When the long-awaited call came, Dave Andreychuk was on his way to the airport. His wife was flying from Buffalo back to Tampa, Fla., and he needed to pick her up.
Still, the ex-Sabres sniper figured he’d better answer. The call was from a Toronto area code, and Andreychuk’s heart raced knowing it could be the Hockey Hall of Fame. Sure enough, he picked up and his career became immortal.
Andreychuk and Buffalo native Jeremy Jacobs received hockey’s highest honor Monday, getting elected to the hall as part of a seven-person class. They’ll be inducted Nov. 13 along with Anaheim legends Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya, forward Mark Recchi, women’s star Danielle Goyette and Canadian college coach Clare Drake.
It’s fitting that Buffalo had a role in Andreychuk’s hall call. Although it’s been 16 years since he played for the Sabres and 35 years since he started his career downtown, it’s like he never left.
“Buffalo is really always going to be home for me,” Andreychuk said during a celebratory conference call. “I started there at 18. Yes, I got moved around a bit after being there for almost 12 years, but I was always going back to Buffalo. My three children were born there. My wife is from there.
“Definitely, my early days in Buffalo were putting me on the right path.”
It was path illuminated by red goal lights. Andreychuk is 14th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list, recording 640 goals in 1,639 games. His 274 power-play goals are the most in history. He is third in the Sabres’ record book with 368 goals, and he's second in points with 804 in 837 games.
Andreychuk also played for Toronto, New Jersey, Boston, Colorado and Tampa Bay, winning the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004 and totaling 1,338 points in 1,639 games. His 23-year career ended with the 2005-06 season, and he’s been waiting nine years for the ultimate honor.
“The years that I have waited make no difference to me,” Andreychuk said. “The numbers and what I had done, there’s not much you could 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 got the call at 2 o’clock, and I was just overwhelmed.”
Drafted 16th overall by Buffalo in 1982, 10 spots after the Sabres selected fellow Hall of Famer Phil Housley, Andreychuk made an immediate impression. He scored 14 goals in a half a season in 1982-83, then followed with 30-plus for three straight years.
He put up 41 goals in 1991-92 and was on his way to a career high the following year skating alongside Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny. He scored 29 goals in 52 games, then got traded to Toronto. He finished the 1992-93 season with 54 goals and potted 53 for the Maple Leafs the next year.
“He was a great player who had amazing hands,” LaFontaine said by phone. “He could tip pucks from anywhere. Deceptive speed, great reach, amazing shot. I look back at the year that we played together with Alex, Dave and myself, the chemistry that we had between us, I’ll never forget it. It was really special. We could have been the first line in the history of hockey to all have 50 goals on one line.
“Alex and myself, we would kind of do a lot of the skating around the zone and Dave, because of his size and strength, would allow us to have that space. What he did down in Tampa, winning the Stanley Cup as the captain, well-deserved. I’m really, really happy for him and excited to see him go in in November.”
Andreychuk returned to Buffalo for the 2000-01 season, recording 20 goals as a 37-year-old, and he was set to retire. It seemed right to start and end with the Sabres.
But Tampa Bay courted him heavily, and he led the Lightning to a title. There’s a statue of him outside the Tampa arena, where he works as vice president of corporate and community affairs. It’s been quite the ride for the son of two steelworkers from Hamilton, Ont.
“The back-to-back 50-goal seasons, the power-play record for goals, those are things that I look back on in amazement,” Andreychuk said. “I started in ’82 and got the privilege of watching Gilbert Perreault score 500 goals. To think that I went by him is mind-boggling.
“Nobody starts their career thinking they’re going to be a Hall of Famer. You just want to stay in the league. You want to help your team win. After it’s all done, you look at your numbers and you think maybe there’s a chance. 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.”
The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Jacobs in the builder category. He’s owned the Boston Bruins since 1975 and been the chairman of the NHL’s board of directors since 2007. His father, Louis, owned the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League. Being in Buffalo gave Jacobs a front-row seat when Seymour and Northrup Knox founded the Sabres in 1970.
“I actually started in Buffalo with the Sabres when they first came into being … so when I purchased the Bruins in ’75, I had a background and a base to work from,” Jacobs said. “Plus the fan base that exists in these two cities is incredible. I think Boston is definitely No. 1, but Buffalo is a close second to it. In my mind, it’s a great basis to come from.”
The owner of Buffalo-based Delaware North has long been one of the most dominant figures in shaping the business of hockey.
“The length of my ownership perhaps plays a role in this, but my continued participation with the league at the league level was something that I truly enjoyed more than anything,” Jacobs said. “I’m very appreciative because I know a lot of the people that preceded me in here. They were good friends. It’s just a wonderful group. You flatter me very much by including me in it.”