After a long wait, Dave Andreychuk is finally getting his due from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On Monday, Lanny MacDonald, the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame, phoned Andreychuk with the call he's been waiting for since becoming eligible for the Hall in 2009.
"I was actually just leaving the office today on my way back to the Tampa Bay airport to pick up my wife coming back from Buffalo and I saw a 416 number [Toronto area code] at 2 o'clock. Obviously, my heart started to race immediately," Andreychuk said on a conference call. "I pulled over on the side of the road and luckily it was Lanny MacDonald that had made the call to me, completely thrilled, first off that it was Lanny. We spent some time together in the 100th anniversary with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so to get a call from him was awesome. We chatted for a little bit and then immediately I called my parents back in Hamilton and talked to my father. My mother obviously said right away that she had already known that I was going in of course. My parents have meant a lot to me throughout my career, so they were the first ones to get the call."
Andreychuk's Hockey Hall of Fame credentials are lengthy and significant. He's the National Hockey League all-time leader for career power-play goals with 274 during his 23 seasons. He's the league's 14th-leading goal scorer with 640 tallies.
On the NHL's scoring list, Andreychuk is tied with Denis Savard for 29th place (1,338 points). And his 1,639 games played are seventh-most in league history.
"It didn't matter to me whether (the wait to enter the Hall) was one year or 10 years, I don't think it really matters," Andreychuk said. "The numbers and what I had done, there's not much you can do but sit and wait. You think about this day that's going to happen, you think you're prepared for it and you're really not…I'm extremely happy for everybody that's around me, my inner circle that have been with me through thick and thin. It's going to be a great weekend with all the fellow inductees."
Andreychuk is no stranger to waiting in hockey. It was 22 seasons before he finally got the lift the Stanley Cup as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, that signature moment of Andreychuk lifting the Cup over his hiad immortalized by a bronze statue that greets Bolts fans entering Ford Thunder Alley on their way to AMALIE Arena.
Now, fans will pass the statues of two Hockey Hall of Famers before Lightning games: Andreychuk and Lightning founder Phil Esposito.
"When you wait that long, you understand the value and how hard it is to achieve," Andreychuk said. "I guess that's kind of the same thing here. I look back on my career and you think about, nobody starts their career thinking they're going to be a Hall of Famer. You just want to stay in the league. You just want to help your team win. After it's all done and you look at your numbers and you think that maybe there's a chance and people start to talk about it, but at the same time, it's really out of your hands. I'm thankful this day came along for me, for my family."
A former first round pick (16th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres at the 1982 NHL Draft, Andreychuk played the majority of his career in Buffalo with stops in Toronto, New Jersey, Boston and Colorado before finishing his career with Tampa Bay. Andreychuk played four seasons for the Lightning, was captain for the final three of those, and accumulated 68 goals and 61 assists in 278 regular season games for the Bolts.
His greatest legacy in Tampa Bay remains, however, guiding the franchise to its first, and to date, only Stanley Cup.
"I'd like to congratulate Dave for such a well-deserved honor," former teammate Vincent Lecavalier said. "I feel this has been a long time coming for him. Dave taught our Stanley Cup winning team what it meant to sacrifice individual goals to achieve the ultimate team goal, winning the Stanley Cup, and he taught me personally how to be a captain, what it meant to lead others. I could not be more pleased for him today."
During his long career, Andreychuk was known as much for his leadership skills and welcoming, all-inclusive personality as he was his goal-scoring prowess.
"Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community," said Brad Richards, who played with Andreychuk in Tampa Bay from 2001 to 2006. "In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the young players on our Lightning team knew what it was to be a professional. He battled every day no matter what, showing a love for the game that we all envied, sacrificing more than any of us to achieve team success. He taught us how to win."
Andreychuk continues to lead the Lightning organization post-playing career in his role as the team's vice president of corporate and community affairs, and he remains one of the franchise's best ambassadors, his presence at Lightning-related events, from community ball hockey tournaments to elementary school visits to fundraisers and charity events and more, almost a given.
On Monday, Andreychuk entered his office inside AMALIE Arena like any other day with no inkling of what was in store for him later that afternoon.
"I was here in Tampa over the weekend, and I went to work this morning at 8:30 and it was just business as usual," Andreychuk said. "That's what's kind of come as a shock to me is not knowing that this was the day."
The day that was long overdue.
Dave Andreychuk can now call himself a Hockey Hall of Famer.