Pardon me for making you expel your drink through your nose, but Dave Andreychuk was not selected for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Wipe dry and take a moment to say hooray for "The Dominator," goaltender Dominik Hasek, named to the Hall. For America’s standard bearer, Mike Modano, a phenomenal playmaker and scorer. For gifted centerman Peter Forsberg, superb defenseman Rob Blake and the late Pat Burns, a one-time Montreal street cop who carved his name into the sport’s rich lore as a Stanley Cup head coach. And we are all delighted for the best moustache on ice — referee Bill McCreary richly deserves the recognition.
This year’s class, announced Monday by selection chair John Davidson, is admirable … with one egregious exception.
There are 18 committee members who chose inductees worldwide. Fourteen votes are necessary for enshrinement. Every voter has signed a confidentiality agreement. None is permitted to reveal discussions, and the vote totals are not publicized.
This we do know with certainty: Somehow, someway, someone overlooked compelling facts, as in Andreychuk’s stats.
The man who captained the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup championship a decade ago, Andreychuk skated 23 seasons in the NHL, playing in 1,639 regular season games.
You can count on one hand the number of men in the history of the game who logged more ice time. Those five fellows go by the names of Howe, Messier, Francis, Recchi and Chelios.
Andreychuk scored 640 goals. All 13 skaters who top that mark are enshrined in Toronto, with the exception of Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne, the latter of whom is retiring to great acclaim and destined for the Hall.
And the signature epitaph for Andreychuk’s career is this: He scored more power play goals than any skater who ever laced them up. And he did so in an era when the crease was renowned as Hell’s Kitchen. Where clutch and grab more resembled mixed martial arts than the current NHL. Should an errant stick or purposeful elbow split an attacking forward open, "c’est la guerre" and call the trainer.
Imagine having the Rays’ David Price on the mound firing 95 mph fastballs — the velocity of a slap shot on net — and you are positioned in front of the plate grasping what amounts to a broomstick handle. With, say, Big Papi on one side and Yasiel Puig on the other — holding bats — allowed to make your life a living hell, and free to swing at you, a human pinata.
Now, Mr. Andreychuk, tip that screaming fastball past the catcher with your broom handle. Don’t let the catcher even touch that whistling heater. And, despite Papi and Yasi, try not to get killed in the process.
Andreychuk lit the lamp 274 times doing plenty of that over two decades of play. Further, he did so while standing on ice. And apparently, a significant number of the Hall’s 18 committee members failed to take notice.
Dave has the scars to prove it. Yet, in many ways, Monday’s slight cuts even deeper.
Over the course of a career that began with the legendary Scotty Bowman drafting him in Buffalo in 1982, and including service with Toronto, New Jersey, Boston and Colorado, Andreychuk always carried himself with class. So beloved in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, that the public recreation rink is named in his honor.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of its greatest hockey moment, the Lightning franchise dedicated a statue this spring of Andreychuk holding high the Stanley Cup, facing the Tampa skyline. Thousands of fans cheered the moment. Bowman, his name engraved on the chalice no fewer than 13 times, offered the dedication address.
Bowman is on the Hall of Fame selection committee. Surely he was an Andreychuk advocate.
Andreychuk continues to be visible and vibrant. An on-camera analyst on Lightning telecasts and an ambassador in the community as vice president of corporate and community affairs.
When the "Lords Of The Game" attempted to tame the contact in front of the net in 2005 — to emphasize and showcase the league’s speed and skill, it coincided with Andreychuk’s retirement. One can only imagine what his power-play tip tally might have been without wearing a pair of defensemen for so many years every time he set up shop in front of a netminder.
Yet there was far more to Andreychuk’s game. Recall the ancient Maple Leaf Gardens in the Winter of 1994. Wonderful atmosphere, filled to the rafters. Pat Burns was behind the bench as Andreychuk scored 54 goals, just 21 with the man advantage, underscoring his value far beyond special teams play.
Pray tell, how many Toronto players have scored more goals in a single season since? Or lit the lamp 50 times?
None. In 20 years.
As to the matter of the credentials of this year’s class, there is not one name who scored more career goals than Dave Andreychuck. Absolutely not a single skater who flicked, tipped, or hammered home a rebound more often on the power play. And even Modano, for all his glorious accomplishments did not amass more seasons in this rugged sport that is often a test of survival.
As coincidence would have it, McCreary was on the ice in Tampa’s Forum for Game 7, when the Lightning captured the Cup in a thrilling comeback against Calgary. And it was McCreary, along with fellow ref Kerry Fraser, who put Captain Dave in the penalty box for tripping in a one-goal game with just 23 seconds to play.
Oh my God.
That was Andreychuk’s agonizing vantage point over the final few ticks before the celebration erupted and he finally lifted the Cup. In many ways, this is his vantage point now as another class is cheered by the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Inexplicably, for all he has accomplished, Andreychuck is on the outside, looking in.