Adam Oates’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame will be tempered by the National Hockey League’s work stoppage that threatens to wipe out the entire season.
Oates, who played 19 seasons in the NHL, was named the new coach of the Washington Capitals on the same day he received word of his Hall of Fame selection.
He will be enshrined next week but remains waiting for his first game behind the Capitals’ bench.
“It’s very frustrating,” Oates told reporters on Monday at the team’s practice facility outside Washington. “But it’s a work stoppage and it happens in all walks of life. You’ve got to take a mature attitude about it. Do I want to coach the guys? Absolutely.
“But it happened to me when I was a player. It happens everywhere so I’ve just got to wait it out.”
The 50-year-old Oates, who played with seven NHL teams, including Washington, finished his career with 341 goals and 1,079 assists in 1,337 games.
He will be enshrined in Toronto on Nov. 12 along with Pavel Bure, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin.
Oates admits he has a different perspective to a lock-out as a coach than he had as a player.
“You have different information (as a player),” said Oates. “Now I’m on the other side of it. I respect both sides.”
The NHL last week canceled the annual New Year’s Day Winter Classic and, although the two sides have begun negotiating again, the clock is ticking on the fate of the 2012-13 season.
Oates, a Toronto native who had his most productive years with the Boston Bruins in the 1990s, said he has been working on his five-minute Hall of Fame acceptance speech since June.
He called himself “lucky” having been able to “play the game for 19 years.”
“Since June, all you do is reflect on the people that you played with and the people who helped get you there, and your family,” he said. “It’s really a day to thank them.
“In life, you make connections and they don’t always last. But you connected with someone, whenever it was. You played on a team and you connect with a guy for a little while.
“That’s life. And hockey’s no different.”
Oates acknowledges that public speaking is not his strong point.
“It’s amazing how you can get nervous practicing by yourself,” he said of his induction remarks.
A five-time All-Star who retired in 2004, Oates has been waiting for the lock-out to end by co-coaching the team’s AHL affiliate in Hershey. He has never been a head coach in the NHL.
“It obviously wasn’t planned,” Oates said of his time in Hershey. “But because we’re not doing anything to have a window to go down there and get some experience has been good.”
Oates said he is ready to get down to business with the Capitals.
“I think about the Hall of Fame, I think about Hershey and then about the Caps,” he said. “And then family. And it just cycles back and forth. It’s been stressful.” (Editing by Steve Keating in Toronto.)