Connections is the theme for the 2012 inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Pat Quinn is the co-chairman of the Hall of Fame's selection committee and he was the coach for three of the four players selected Tuesday – Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure and Joe Sakic. Sakic and Sundin started their NHL careers together with the Quebec Nordiques.
Adam Oates, who rounded out a great day by being named as the head coach of the Washington Capitals, was the other inductee. The group will formally enter the Hall on Nov. 12.
"It's just incredible, really," Quinn said of his good fortune. "Having been around [all three] was just a privilege for me as a hockey person."
Quinn was the head coach, general manager and president of the Vancouver Canucks and drafted Bure in 1989. Bure went on to win the 1991-92 Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year and was one of the league's most electrifying scorers until knee injuries ended his career in 2003.
By then, Quinn had moved on to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was the head coach for Sundin's best years in the NHL. In 13 seasons with the Maple Leafs, Sundin became the franchise's career leader in goals with 420 and assists with 567. He never won a Stanley Cup or an individual award in his 18 seasons but Sundin was a major figure in Sweden's gold-medal victory at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
"[Sundin], as far as I'm concerned, belongs to a great history as one of the great Toronto captains," Quinn said.
The Olympics were the connection between Quinn and Sakic. Quinn was the head coach of the Canadian men's team, which rallied from a bad start at the 2002 Games against Sundin and Sweden to win Canada's first gold medal in men's hockey in 50 years. Sakic, who was named the 2002 Games' most valuable player, was as important in the dressing room for his leadership on that team as he was for his play-making on the ice.
"[Sakic], in 2002, was such a privilege to be around," Quinn said. "He was a key leader. We wouldn't have won a gold medal without his contribution."
While there will be little debate about the worthiness of the four players selected, more controversy followed the announcement. No builders were selected for the second year in a row, which meant once again Pat Burns and Fred Shero, two of the most successful coaches in NHL history, were snubbed. No women were selected this year, either.
A notable omission among the players was Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's director of hockey operations and player safety. During his playing days, he had 656 goals in 1,524 games between 1987 and 2009, which is 13th on the NHL's career list and more than any of the inductees this year.
While Bure and Oates had to wait six and five years, respectively, after they became eligible to be selected for the Hall of Fame, Sakic and Sundin were chosen as soon as they became eligible, which is three years after retirement.
Sakic and Sundin parted company when the latter was traded to the Maple Leafs in 1994 in a blockbuster trade that included Toronto fan favourite Wendel Clark.
After the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, Sakic was the captain for 17 of his 20 seasons and led the team to the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001.
"Joe [Sakic] hasn't changed since the first year," Sundin said. "When I came in, he was by far the dominant player. When I look back he was one of the greatest players I played with, not only as a player but as a person."
Oates, a centre like Sakic and Sundin, is considered one of the great play-makers in NHL history. He finished his 19 seasons with 1,063 assists, sixth on the career list. Many of them came from setting up Brett Hull when they were with the St. Louis Blues. They only played 21/2 years together but that included seasons of 72 and 86 goals for Hull.
"My father was a soccer player and his idol was a guy called Stanley Matthews, who passed the ball a lot," Oates said when asked how he came to be a great passer. "A lot of that was my role and trying to please my dad."
Was Shanahan snubbed?
Brendan Shanahan's career statistics appear to measure up well with the four players who were inducted into the HHOF on Tuesday