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So Oates had to wait as Addesa and RPI athletic director Bob Duquette filed a formal petition with the NCAA to allow him to play.

“I can remember it like it was yesterday: the hearing and the perspiration as you’re on a conference call with 12 members on an NCAA committee, yourself and your athletic director,” Addesa said. “Then you had to wait 24 hours, and we heard back from them that they were going to grant his eligibility, but he would have to sit out the first seven games of our season as a freshman.”

One final hurdle required Oates to take two courses at the Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario, and get grades of 75 percent Canadian or higher, equivalent to 85 percent in the U.S. He did, gaining admittance to RPI.

It wasn’t exactly the path Oates had envisioned.

“I had never even heard of it when I met Mike Addesa,” Oates said. “I’d never even heard of it.”

Three seasons, 216 points and a national title later, Oates knew it: “RPI was my break,” he said.

‘He worked his butt off’

Oates credited RPI’s national title run for giving him the necessary visibility to get noticed by the NHL. But it wasn’t like he arrived on campus in Troy, N.Y., and became a star.

Addesa told Oates during his freshman year that to make the pros, he had to work on his skating. Eager to do whatever it took, he spent more than two full summers living and working with skating coach Paul Vincent on Cape Cod.

Vincent saw potential in Oates but knew he had “a lot” to improve on with his skating.

“I remember that when we got working together he wasn’t a great skater. But I found out that he also competed in track and was an 800-yard guy or 800 meters today,” said Vincent, who has worked with four NHL teams as an instructor or scout. “When he’d run, you’re in a natural athletic position. But when he skated he tended to lean forward and he was a railroader: feet never completely came back underneath him.”

Blessed with vision and hands that cannot be taught, subpar skating still could have held Oates back. Except he was willing to change everything.

“We kind of reinvented what he had to do and how he had to do it,” Vincent said. “He worked his butt off to get better.”

Oates said he didn’t necessarily get faster, only more agile and stronger, but his track to the NHL sped up tremendously.

Hull puts Oates on the map

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