Home > sports > Vindicated! Oates Goes to Hall, Just As I Said He Should

Vindicated! Oates Goes to Hall, Just As I Said He Should

Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 18:43 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments
Adam Oates

Hall of Famer Adam Oates as a student athlete at RPI, where he played from 1982-1985

Congratulations, a day late, to former Boston Bruins forward and fellow RPI alumnus Adam Oates, who yesterday was announced as the new head coach for the Washington Capitals and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. That’s quite a bit of good news for one day.

Almost 2½ years ago, I wrote the following about Oates:

For my money, Oates is one of the most underrated players of his era and needs to be in the Hall of Fame. He ranks sixth all-time in assists, seventh in assists per game, 16th in points, and 27th in points per game, placing him firmly among players already in the Hall. I look forward to attending his induction as soon as the selection committee members pull their heads out of their asses.

Even my brother, a long-time hockey fanatic, didn’t realize that Oates was that high up on the all-time assist list. And maybe that was part of the reason it took so long for him to get into the Hall. He wasn’t a flashy player or one who grabbed headlines with lots of scoring or fighting. He did his job, which was to set up the flashy guys, get the puck to them at the right time, and skate away.

Back in the dark ages of 1982, when Oates and I were just starting at RPI (no, I didn’t know him, so please don’t email me asking if I can get you an autograph), he was a 20-year-old freshman whose entry into collegiate hockey had been delayed on a technicality. The story was that he had once played in a semi-pro tournament, though he himself was one of the several players who were not paid. It took a while for the NCAA to sort it out, but once they did, Oates became a key component of a team that would win two ECAC titles and the NCAA championship. Monday’s Albany Times-Union ran a nice article, published before the Hall’s election results were announced, summing up the essence of Oates’ years as an RPI “puck,” as we used to call the hockey players, and beyond.

Oates made a career of making others better, whether he was setting up [Mike] Sadeghpour or John Carter or George Servinis on RPI’s 1985 national championship team, or helping Brett Hull to three consecutive seasons of 70-plus goals, or presently serving as a New Jersey Devils assistant coach, where he ran the special-teams units for a team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Oates was, in short, the ultimate teammate who for some odd reason keeps being denied hockey’s highest individual honor.

In the Hall of Fame press release announcing his election (along with Pavel Bure, Joe Sakic, and Mats Sundin), Oates was quoted acknowledging the crucial role that RPI played in his development as a player.

“Growing up I was a guy who was kind of overlooked and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to RPI and have the time for my game to mature,” said Oates. “This is a tremendous honour and I look back and realize how lucky I was to have great coaches to help me along the way.”

I was also gratified to see that the online version of that press release shows Oates in his Bruins jersey. He spent six seasons as a Bruin, including the best season of his career, 1992-93, in which he had career highs in goals (45), assists (97), and points (142). Including playoff games, he played a total of 410 games as a Bruin, only nine fewer than he played as a Washington Capital.

Alas, I won’t be able to attend the induction ceremony as I had hoped. It seems that the Hall charges $500 and up for tickets, which I find shocking (the Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony is free, but I digress). It’s almost enough to know that what I’ve been saying about Oates for all these years, that he is indeed among the best ever to play the game, is finally being recognized.

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