The hockey community shifted focus away from collective bargaining talks this week and honored four of the greatest players in the history of hockey.
Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin were enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame as members of the 2012 class.
These men all had prolific careers and were decorated individuals. Bure was one of the most electrifying players of the 1990s, whose career was cut short because of knee injuries. However, the “Russian Rocket” scored 437 goals and added 342 assists for 779 points in 702 games.
Bure was the NHL’s Calder Trophy winner in 1992 as the top rookie, a six-time All-Star and was a three-time single-season goal scoring champion. Internationally, he represented Russia and won a silver medal at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, and a bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Bure would have went on to do better things if he had a better set of knees, but he was one of the most dynamic players of his era.
Adam Oates was the second inductee of the night, and his credentials are quite extraordinary. The Hall of Famer is regarded as one of the greatest un-drafted forwards in NHL history, and he exceeded expectations during his entire career.
Oates was one of the best playmakers in NHL history, and 1,079 of his 1,420 career points came via assists. His 1,079 assists still stand as fifth-most in NHL history. During his 19-season career, Oates was a five-time All-Star and a six-time finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct on the ice.
Oates was the ultimate team player, and it is a shame that he never won the Stanley Cup as a player. He is now the head coach of the Washington Capitals, so there is a chance that he could win it as a coach in the immediate future.
Mats Sundin was the third inductee as a player who had solid NHL numbers and international contributions to hockey. The H.H.O.F. houses all of the best hockey players regardless of NHL contributions, so many international players often earn enshrinement if they are deserving.
Sundin was a prolific scorer and playmaker throughout his career, and that is indicative of his 564 career goals, his 785 career assists and his 1,349 points over the course of 18 seasons.
Internationally, Sundin won a gold medal during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics as the captain of the Swedish National team. He also won three gold medals, a silver medal and one bronze medal during his career participating at the World Championships.
He also is currently the only Swede in NHL history to score 500 or more goals and he was the first European-born player to be drafted first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
Sundin was known to be a leader during his time with the Quebec Nordiques and the Toronto Maple Leafs and he was one of the league’s most respected players. He was a nine-time All-Star and simply one of the most well rounded players of his era.
The best was saved for last during the H.H.O.F. festivities because Joe Sakic was a generational player who transcended the game. Nicknamed Burnaby Joe, Sakic was an elite player who excelled in all facets of the game. He was one of the greatest leaders and captains in league history, possessed one of the league’s most-feared wrist shots and was a subtle and effective playmaker.
Sakic’s credentials simply blew away the other candidates when it was time to list the reasons why Sakic had earned enshrinement into the H.H.O.F.
During his 21-season career, Sakic was a 13-time All-Star, a Lady Byng Trophy winner in 2001, a Hart Trophy winner in 2001 as the league MVP, a Lester B. Pearson Award winner in 2001 as the best player as voted by the NHL players, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1996 as the playoff MVP.
Internationally, Sakic was one of the best players on Team Canada, and he won gold for Canada during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and again during the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Statistically, Sakic ended his career with 625 goals and 1016 assists for a total of 1,641 points in 1,378 games. Sakic was also one of the most reliable playoff performers in league history and his 188 points in 172 postseason games illustrate his ability to step up when the stakes were at their highest.
Sakic was one of the most entertaining players to watch in NHL history, and his first-ballot induction was well deserved.
For the rest of history, these four men will be linked together as members of the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame. It was an amazing night that celebrated hockey, it was a change that shifted from the current NHL lockout and it was a moment that should make both sides realize what is truly at stake.
Although the 2012 class was just enshrined, that hasn’t stopped critics and fans from looking forward to the 2013 class. Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Chelios are considered to be favorites after being snubbed for this year’ ceremony, but anything can happen between now and next year.