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Hall of Fame

Andreychuk haunted by falling short of 1993 Cup Final with Maple Leafs

2017 Hall of Fame honoree, former teammate Clark revisit Game 7 elimination against Gretzky, Kings

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Even in this special place, on this most special of occasions, there remains one wart on Dave Andreychuk's illustrious career that continues to irk him.

 

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Andreychuk won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. And on Monday, he'll be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to the left wing who had 1,338 points (640 goals, 698 assists) in 1,639 NHL games.

Those are the two most important boxes an NHL player could hope to check off.

But there is a certain hockey goal Andreychuk never fulfilled, one that appeared to be in the grasp of he and his then-Toronto Maple Leafs teammates.

Until it wasn't.

Andreychuk is from Hamilton, Ontario, about a one-hour drive west of Toronto. He grew up in the shadow of the Maple Leafs. If there is one player he wishes he could have played with, it's Dave Keon.

In 1993, three months after Andreychuk was traded to the Maple Leafs by the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto was one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1967. But with a potential date with the Montreal Canadiens on the line, the Maple Leafs' dreams were shattered by Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.

With the Maple Leafs, who had lost Game 6 in Los Angeles, hosting Game 7 of the Campbell Conference Final at Maple Leaf Gardens on May 29, 1993, Gretzky scored three goals and had an assist, and the Kings eliminated the hosts with a 5-4 win.

Video: 1993: Wayne Gretzky's hat trick puts Kings in Final

"Even after all these years, you can't help but think: 'What if?'" said Andreychuk, standing in the Great Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame. "You still dream about that Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs Final. It would have been really, really awesome.

"It just didn't turn out the way we wanted."

He sighed.

"I look back on that Game 7 and we lose in, to use Wayne Gretzky's own words, his greatest game ever. So if Wayne himself says it was his best game, well, there's no shame in that.

"It was an awesome series. To see how close it was and then to have a Game 7 in our building … unfortunately we didn't win the game but it was awesome hockey."

In the 50 years since the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, they have never made it back to a Final. The closest they have come was 1993.

Next spring will mark the 25th anniversary of that memorable Stanley Cup Playoff run.

"I had an incredible career," Andreychuk said. "It was a dream to put on that Leaf jersey. It's hard to believe a grown man on the cusp of 30 could still shake. But that's what happened to me when I walked into that dressing room at Maple Leaf Gardens for the first time.

"I never knew what that dressing room looked like inside."

These days, Andreychuk would probably have a difficult time recognizing what the entire inside of that building looks like.

****

On a frosty Toronto Saturday, Wendel Clark stopped his truck on the street front of the building formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens and turned his four-way flashers on.

"I couldn't find any parking," he said with a chuckle, emerging from the truck. "That never used to be a problem when I played here."

Video: Clark on playing with Andreychuk, 1993 playoff run

The parking situation isn't the only thing that has changed since that Game 7 more than two decades ago.

On Feb. 13, 1999, Toronto ended a 67-year tradition when it played its final game at Maple Leaf Gardens, a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Seven days later, the Maple Leafs played their first game at Air Canada Centre, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on a Steve Thomas goal in overtime.

Today, Maple Leaf Gardens is a multipurpose facility, with a Loblaws supermarket occupying retail space on the lower floors and an arena for Toronto's Ryerson University, known as Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens, occupying another level.

Andreychuk had planned to meet us there on this Saturday afternoon. He had never been to the building since the Maple Leafs vacated it, and was eager to visit it. But obligations at the Hockey Hall of Fame understandably caused him to change his plans.

One of the things Andreychuk wanted to see is located on Aisle 25 in Loblaws. There, between the shelves housing cans of Spam and tuna, is a big red dot painted on the floor. Clark, to no surprise, knows exactly where it is and led me to it.

"This is how they symbolize where center ice at the Gardens used to be," Clark said, kneeling over the dot. "This is the very spot where the face-off dot used to be."

He looked at the Spam on the shelves and laughed.

"Hey, looks like my diet hasn't changed since my playing days."

Video: Dave Andreychuk on hard work, working with Tampa Bay

Ten minutes later, we'd gone up several floors to the Mattamy Athletic Centre, where we stood at rinkside. The famed domed roof of Maple Leaf Gardens remains intact, complete with the dozens of cables dangling down from the ceiling. It's been painted white, which certainly brightens up the joint.

When Clark looks up into the famed rafters, he shares the same thoughts that Andreychuk has on this Hockey Hall of Fame weekend.

"Dave was such a big part of that '93 team," Clark said. "He and Doug Gilmour immediately clicked. Their chemistry was amazing."

Andreychuk and Gilmour combined for 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in the 1993 playoffs. The next season, Andreychuk had his NHL career highs in goals (53) and points (99), much of which came while on Gilmour's line.

"Hey, maybe if [Andreychuk] would have scored 50 in the playoffs like he did in the regular season, we would have beaten that Gretzky guy," Clark said, laughing.

Clark started pointing at different spots on the ice surface, where a handful of people were leisurely skating.

"Instead, Gretzky started racking up points there. And there. And there. And that was it."

Clark, a left wing, was the Maple Leafs captain at the time.

"That Game 7 was the most incredible atmosphere I've ever felt in this building," Clark said. "I mean, if we'd won, it would have been Montreal-Toronto. This entire country would have stopped. It would have been white and blue against red, white and blue.

"Can you imagine?

Andreychuk certainly has.

****

Prior to this weekend, Andreychuk had never been to the Great Hall. On his first visit to the cathedral-like room where the Hall of Famers are honored, he made a pleasant discovery.

Indeed, his photo and stats will be displayed on the same wall as Gilmour and the late Pat Burns, coach of the 1992-93 Maple Leafs. Somehow it just seemed so appropriate.

"Here's the guy that helped me get here," Andreychuk said, pointing at Gilmour's display. "He made it so easy for me. They all did.

"There were other Hall of Famers on that Maple Leafs team too."

Along with Andreychuk, Gilmour and Burns, right wing Glenn Anderson, who played for the Maple Leafs from 1992-94, is enshrined, as is then-general manager Cliff Fletcher, who was inducted as a builder.

Clark is not in the Hall of Fame, but has been honored with a statue outside of Air Canada Centre as part of Legends Row.

"[Andreychuk] belongs in there with us," Gilmour said. "It's about time.

"We had such a great team back then. You just have to wonder: 'What if …?'"

Andreychuk could not have said it any better.

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