Peers remember Oates' Hall of Fame career

Peers remember Oates' Hall of Fame career
November 12, 2012, 1:00 pm
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(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Tonight in Toronto Capitals coach Adam Oates will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure. Oates finished his NHL career with 341 goals, 1,079 assists and 1,420 points in 1,337 games.

Here is a collection of what others are saying about the 50-year-old native of Weston, Ontario

Former Caps teammate Olie Kolzig: “What I remember most is that he was always in great shape, he was the hardest worker, and how intense he was. I think one thing people don’t realize is how intense he was. He was always ready, always prepared. He was a great communicator. He could talk with everybody and anybody.

“I remember him being in the stick room and getting a bunch of guys to change the lie or curve of their stick to get a shot off and nine times out of 10 he was right. He was good at finding little things that would make players that much better.

“I think not winning a Stanley Cup might have hindered him [getting into the Hall of Fame earlier], which I don’t think is right because that can be a case of being in the right place at the right time. Maybe they finally recognized how good of a two-way hockey player he was. It was long overdue and I’m so happy for him. I was his roommate for three years and he never talked about [the Hall of Fame], but you could tell he was very passionate about the game of hockey and it’s good to see he gets his due.”

Former junior teammate Steve Thomas [via Toronto Sun]: “I had 69 goals one year on that team [the Markham Waxers] and I bet 60 of them were empty-netters. Because Adam would rather have had the assists. It was just crazy how great a passer he was. …His hand-eye co-ordination, his ability to watch plays develop. As they said with [Wayne] Gretzky, it was like he had eyes in the back of his head.”

Capitals general manager George McPhee: “We all know Adam was an exceptional offensive player -- that was a gift he had and he really developed that and he was fun to watch. I don’t know how many people understand how good he was defensively. When he played here he was our best defensive player. He was our best faceoff guy and one of the best in the league. He was our best penalty killer and our best 5-on-3 penalty killer and that part of the game is learned and he learned it well.

“One year we were about six games into the season and I remember him telling [former coach] Ron Wilson and I -- we were in the lobby of a hotel on the road – and he said, ‘Have you ever thought about putting Peter Bondra on the point on the power play?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure. How’s he going to get the puck up the ice?’ He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. We need the shot back there and I can get him the puck.’ Peter Bondra had the most power play goals in the league that year – 21. Adam would say, “Put Chris Simon on my line. He’s a space eater. It’ll work for me and it’ll work for him. And Chris Simon had 29 goals that year.”

Former Blues teammate Brett Hull [via Sports Illustrated]: “He doesn’t get as much publicity as the goal scorers, but he loves to watch you put the puck in the net. I never asked him why he didn’t want to score more himself; I was afraid he’d change his mind.”

Former Caps teammate Peter Bondra: “What got me was his skill, but he also had this confidence. We always talked about how we’d prepare for a game and I think the one thing I remember most is that he told me to never stop moving my feet, always go. He was a great teammate and I benefited from his play-making abilities. He was a great guy. He got along with everybody. I know he liked the young guys and they definitely benefitted from him. I won’t be in Toronto but I’ll be watching on TV and I’m looking forward to hearing his speech.”

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis: “He was an historic player. He controlled the game. When the puck was on his stick we had the best power play in the league. He was one of the few players, as a new owner, who would talk to me about hockey and explain to me what was going on and as a new owner I was very, very appreciative of that. I was in my office one day at Kettler and the Caps were on a road trip and Tampa was here. Our receptionist said she saw Adam Oates [who was an assistant coach with the Lightning] come into the building. I hadn’t seen Adam since he left the team and I ran over to see him because I had such positive feelings about him. We started talking and I said, ‘Let’s go down and see George [McPhee].’ We started chatting and then Adam had to get to work. I remember saying to George, ‘He’s a really smart guy, isn’t he?’ And George said, ‘Yeah, he’s the smartest player I’ve been around.’

“His attention to detail as a player was remarkable. I remember our power play was one of the best in the league and then it dipped and then it improved, like a switch went on. In the hallway I asked Adam what happened. He said, ‘Well, I watched some film and I realized I was receiving the entry pass in the wrong spot. I used to start by touching my elbow against the glass and I noticed I wasn’t doing that. That half a foot changed the whole geometry of the passing lanes. Now I touch the glass and I receive the pass.’ Just that six inches changed the passing lanes. I used to say he was like having a coach on the ice.”