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Hall of Fame Buzz: Kariya's improvement no small feat

Junior coach recalls how diminutive forward grew his game

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the Hall of Fame Buzz. On Monday, the seven members of the Class of 2017 will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but there are plenty of events taking place in Toronto leading up to the ceremony. NHL.com will have all the sights, sounds and moments covered.

 

Nov. 11
Sizing up Kariya's junior career 

How small was Paul Kariya in junior? The word "small" doesn't describe it.

"He was actually almost tiny," said Garry Davidson, coach of Penticton of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in 1990-91 and '91-92, when Kariya was 16 and 17.

Kariya weighed in one day, and the coaches were surprised. The scale said he had gained a few pounds. 

Thing was, the forward had taped pucks around his waist under his sweatshirt. 

"We had quite a laugh over that," Davidson said after the Q&A Fan Forum at the Great Hall. "That was the thing at the time. He was so small, and everywhere he went, that was what was thrown at him."

Kariya was 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 7, maybe 140 pounds.

"He just maximized everything he had, from his hands to his feet to his body," Davidson said. "He worked hard at it.

"I remember after his first season he came in for his exit meeting to head home at the end of the school term. I said, 'So what's in store for the offseason?' He said, 'I've got to go work on my shot.' And more specifically, he said, 'I've got to work on my release and my accuracy.'

"And he went home, and did he do that, because he came back in late August for training camp and I couldn't believe how much his shot had improved. And he went on a tear."

After 112 points (45 goals, 67 assists) in 56 games in 1990-91, Kariya had 132 points (46 goals, 86 assists) in 41 games in '91-92.

"I remember a few college recruiters saying to me, 'We're trying to get ahold of Paul in the evening, and the billets, are they protecting him? Because they say he's in bed at 8 o'clock,' " Davidson said. "And I said, 'Well, that's Paul. He's in bed at 8 o'clock because he knows he needs his sleep. He needs to eat properly, and he's going to be up bright and early in the morning getting all his schoolwork in line.'

"He was very focused and committed to what he needed to do to be very good at whatever he was doing, and that might even be a game of checkers. Very competitive."

Now Kariya is entering the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had 989 points (402 goals, 587 assists) in 989 regular-season games for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues -- listed at 5-11, 185.

"To aspire to get to where he is today in the Hockey Hall of Fame, I'm sure that's not something he actually thought about, just knowing who he is, what he's all about," Davidson said. "But certainly I, as his coach at the time, just thought he was a special player that probably was going to have a real good chance to be an NHL player in spite of the fact that he was very small."

-- Nicholas J. Cotsonika

Video: Paul Kariya on Teemu Selanne, favorite Ducks moment

 

Dressing-room determination

No one was going to tell Kariya he didn't belong in an NHL dressing room.

When Kariya played for the Burnaby Winter Club at age 15, Vancouver Canucks coach Bob McCammon spoke to Kariya's team at Pacific Coliseum. Kariya's coach, Enio Sacilotto, asked for a tour of the dressing room.

The Canucks said no. "Paul really wanted to go in the dressing room," Sacilotto said after the Q&A Fan Forum. "Guys were coming in and out. So him and another kid -- and I can't remember who the other kid was -- we were standing right by the door. Somebody came out, and I pushed them in. They went in there. They came out about an hour and a half later. I was waiting for them."

Sacilotto laughed.

"They disappeared talking to all the players," Sacilotto said.

-- Nicholas J. Cotsonika

 

Nov. 10
Recalling call from Hall

What were the members of the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2017 doing June 26 when they received the call informing each of them that he or she had been elected?

Dave Andreychuk was driving on Interstate 275 in Tampa when he noticed the 416 area code was displayed on his phone during an incoming call. Aware that it was the area code of Toronto, home of the Hall of Fame, Andreychuk took swift action.

"I pulled off to the side of the road right away," he said. "I had a feeling it might be the Hall."

Told he'd been elected, Andreychuk immediately called his parents.

"I think it's one of the only times my dad has cried," the former NHL forward said.

What about Mom?

"Her first words were, 'It's about time.'

Video: Andreychuk speaks after HHOF ring ceremony in Toronto

At least Andreychuk was able to answer the phone when the call of a lifetime came in.

Paul Kariya, on the other hand, didn't even know that someone was trying to reach him.

He was busy surfing.

Only after he'd put away his board and dried off did he find out about the honor that had just been bestowed on him. And unlike his fellow recipients, he was not informed by Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald.

"I turned on my phone and there was a message from Teemu," Kariya said, referring to Teemu Selanne, his teammate with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Colorado Avalanche. "In his loudest voice he yelled: 'We're going into the Hall together.'

"He ruined the surprise for me," Kariya said with a laugh.

Selanne, who was in Finland, had been tipped off by Anaheim that McDonald's call was coming.

On Friday, Selanne, Kariya and Andreychuk joined fellow player electees Danielle Goyette, Mark Recchi and builder Jeremy Jacobs at the ring ceremony for the Class of 2017. Clare Drake, the winningest coach in Canadian college hockey history and another member of the class, could not attend.

Goyette, a former forward for the Canadian women's team, said she did not take the call right away. She was too busy planning a trip to China.

"I was so surprised when I finally did," she said.

Recchi, a former NHL forward who was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins department of player personnel at the time, was in meetings identifying potential unrestricted free agent targets when his phone rang.

"I rushed into one of the coaches' offices," he said. "I was thrilled."

In the end, they all were.

-- Mike Zeisberger

Video: Kariya speaks after HHOF ring ceremony in Toronto

 
He shoots … he misses?

Long after each player had retired, Hall of Fame forward Doug Gilmour suggested that Andreychuk, his Toronto Maple Leafs teammate from 1993-96, would at times would purposely shoot at a goalie in order to create rebounds that could lead to goals.

On Friday, Andreychuk came clean.

"Yes, it's true," he admitted. "Sometimes you were in a position where it was unlikely you were going to beat a goalie from there. So that was an advisable alternative."

As a result, the left wing would plunk shots off the goalie's stick or pads.

"I scored a lot of ugly goals that way," he said. "I scored a lot of ugly goals period."

In 1,639 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, Andreychuk scored 640 goals.

The 54-year-old native of Hamilton, Ontario, revealed that he played the majority of his NHL career while wearing a brace on each knee.

"I hurt one of them in the second year of my career (with Buffalo) so that's the way I played the rest of the way," he said.

Andreychuk was asked if the braces hindered his speed on the ice.

"I didn't have much to begin with," he said with a laugh.

-- Mike Zeisberger

Video: Goyette speaks after HHOF ring ceremony in Toronto

 

Delay of game

The ceremony to present the Class of 2017 with their Hall of Fame rings, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, was delayed by about an hour when the private plane bringing Selanne and Kariya from Anaheim was late getting to Toronto.

"We were up at 5 a.m. and left my house to get to the airport," Selanne said. "I don't know why but my dad had an issue with his Canadian visa and we had to wait at the airport before they said we were ready to go. We were there for an hour and a half, so that's the only reason we were late. Luckily, everything turned out well and I'm thankful that they had the patience to wait for us."

McDonald said there was never a thought that the ceremony would begin without Selanne and Kariya.

"We found out about three hours before we were supposed to start that they were not going to land until about 1:59, so I'm thinking, 'OK, we've got a problem here,' " McDonald said. "We started backing things up. We could track the plane that they were on, so we just stayed in touch and said, 'We're not doing it without you.' "

It's for that reason, McDonald said, that the front row of Hall of Fame electees stood and applauded when the two walked in, fashionably late.

Selanne said he was not the one who communicated the flight delay to the event organizers.

"I let Paul deal with that. He's my agent," he said, laughing.

-- Dave Stubbs

Video: Recchi speaks after HHOF ring ceremony in Toronto

 

Selanne memories

McDonald can recall Selanne's final game played in Calgary. It was a 3-2 win for Selanne's Anaheim Ducks against the Calgary Flames on March 26, 2014.

"I took my kids, and a grandson, to that game and I told them, 'Don't watch anybody else, just watch No. 8'," McDonald said. "And I said, 'You'll walk away from the game not only loving the game but the kind of attitude and enthusiasm he put into every shift.' He was still the fastest skater on the ice and I was the saddest person in the world when he retired. I think he can still play today."

Selanne played 22 shifts and 17:30 that night without a point.

Recchi spoke not just of Selanne's skill, but his character.

"Teemu's play was tremendous but he's such a classy person, such a great person," Recchi said. "I got to know him through (former NHL forward and Finland native) Saku Koivu, just the type of person he is. He has a very infectious personality that brings out the best in people. On top of that, he was an amazing hockey player. He could flat-out fly and the skill level with his speed was tremendous."

-- Dave Stubbs

Video: Selanne speaks after HHOF ring ceremony in Toronto

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