Nineteen Years in Five Minutes
Posted on January 14, 2013
by Mike Vogel
Since learning he was chosen for induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame last summer, Caps coach Adam Oates has had a lot on his mind. He was named Washington’s bench boss that very same day, and for the last few months his head has been filled with thoughts of line combinations, power play alignments and other responsibilities related to his first NHL bench boss opportunity.
As you might imagine, Oates has also spent a decent amount of time thinking about what he’s going to say in his Hall induction speech next week. This past Monday – exactly a week before his induction ceremony – Oates gave a bit of a preview into his speech.
“The speech is coming along,” said Oates. “It’s been since June, starting to work on it. One of the tough things is the time restraints they give you. It’s only supposed to be five minutes and it’s pretty impossible to thank everybody in five minutes.”
Each inductee will be presented as a Hall of Famer by another individual, one who is very familiar with the inductee and his career path. Oates doesn’t know the identity of his own personal presenter, but if he were allowed to choose for himself, he’d have several strong options.
“Probably a couple of people,” said Oates, when asked who he’d choose to present himself. “Probably the people I am going to outline in my speech. Brett [Hull], Ray [Bourque], my dad, my college coach. Guys who know me.”
Hull and Bourque are both Hall of Famers.
Hull and Oates formed a dynamic duo with the St. Louis Blues in the early 1990s. When Hull notched 72 goals in 1989-90 and followed up with 86 more in 1990-91, Oates was his centerman. Hull scored 212 goals during the two and a half seasons Oates spent in St. Louis. Oates had 228 assists over that same span.
When he was dealt to Boston in 1992, Oates and Bourque became fast friends. During his time with the Bruins, Oates claims Bourque made him a better all-around player, helping to hone the defensive side of his game.
“When I played for Boston, I started playing with Ray,” said Oates. “He made me a better defensive player.”
How did he do that?
“Just by being Ray,” Oates added. “And I’m going to say that in my speech, just so you know. Going to the rink every day with Ray, I was a little bit older and a little bit more mature. And you grow. I was 30 years old and he made me better as a player. He had me focus on both ends of the rink more. When you have a guy like that who kept playing at that level until he was 41, it’s just fantastic.”
Chemistry on the ice between players is all about making connections. As one of the best playmakers in the league’s history, Oates knows a bit about making connections on the ice. In his speech, Oates wants to emphasize those and the connections he made off the ice during his 19-year career.
“I’m going to try to touch on every subject in terms of some of the coaches that have helped me along the way,” he said. “Obviously your family for sure. When you play 19 years – I played on seven teams – you make connections. One of the points I am going to bring up is, in life you make connections and they don’t always last. But you connected with someone whenever it was, and hockey is no different. You played with a team and you connected with a guy for a little while and then our paths go different. He’s married, I’m single. Guys get traded. But there was a connection there. At some point in your career, you had something. I think that’s life, and hockey’s no different.”
After months of reflecting, crafting, perfecting and practicing his speech, Oates is virtually ready to go.
“Pretty close,” he said, when asked if he could deliver it now if needed. “I’ve got what I want to say; I’ve just got to fine-tune it. I’m nervous about it. It’s a short span of time and you’ve got to thank a lot of people. It’s obviously going to be live and you want to do a good job. I think my speech is a good speech. I’m hoping to touch on a lot of people and say thank you. Hopefully, it will come out pretty decent.”
Oates made a lot of significant connections before and during his NHL career, and it will be no small feat to thank them all in a span of just 300 seconds.
“I’m the lucky one,” Oates noted. “I got to play the game for 19 years. Since June, all you do is reflect on the people that you played with and the people that helped you get there and your family. I’ve been trying to put it together in order and trying to thank the right people. You are going to miss some, unfortunately, and you’re trying to make it not as many as possible because it’s a day to thank them.”
Aside from forgetting someone important, Oates has just one other speech worry.
“I just don’t want to break down.”
He wouldn’t be the first.
January 14, 2013
When he was 20 years old, Adam Oates was most certainly not on the Hockey Hall of Fame career track. He had finished up two terrific seasons of junior hockey, but it was Tier II junior hockey with the Markham Waxers of the Ontario Jr. A league. An assistant coach at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic