Dave Andreychuk, of course, knew it was the day. Even though the Hockey Hall of Fame had passed him over in his first nine years of eligibility, the Buffalo Sabres legend still paid attention to the annual vote.
So Monday, as Andreychuk was driving to the Tampa Bay airport to pick up his wife, Susan, who was returning from Buffalo, he noticed someone from 416, Toronto’s area code, was calling him.
“My heart started to race immediately,” Andreychuk, a 640-goal scorer, said on a conference call with the Hall of Fame’s other 2017 inductees. “I pulled over to the side of the road.”
On the line was Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald to inform Andreychuk he had finally been elected.
“It didn’t matter to me if it was one year or 10 years,” Andreychuk said. “I don’t think it really matters. The numbers and what I had done, there’s not much you can do but sit and wait. You think about this day and it’s going to happen, you think you’re prepared for it. You’re really not.”
Andreychuk then called his parents, Rosalind and Julian.
“My mother obviously said right away she knew I was going in,” he said.
When Andreychuk picked up his wife, she already had already heard the news from a former teammate’s wife.
Andreychuk is a part of a star-studded 2017 class with Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi, Teemu Selanne, Clare Drake, Danielle Goyette and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, a Buffalo native who still lives in East Aurora.
Now that Andreychuk has made it, some may wonder why it took the 6-foot-4 winger, a dominant presence around the net and on the power play, so long.
The 53-year-old Andreychuk ranks 14th all-time in goals, which had been the highest total of any player not in the Hall of Fame before Monday. His 274 power-play goals are the most in NHL history. His 1,338 points rank 29th and his 1,639 games rank seventh.
Andreychuk had two stints with the Sabres, first from 1982 to 1993 and again in 2000-01. The 16th overall pick in 1982 ranks second in franchise history with 368 goals, trailing only Rick Martin and Gilbert Perreault. He ranks second with 406 assists and 804 points, trailing only Perreault.
Andreychuk sounded nostalgic about Buffalo and the Sabres discussing his Hall selection. Yes, he captained the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup and enjoyed a dynamic run with the Toronto Maple Leafs, posting consecutive 50-goal seasons.
But Andreychuk, who grew up not far across the Ontario border in Hamilton, might be identified with the Sabres more than any of his other five teams.
“Buffalo, it’s really always going to be home to me,” he said. “I started here at 18. Yes, I got moved around a little bit after being here for almost 12 years. But I was always going back to Buffalo. My three children were born there. My wife is from there.”
He added: “When you think about going there as an 18-year-old kid and leaving as a 30-year-old, I mean, I grew up there, right?”
Andreychuk said Perreault, Jerry Korab and Dale McCourt “molded the path for me” in his early days.
“Later in my Buffalo days, I still had Craig Ramsay there, Lindy Ruff, Mike Foligno – all good mentors for me to get me through my career,” he said. “Definitely my early days in Buffalo put me on the right path with lots of good people.”
Another teammate and 1982 draft pick, Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley, was named Sabres coach earlier this month.
“I don’t know him as well as a hockey coach,” Andreychuk said. “I only watched from afar. But knowing him as a person and knowing how he knows the game, I’m not surprised of his success there. I’m glad for Buffalo that he’s back. I think it’s a good move for them. I’m always watching the Buffalo Sabres, and now especially with Phil there on the bench.”
In a statement, Housley said: “I want to congratulate my friend Dave Andreychuk on being named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I have so many great memories of coming into the league together as rookies. It was an honor and a privilege to spend eight seasons with Dave in Buffalo playing the game we love.”
Andreychuk also played for the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. Following his second stint in Buffalo – he recorded the 17th of his 19 20-goal seasons – he said he was “pretty much packing it in.”
Then three men from his Sabres days who had joined the Lighting called.
“I got the call from Rick Dudley, John Tortorella and Craig Ramsay to come down to Tampa,” Andreychuk said. “I think at that point it was basically trying to save some face for the franchise (that) was really reeling. The moment I got to Tampa, realizing the talent that was here, I got super excited about where we were going.”
Within two years, the Lightning had morphed into a legit Cup contender.
“(I) had been through some great runs, never got to the end,” said Andreychuk, who only won one playoff series during his first stint in Buffalo. “For us to do it here in Tampa, it was exciting. It obviously caps a career for myself. But I think if I wouldn’t have won a Stanley Cup, not much would’ve changed, either.”