TORONTO -- Adam Oates gave so much in his career that finally the Hockey Hall of Fame decided to honor him with a gift.
He gave the puck to Brett Hull, to Cam Neely, to Peter Bondra -- and they all scored 50 goals with Oates as their center. Hull and Neely did it in 50 games or less.
In fact, Oates said centering two 50-in-50 goal scorers is what he loves most about his long career. He dished out 1,079 assists (sixth all time) and even scored 341 times.
Oates, the second inductee in the Class of 2012, was "Gretzky-like" in his vision and passing, according to Hull.
"Adam belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame because he's one of the greatest players to play the game," Hull said on the TSN broadcast.
For his speech, Oates stepped up to the podium and did not have a sheet of paper. He did not read -- he either spoke from memory or simply from the heart.
Oates recounted June 26, 2012 -- the day he became the head coach in Washington and a Hockey Hall of Famer.
He said, "today, of all days, is the day I should say thank you."
His former coaches -- Mike Renzetti, Ken Gibb, Mike Adessa, Paul Vincent -- were all recognized.
"I want to know that I haven't forgotten that you helped me," Oates said.
Oates congratulated his fellow inductees and then went to the connections he made in the game. He mentioned coaches like Brian Sutter, Tom McVie, Mike Babcock. He talked about some former teammates (including Boston's Ray Bourque and Don Sweeney) from all his seven stops in the NHL.
"To them, and many others, I want to say thank you," Oates said. "I think we connected."
Oates talked about the special players he was with, including Steve Yzerman, Scott Stevens and, of course, Hull.
"Hullie, I know you know how I feel about you -- 72, 86, 50-in-50," Oates said, recounting the milestones in goals that Hull had playing with oates. "You put me on the map. I can't believe it was only three years because it felt like forever."
Oates went on to talking about Boston, and he talked directly to Neely and Ray Bourque. He said he knows exactly what Neely went through to score 50-in-50 and to Bourque he said, "six of the best years of my life, my man. You were so good."
When Oates moved into talking about his family he got choked up. He talked about his wife, Donna, and he started to cry.
He mentioned his sisters.
"Every single game a part of me was playing for you," Oates said.
To his parents, Oates simply told them, "You gave me a chance to live my dream. Thank you. I'd never be here without you."
---Dan Rosen, NHL.com Senior Writer with edits by BostonBruins.com
Read more on the HHOF induction at NHL.com's blog here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/blog.htm?id=1244
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