air Canada Centre crowd.

Sundin used the weekend to talk of his appreciation of Toronto as "home" even though he lives in Sweden. He started a charity initiative that included a weekend fund-raising dinner that collected over $100,000. It is to establish chairs at a university in Stockholm and at the University of Toronto to study all that encompasses the first 20 months of a child's life. Obviously being a first-time father of a three-month-old girl impacted his decision.

He also made it clear that in hindsight he shouldn't have left Toronto.  But he also articulated the process of why he felt it was the most appropriate option at the time.  It was a very warm homecoming.

Both Sakic and Sundin made it clear how much they enjoyed playing NHL hockey in Quebec City for the Nordiques and how they felt the NHL could thrive there in the current climate.

A member of the Hall of Fame executive committee, Pat Quinn got to share in seeing Bure and Sundin inducted after he coached them in Vancouver and Toronto, respectively. He also coached Sakic when Team Canada won gold at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

A stellar group of inductees. In fact, a "BOSS" group, as I chose to use that acronym to remember the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class of Bure, Oates, Sakic and Sundin.

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