Sundin, Oates, Bure and Sakic enter Hockey Hall of Fame

Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure attend a press conference at the Hockey Hall of...

Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure attend a press conference at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI AGENCY)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:20 AM ET

TORONTO - Not owning a Cup ring does not mean you can’t dwell in the same house as Stanley.

So the welcome mat was rolled out for Mats Sundin, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure on Monday, a trio who felt none the lesser for joining two-time Stanley sipper Joe Sakic in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Obviously I regret not winning a Cup, but I wouldn’t trade my memories for it,” Oates said of his 1,063 career assists. “It’s a fantastic feeling that you get to play this game for 19 years. My favourite statistic is my 1,000 games. It’s very hard to play 1,000 in this league.”

Oates made the Cup final a couple of times, but the Swedish-born Sundin faced the harshest Cup criticism through his 10 years as Maple Leafs’ captain. The Leafs did not advance beyond the conference championship, though neither did Canadian predecessors Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who made a taped introduction for Sundin, even suggested his countryman was not surrounded with blue-chip talent on his line much of his career.

Sundin did become franchise scoring leader and won an Olympic gold. Moving to the Leafs did mean missing the plane from Quebec to Denver that old mate Sakic rode to a pair of titles. Sundin reportedly turned down a trade to Detroit and eventually took a one-season Cup stab with Vancouver. He admitted this week he’d wanted to retire a Leaf.

“That trade here is still the best thing that could have happened,” Sundin said. “Being a Leaf carries pressure but it also asks a little more out of you. A 10-game losing streak here is not the same as a 10-game streak in Carolina. Hockey is central to the fans here, but I think it made me a better player. In 13 years, even when you lost 10 in a row, I don’t think I ever encountered someone come up to me and say something bad.”

Bure came the closest of the three non-Cup inductees, losing a seventh game to the Rangers in the 1994 final while with the Canucks.

“I don’t regret anything in life ... whatever happens, happens,” said Bure, a five-time 50-goal winger. “I always liked to score, but I was always trying to be creative.”

Vancouver Sun sportswriter Iain MacIntyre was credited with first calling him the Russian Rocket, though Bure said he didn’t get the Maurice Richard connection until later when he won the scoring trophy named for the Canadiens’ great. Former Vancouver teammate Igor Larionov was glad another Eastern European player was in the Hall and called Bure’s exciting dashes an inspiration for a new generation of Russian players such as Nail Yakupov.

Oates first thanked a wide range of minor hockey coaches and college supporters who kept his NHL dream alive when he was overlooked in the draft. He noted his career spanned the years that teammates Steve Yzerman and Scott Stevens became a force in the league. But of course he singled out audience member Brett Hull, who scored between 50 and 86 goals with Oates as his smooth-passing centre.

“You put me on the map,” praised Oates. “We were together just three years, but it seemed like forever.”

Sakic, a man of few words in the two decades he played, did remind any young players in the crowd that he was considered too small and slow in his formative years, as well as lasting until 15th in his NHL draft year.

Also entering the Hall on Monday were Ottawa-based columnist/hockey novelist Roy MacGregor and Sabres’ lively play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret.


Videos

Photos