Finally, nine years after he retired, the star center with 1,079 career assists in 19 NHL seasons had his moment in the spotlight. For a player who never won a league award or the Stanley Cup and always was considered a complementary player, this was confirmation of his place among the league’s all-time greats.
“I always viewed myself as a solid player, and if it happened, great. But I never got too emotional about it,” Oates said. “It’s the ultimate compliment as a player being grouped with some of the guys that you respected in the game so much.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time doing what almost everybody I’m sure who’s been inducted has done: You reflect on your career,” Oates said in his induction speech Monday night. “I spent a lot of time thinking about the people I played with, my memories of the game and the people that helped me get there. And today is the day of all days that I think I should say thank you.”
He was busy calling everyone else telling him he just got the Caps job. When he thought reporters were calling to ask about being hired, it took general manager George McPhee telling him to pick up the phone when the Hall of Fame was trying to tell him he got in.
“I never really thought about it,” Oates said. “I’ve always been a little bit of a shy guy when it comes to that, and I’ve always felt that it’s your guys’ job to say that, not mine.”
When the selection committee finally said it, that allowed Oates to think back on a career that included the disappointment of not making a major junior team and not being drafted, but it also featured helping Brett Hull and Cam Neely construct seasons with 50 goals in 50 games.
They already were in the Hall, recognized for their scoring accomplishments. Oates, not trying to be a goal scorer despite 341 of them, went about piling up points in unassuming fashion.
“He was always an underrated player. And I don’t think people really understood how good he was until you had a chance to work with him or play with him,” McPhee said. “You get guys that do many so many different things well it just has such a dramatic effect on your club.”
Not getting attention never bothered Oates. He knew that a goal scorer, a “home run hitter” is more likely to be praised.
“Through hard work and dedication, Adam Oates overcame not being drafted to become one of the game’s elite setup men,” his plaque reads. “Originally signed by Detroit his playmaking prowess took center stage following a trade to the St. Louis Blues. Oates led the NHL in assists three times, including a career high of 1.48s per game in ‘90-91, earning second-team All-Star honors and 142 points in ‘92-93 as a member of the Boston Bruins. Just the eighth player in NHL history to record 1,000 career assists, Oates finished sixth all-time with 1,079 and 13th in all-time scoring with 1,420 points during his 19 seasons.”
Never the face of a franchise, Oates‘ numbers speak for themselves.View Entire Story
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