Even though there is not any hockey being played, tonight the Hockey Hall of Fame will be inducting four players at its annual ceremony. Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin headline this year’s class.
Nashville Predators defensemen Hal Gill and Scott Hannan played against each of the inductees, and also played with two of them. Gill was teammates with Sundin in Toronto, Hannan with Sakic in Colorado.
As you would expect, Gill and Hannan had nothing but good things to say about their former teammates/peers.
“He’s one of the best I played with,” Gill said of Sundin. “He’s a great guy and a class act off the ice. It’s very well deserved I think.”
Sundin, who served as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs for 11 seasons, compiled 1,349 career points in 18 NHL seasons.
“I played against him in the old rules where you could hang on guys and hook and hold. He was one of the tougher guys to hook and hold. You couldn’t lock him down because he could power through most things,” Gill said, who also played two seasons with Sundin.
“He’s one of those guys that when you walk into a room and he stands up or does something, it’s noticed. He didn’t have to say much; it was a quiet form of leadership. Everyone – everyone – respected him. As a player you want to have that form of leadership where you can be quiet and guys respect you.”
Hannan echoed some of those same sentiments for Sakic, whom he played with in Colorado for two seasons.
“He was an amazing competitor and led by example,” Hannan said. “The lightheartedness, joking around in the room – he was a pretty easygoing guy. But when he was intense, he was.”
Sakic played 20 seasons in the NHL, all with the Colorado/Quebec franchise, and racked up 1,641 career points, ninth all-time.
“Those players don’t come around all the time,” said Hannan. “His work ethic was second to none. He was always lifting weights and working on his skills and wrist shot. The way Joe played the game, a lot of it you can’t teach. He wanted to be the best and he showed it with the leadership and championships he won.”
Though Sundin and Sakic were each elected into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, Bure (seventh year) and Oates (sixth) had to wait. Despite that, Gill believes both Bure and Oates are deserving of the honor.
“Bure was just straight speed. If he got a step on you it was over. You had to be aware of him everywhere you went,” Gill said. “I could list a million breakaways I’ve seen him take. I don’t know if there’s a player [in the league right now] quite like that.”
Bure collected 779 points in 13 NHL seasons, some of which were cut short by injury. Oates finished his 19-year career with 1,420 points; his 1,079 career assists are sixth-most all-time.
Gill said of Oates: “No one went near him because once you got close he’d use you as a screen or saucer pass it over your stick and you were looking behind you. He was one of the best passers I’ve ever seen.”
Also being honored tonight is Buffalo Sabres play-by-play voice Rick Jeanneret (Foster Hewitt Memorial Award) and hockey columnist Roy MacGregor (Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award). Tonight’s induction ceremony can be seen on NHL Network at 7:30 pm eastern.