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Impact
Impact!
NHL.com's Online Magazine
2004 Championship Issue
  • The Bolts' blueprint: GM Feaster's patience, planning pays off

  • Iginla seizes the chance to be great

  • Lightning paid the price to become champs in grueling journey

  • Lightning surrounded by loved ones as they took the Cup home

  • Andreychuk's long-awaited dream comes true

  • Young Leopold has the tools to excel

  • Khabibulin, Kiprusoff made names for themselves in '04 playoffs

  • Photo of the Month: Finally!

  • Back issues of Impact



  •  
    Dave Andreychuk
    After 22 seasons and 1,759 career games, Dave Andreychuk finally has his hands -- and soon his name -- on the Stanley Cup.

    Well worth the wait
    Andreychuk's long-awaited dream comes true
    By Robert Picarello | Impact! Magazine



    It's said good things come to those who wait.

    Dave Andreychuk will attest to the truth of the statement. Because after 22 seasons and 1,759 career games, the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning finally has his hands and soon his name on the Stanley Cup.

    "You dream about this day for a long time obviously," the 40-year-old veteran said shortly after accepting the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "Taken me a while to get to this point and I don't believe you can put it into words the things that are going through your mind. The years that you got knocked out in the first round. The years that you didn't make the Playoffs, all the players that you have played with, and obviously my teammates.

    "We battled all year long to get home-ice advantage and it happens to be that we win the Stanley Cup in a seventh game in our own building. I will tell you, I can't put it into words the way I feel."

    But on June 7th in Tampa, he didn't have to. The smile on the Lightning captain's face said it all, as he skated around the St. Pete Times Forum with the Cup held high over his head, celebrating Florida's first NHL championship with his teammates, fans and the friends and family who stood by him through thick and thin.

    "I am going to savor this moment with my teammates and my family, and this is going to last a while," Andreychuk said.

    Andreychuk has earned the right to take as much time as he wants to celebrate his first Stanley Cup, as the road to becoming an NHL champion was a long and hard one.

    Before getting a chance to raise Lord Stanley to the rafters on that memorable Monday night in Tampa, Andreychuk had played in 1,597 regular-season games and 161 playoff contests for six different teams without winning a Cup.

    Stanley replaces the monkey

    Dave Andreychuk

    There is a spring to Dave Andreychuk's stride these days. You may not notice it at first, but it's there. That extra bounce is there because Andreychuk is no longer lugging around extra weight.

    The monkey that had been on his back, the one holding the banner "NHL player with over 1,700 career games and no Stanley Cup" is off looking for employment elsewhere.

    Dave Andreychuk has his Stanley Cup and he got it as an integral part of the Tampa Bay Lightning, not as a veteran hanging on at the end of a career.

    No, Andreychuk earned his keep on the ice as a player for the Lightning, and perhaps more importantly, as a leader in the Tampa Bay dressing room. It's safe to say that Lightning coach John Tortorella knows the championship wouldn't have been possible without his captain.

    "He's a Hall-of-Famer," Tortorella said emphatically on the eve of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. "He's not in, but he's a Hall-of-Famer. I think David would prefer right now that it's not just about him getting in. It's about the Tampa Bay Lightning getting in. That's what he brings to this team, is understanding that it's really not an individual-type thing, is that we are here together and we deserve to be here and how we have gone about it. He doesn't need to be legitimized anymore. He's a Hall-of-Famer."

    And a pretty good player, a player who has evolved over the course of his career. In his early days with the Buffalo Sabres, Andreychuk was a prolific goal scorer. And as the seasons have passed, 22 in all, Andreychuk morphed into the roles that needed doing. To the point where he became a checking-line center and faceoff man for the Lightning.

    "I knew David back when I was an assistant coach in Buffalo when he was a very young player, he couldn't check his hat," Tortorella said. "He didn't understand the defensive part, didn't want anything to do with the defensive part of the game; he wanted to score goals.

    "That's what he's going to be remembered for, as a goal-scorer, but I think the greatest thing about Andy right now is how he's transformed himself the past three years here with us.

    "First of all, before he gets on the ice he's a captain, and he's never been a captain before until he's come here, and has provided tremendous amount of leadership in that locker room. But how he's transformed himself as a player and changed his game to keep himself in the League and to help this team win, and I don't think that enough is talked about how -- he's a checking center. He's not a 50-goal scoring wing. He's a checking center for me right now. I think that's a tremendous accomplishment for a guy of his age and what he's done in this League to transform things to help a team win.

    "It goes right back to the first question "how do you win?" You need to play as a team. He has filled that void with intangibles in the locker room and what he's done on the ice.

    "I think he's a student as far as faceoffs are concerned. I mean, there has to be some strength involved in it, but he watches a lot of tape as far as faceoffs are concerned and tries to find little areas where he can pick on. So again, you answer that question about his faceoffs and you talk about Dave Andreychuk as a person and a player, he respects the game. He studies the game. He lives the game. It's not a job for him coming to the rink for a couple of hours a day and then leaving. He thinks about it. I think that's why he's going to be a Hall-of-Famer."

    -- Phil Coffey

    "I am living proof of how hard it is to get here," Andreychuk said. "And how special it is and how we have to all have fun and enjoy it because it doesn't come around very often."

    Game 7s also don't come around that often and Andreychuk had to endure 11 of those in his career, including one this year against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, tying St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis for second place among active players.

    "I believe the Game 7s are the games that you remember," Andreychuk said. "Obviously this will be a game that you are going to remember for a long time because it's in the Finals, but you know, the lesson that I tried to talk about before our Philly Game 7 was no matter whether you are at home or on the road, you know, it's one game, and anything can happen."

    Just ask Ray Bourque.

    Bourque, Andreychuk's former teammate, nearly as long before getting his hands on the Cup. The longtime Boston Bruins defenseman, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November along with Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy, won the only Stanley Cup championship of his 22-year career in a Game 7 with Colorado in the 2001 Finals. But before helping the Avs down the New Jersey Devils in the last game of the 2000-01 season, Bourque had gone Cup-less 21 times.

    Knowing the eerie similarities, Bourque reached out to Andreychuk and the Lightning before Game 6, when Tampa trailed Calgary 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Bourque's Avs had been in the same boat in the '01 Finals and still managed to skate away champions. So Bourque picked up the phone and dialed up two of his former teammates in Tampa to let them know that even though they were down in the series, they certainly weren't out. Little did Bourque know that his supportive speech was being taped for all the Lightning players to hear before the puck dropped on the crucial Game 6 in the 2004 Finals.

    "(With) Dave I had left a few messages for him during the playoffs just wishing him luck and then I also know Tim Taylor of the Lightning and I left a few messages with him and I think that's the one that got out in terms of him taping my message and playing it to the team," Bourque explained. "It's something I didn't know about until he called me later in the night and said 'Ray you should have saw them.'

    "All I said was talking about my experience going into New Jersey in Game 6 where everybody was counting us out and having the feeling that there was no way we were going to lose that game and that we were bringing it back to Colorado for Game 7. It was just the feeling that I had and talking about my experiences. It wasn't a long message. It was short and to the point."

    Nonetheless, it's a message that will stick with Andreychuk and his teammates forever.

    "I learned a lot from watching him in those playoffs," Andreychuk said. "I learned about not what happens on the ice, but the way that he handled himself. And I couldn't have been more proud of what happened to him. Having known the man and known the way that he approached the game, I am so glad that I finally got to, you know, to put my name on it [too]."

    "I was really happy to see Dave because it just brought everything back for me and I left a message for Dave in Game 7," Bourque said. "To watch Dave go through that and live it and see his face I knew exactly what he was thinking."

    "Everybody knew about it," Lightning defender Darryl Sydor said. "But everybody was just hoping so much. I mean, if we were doing it for anybody it was him. We saw what happened with Ray Bourque and the other day I think a big turning point was when Ray called Tim Taylor, he just -- it almost brought tears to my eyes that this guy has been here so long, hasn't been to the Finals and to get him the Cup this is awesome. This is for Dave Andreychuk."

    With his name going on the Stanley Cup, Andreychuk can now take his name off the list of players with the most combined regular-season and playoff games played without winning a title. Before winning the Cup in June, Andreychuk was the leading member of the "No Stanley Cup Club," going 1,758 games without a championship. Dale Hunter now slides into that top slot (1,593), followed by Phil Housley (1,580), Mike Gartner (1,554) and Norm Ullman (1,516). Andreychuk's 1,758 was also tops among active players with Scott Mellanby's (St. Louis) 1,423 next in line, Steve Thomas' (Detroit) 1,409 third, James Patrick's (Buffalo) 1,397 fourth and Glen Wesley's (Carolina) 1,391 fifth.

    "Every time you go into the playoffs you look at it as another opportunity to do something," Andreychuk explained. "For me getting to the Finals was great, but I think you realize that you want to win more than anything else when you get here. I had an opportunity and I was granted that opportunity because of the team I'm playing on. The guys really worked hard all year long to get this opportunity."

    In his two decades in the NHL, the former first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres had done everything but win his last game. He scored over 600 regular-season goals; notched over 1,300 regular-season points and potted over 50 goals in a campaign, but believe it or not, Andreychuk had never played in the Stanley Cup Finals before this season. He came close twice in his career when two teams that he played for (the 1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1999-2000 Colorado Avalanche) reached the seventh game of the Western Conference Finals, only to fall short of a chance to compete for Lord Stanley's Cup on hockey's greatest stage.

    But that all changed when the final buzzer sounded on Game 7 and the scoreboard read: Lighting 2, Flames 1.

    "We all realize what Dave has gone through in his career and he was close a few times," teammate Martin St. Louis said. "You can't take it for granted when you get that chance, you know."

    In the 1993 Western Conference Finals Andreychuk and everyone else in the hockey world anticipated the Leafs would face off against the Montreal Canadiens in an all-Canada Stanley Cup Finals, but someone forgot to tell Wayne Gretzky and the LA Kings that before Game 7. "The Great One" scored three goals and assisted on a fourth to lead the Kings to a 5-4 win over the Leafs and a first-ever berth in the Stanley Cup Finals for the team from Hollywood.

    "The only thing that helps me with '93 is that Gretzky said it was his best game ever and I was there. I guess that's a good thing," Andreychuk joked. "Everybody anticipated a Toronto-Montreal Final in '93, but we all looked past what Wayne Gretzky could do."

    Just like everyone looked past the Lightning once they were down 3-2 to the Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. But all that is forgotten now that Andreychuk finally won his last game.

    "It has taken me a while to get there," Andreychuk said. "Obviously my teammates deserve a lot of the credit of why we're here. But it was a moment that has gone through my head lots of times. Finally it happened."

    And it proved to be well worth the wait.

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