TORONTO (AP) — Joe Sakic was four years old when his father took him to his first hockey game.
And his life-long love affair with the sport began.
The stylish center who spent his entire 20-year NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques-Colorado Avalanche franchise parlayed that passion into a berth in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Sakic was voted into the Hall by the 18-member selection committee Tuesday along with three other star forwards who terrorized goaltenders over the last three decades — Adam Oates, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.
The players will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 in Toronto.
“I remember. My dad took me to a Vancouver Canucks game against the Atlanta Flames,” Sakic recalled on a conference call. “I fell in love with hockey and I wanted to play.
“It was all I wanted to do, on the ice or on the street.”
Oates’ honor came only hours after he was named coach of the Washington Capitals.
“Obviously, it’s been an absolutely fantastic day,” Oates said. “I’m excited about the coaching job and to be called to the Hall of Fame … it’s just a special day for me.”
Sakic and Sundin, who began their careers as teammates in Quebec City, were selected in their first year of eligibility, while Oates and Bure made it after waits of five and six years, respectively.
They were the only inductees as no builders or women made it this year. Among those overlooked were power forward Brendan Shanahan, now the NHL’s disciplinarian who was in his first year of eligibility, and former coaches Pat Burns and Fred Shero.
Between them, the four new members had 1,967 regular-season goals and 3,786 assists.
Sakic was one of the smartest players of his era. Despite a slight frame, he could make plays in heavy traffic or snap home a goal.
Sundin was a big, rangy center who dominated the area around the net. He made his name mostly as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Oates was the premier passer of his time. He formed legendary one-two punch combinations with finishers like Brett Hull in St. Louis and Cam Neely in Boston.
Bure, a right winger known as the Russian Rocket, could pull fans from their seats with his spectacular high-speed rushes up the ice for the Canucks, Rangers and Panthers. He led Vancouver to the 1994 Stanley Cup finals.
Sundin is the second Swede in the Hall after another Toronto great, defenseman Borje Salming. Bure joins fellows Russians Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Igor Larionov and Valeri Kharlamov.
Sundin said his eyes were opened to the skill level in the NHL by Sakic when he joined the Nordiques after being picked first overall in 1989.
“When you’re in Sweden, you’re not used to seeing a player like that who can play at both ends of the ice,” the 41-year-old said. “It was not only scoring points that impressed me, it was his overall game. He had no weaknesses.”
Sakic was captain of his team for 16 years, the second-longest tenure in NHL history. He scored 50 goals twice and had six 100-point seasons. He won Stanley Cups in 1996, when he was playoff MVP, and in 2001.
The Vancouver native won the Hart Trophy and Lester Pearson (now Lindsay) awards in 2001 and was MVP of Canada’s gold medal team at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He also won world championship gold in 1994 and is a member of the Triple Gold Club of players who have won the worlds, the Olympics and a Stanley Cup.
Sakic had 625 goals and 1,016 assists in 1,378 NHL games.
Sundin never won a Stanley Cup, but was captain of Sweden’s 2006 Olympic gold medal squad. He was also the first Swedish player to earn 1,000 NHL points.
The native of Bromma, Sweden, was traded to Toronto in 1997 and went on to play 13 seasons in the Maple Leafs’ pressure cooker, the last 11 as captain. He holds Leafs records for most 20-goal seasons (13), most 30-goal campaigns (10), most game-winning goals (79) and most regular-season overtime goals (14).
“When you’re retired, you reflect on your career and you see how fortunate you were to have your passion as your profession,” said Sundin, who had 564 goals and 785 assists in 1,346 career games.
He retired after the brief stint with the Canucks in 2008-09.
Oates, a Toronto native, was never drafted, but signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings in 1985 after three years at RPI. He developed into an uncanny playmaker who had 341 goals and 1,079 assists, which was sixth all-time, in 19 seasons.
He said he was brought up to emphasize setting up goals rather than scoring them himself.
“My father was British and a soccer player and he idolized Stanley Matthews,” Oates said of the English soccer great known as “The Magician” who played at the top level for more than three decades. “He always said that if you’re unselfish, the other players will like you.”
Oates had four 100-point seasons, including 1992-93 with Boston when he had a career-high 45 goals and 142 points. He played 19 seasons with Detroit, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton.
Bure defected from the former Soviet Union to join the Canucks in 1991 and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He became one of the most exciting goal-scorers of his time with 437 goals and 342 assists over 11 seasons.
He had back-to-back 60-goal seasons in the early 1990s and had five seasons of 50-plus goals.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said, before handing part of the credit to Pat Quinn, the co-chairman of the Hall of Fame selection committee who was his first NHL coach with the Canucks.
“I watched Pavel go from a 20-year-old,” Quinn said, “to become one of the greatest stars of the game.”
Quinn also coached Sundin in Toronto and Sakic with the 2002 Olympic squad.
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