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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fantastic four enter hall

Bure, Sakic, Oates and Sundin enshrined

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TORONTO -- There is something missing from Joe Sakic's new plaque at the Hockey Hall of Fame and it's not because the printer made a mistake.

Among the list of his many achievements is no mention of his 21st NHL season, the one that was never played because of the 2004-05 lockout. With the sport back in another dark period brought on by another labour dispute, Sakic reflected on the year that never was on the day he took his place among hockey's greats.

"I lost a year of hockey," Sakic said Monday prior to the induction ceremony. "It would have been 21 years instead of 20. That's what you lose."

Fellow inductees Mats Sundin and Adam Oates were also in the NHL when the last lockout hit while Pavel Bure, the fourth member of the class, was already retired.

Sundin never managed to win a Stanley Cup during his career and can't help but wonder what could have been had the 2004-05 been played. His Maple Leafs were on a run of six consecutive playoff appearances before that work stoppage.

"It was awful," said Sundin. "I think it's devastating."

While all four of the inductees seem to have thoroughly enjoyed their induction weekend, the current lockout made it a more subdued affair than usual. They were to have been honoured at Air Canada Centre prior to a scheduled Leafs-Devils game on Friday night -- a missed opportunity in particular for Sundin, the longtime Toronto captain, and Oates, who grew up in the city.

Sundin is back living in his native Sweden now but the impact of another work stoppage hasn't gone unnoticed even from a distance.

"I think it's huge," he said. "The National Hockey League is kind of representing the game of hockey. It's the biggest representative of the game of hockey in the world. When the NHL is not going, people lose focus on hockey.

"For everybody that is involved in the sport, it's huge to get the guys back playing as soon as possible."

Added Sakic, now an adviser with the Colorado Avalanche: "It hurts the players, it hurts the owners, it hurts the fans and it hurts the game."

The two men at the centre of collective bargaining negotiations, commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, were both expected to attend Monday night's ceremony.

All four members of this year's Hall of Fame class were affected by a labour disruption during their careers -- Bure was playing for the Vancouver Canucks during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season -- and it's reasonable to expect that trend will continue for some time after four work stoppages in the last 20 years.

Oates finds himself in a unique position because the lockout has delayed the start of his first season as a head coach with the Washington Capitals. He was hired for the position on the same June day he found out he was heading into the Hall, making "for a pretty emotional 15 minutes."

Bure's career was ended prematurely because of knee injuries and he only ended up playing 702 NHL games. But he made the most of what time he had by scoring 437 goals.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2012 C1

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