Oates to join Hull in Hockey Hall of Fame tonight

12:06 PM, Nov 12, 2012   |    comments
Brett Hull and his former teammate Adam Oates hug during the ceremony for Hull's jersey retirement before the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues game at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. Mandatory Credit:Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE Copyright © Scott Rovak
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(KSDK Sports) -- Hockey writer for USA Today, Kevin Allen, has covered the NHL for 30 years.  Today provides his memories about Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin. The four will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night in Toronto. 

Adam Oates: A masterful passer, the center was the trigger man of Brett Hull's 86-goal season in 1990-91. As dominant a shooter as Hull was in that era, his numbers would not have been as staggering without Oates teeing him up for his blasts. Oates had an uncanny knack of finding his shooter through sticks and skates. But it was really his hockey IQ that set him apart from other centers. He worked at understanding how his winger played the game. Hull's playing style was unique - he looked for seams differently than everyone else - but Oates understood him better than everyone else. It's not a coincidence that he was table setter for both Hull in St. Louis and Cam Neely when both netted 50 goals in fewer than 50 games. Hull did it in 49 in 1990-91, and Neely accomplished his in 44 games in 1993-94. Oates' 1,079 assists are the sixth-highest total in NHL history.

Pavel Bure: I don't believe I've seen an NHL player who was more electrifying than the Russian Rocket. He was always one skating burst away from being on a breakaway. When the puck hit his tape in the neutral zone, you could always hear the crowd gasp in anticipation of one his jet-propelled dashes up the ice. I don't believe anyone covered 90 feet with a puck on his stick faster than Bure. His combined 1992-93 and 1993-94 regular season and playoffs has to rate as one of the most dynamic two-season efforts in NHL history when you consider both his production and his panache. In those two seasons, there was a buzz in the arena every time he touched the puck. He registered 120 goals over those two seasons, and 21 more in the playoffs in 36 games. He finished with 437 goals in 702 games, a remarkable number considered he played the bulk of his career in the era when coaches were just starting to strangle the offensive life out of the game.

Joe Sakic: The former Colorado Avalanche star had the quickest shot release I ever saw. Every scorer has an area of the ice that becomes his office. Sakic seemed most comfortable in the high shot. The pass would hit his stick, and then in an instant the puck would be in the back of the net. Phenomenal wrist shot. Unbelievable vision and instincts. Sakic was quiet by nature, but he learned through the years to be a quality captain. He was like Steve Yzerman in that he seemed to lead more by example than by Knute Rockne-style speeches. The true test of any players' stardom is how his competitors viewed him, and Sakic was one of the most respected players in NHL history.

Mats Sundin: Elegant and classy are the two adjectives that I would use to describe Mats Sundin. He was the Jean Beliveau of the 1990s, a big center whose game had a touch of artistry to go with its effectiveness. His 18-season career was a salute to both durability and consistency. He rarely missed a game, and his ability to stay in the lineup allowed him to score 27 or more goals for 12 consecutive seasons. It didn't matter who he was playing with, or how good his team, was, Sundin found a way to deliver. He was also a memorable Toronto Maple Leafs' captain. It's not easy being a captain in Toronto, where the team's every move is analyzed to the point of absurdity. But Sundin handled the pressure with his special blend of dignity and grace.

 

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