Monday, November 12th is the induction ceremony for the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2012, and amid the NHL lockout, it’s going to be a low profile event.
The latest meetings were popularized as the ones that could save the season, but instead, reports coming out of the latest negotiations are pessimistic and progress was negligible. So Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin will more quietly slip into the annals of hockey history. The fanfare they might have received in the arenas of their former teams is moot.
This is just one example of how this lockout is cheapening the experience of the sport; so much of what the players and owners continue to disagree about has to do with money, and yet the feeling of watching your favorite team take the ice and compete, even streaming online over a bad Internet connection, is supposed to be invaluable. You can buy cheap thrills, but there’s no check to be written that can put a price on passion. At least, our idealistic sports fan souls say that this is true. Among the many lost moments of this NHL season are beautiful goals, controversial calls and heroic shot blocks. We’ll never get them back.
Here, then, are some short profiles of the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees.
Pavel Bure, the Russian Rocket, came to the NHL as a 20-year-old from Moscow and played for the Vancouver Canucks starting in the 1991-92 season. Prior to joining the most competitive league in the world, he already had the 1990 World Championship gold medal under his belt. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie that season, putting up a total of 60 points (34 goals, 26 assists).
After that, Bure pulled off two consecutive 60-goal seasons. He also was part of the team’s Stanley Cup Finals run in 1994 and remained with the Canucks until 1998. With the Florida Panthers, he had at least two more prodigious goal-scoring seasons in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, nearly reaching 60 twice and still having the most goals of anyone in the league. Competing for Russia, he also accrued two Olympic medals in his career: the 1998 silver medal in Nagano and the 2002 bronze medal in Salt Lake City. Bure's NHL career ended as a member of New York Rangers in 2003.
Adam Oates got his start as a junior lacrosse player in Ontario before switching to hockey in 1984. He played college hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but forewent his senior year to enter (undrafted) into the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings for the 1985-86 season.
While his time with the Red Wings was by no means poor, Oates really broke out when he was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1989 and put on the top line as Brett Hull’s center. He scored 102 points during the 1989-90 season and 115 the following year even though he only played in 61 games.
After being traded to the Boston Bruins, Oates put up even more prolific seasons, including 142 points in 1992-93. While his scoring dropped off in later years, he still often averaged nearly or more than a point per game. His assist totals always exceeded his goal totals, and he was the principal playmaker to many legendary goal-scorers, including Peter Bondra and Cam Neely.
Oates later played for the Washington Capitals, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and the Edmonton Oilers, where he finished his NHL career in 2004. Oates has recently been assistant coach to the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils, and he will assume the head coaching position of the Washington Capitals when NHL hockey begins again.
Joe Sakic only ever played for one franchise--the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche. A British Columbia native, Sakic got his start in the WHL after becoming a standout player at Burnaby North Secondary School in his hometown. He was drafted by the Nordiques in 1987, and played his first season at the NHL level in 1988-89.
It took Sakic only until his second season to top 100 points, scoring 102 that year. He became captain of the Nordiques in the 1992-93 season and would remain the captain when the franchise relocated to Colorado in 1995. That season, Sakic captained the team to its first Stanley Cup. He recorded 120 points in the regular season and 34 in the playoffs. Sakic would captain the team to a second Stanley Cup in 2001, and he famously did not hoist the Cup himself before first passing it to teammate Ray Bourque, who had himself played 22 seasons without winning a championship.
In 2002, Sakic took home the gold medal in the Salt Lake City Olympics and had four points in the medal match. Sakic would continue to have strong seasons, whether on the scoreboard or simply as a team leader, until his retirement in the 2009 offseason. After a short break from hockey, he joined the Avalanche front office in an advisory capacity in 2011.
Mats Sundin began his career in Swedish leagues and was 18 years old when he was selected first overall in the 1989 NHL Draft, the first European-born player ever to be taken first. He was picked up by the Quebec Nordiques, and he debuted with them in 1990-91 and scored 59 points that year, a point total second only to now-fellow-Hall-of-Famer Joe Sakic.
Sundin is iconic, however, for his time with his second team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was traded in 1994. His consistent scoring touch made him team captain within three years, following the departure of Doug Gilmour, and he led the Leafs to postseason success on multiple occasions, including the Eastern Conference Finals in 1999 and 2002. He broke multiple Maple Leafs team records during his thirteen seasons with the club, including most all-time goals and most all-time points. Sundin finished out his career with the Vancouver Canucks, signing as a free agent in 2008. He played for one year before announcing his retirement in 2009.
Other 2012 inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame include longtime Buffalo Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret and Globe and Mail writer Roy MacGregor.
Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too much longer to see more future-Hall-of-Famer seasons.
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