Joe SAKIC was only four when his father took him to a hockey game and his lifelong love affair with the sport began.
The stylish centre, who spent his entire 20-year NHL career with a Quebec Nordiques-Colorado Avalanche franchise, parlayed that passion into a berth in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Sakic was voted into the Hall by the 18-member selection committee Tuesday, along with three other star forwards who terrorized goaltenders over the last three decades -- Adam Oates, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.
The players will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 in Toronto.
"I remember when I was four, my dad took me to a Vancouver Canucks game against the Atlanta Flames," Sakic recalled on a conference call. "I fell in love with hockey and I wanted to play. It was all I wanted to do, on the ice or on the street."
Oates' honour came only hours after he was named head coach of the Washington Capitals.
"Obviously, it's been an absolutely fantastic day," Oates said. "I'm excited about the coaching job, and to be called to the Hall of Fame -- it's just a special day for me."
Sakic and Sundin, who began their careers as teammates in Quebec City, were selected in their first year of eligibility, while Oates and Bure got in after waits of five and six years, respectively.
They were the only inductees, as no builders or women made it this year. Among those overlooked were power winger Brendan Shanahan, now the NHL's disciplinarian, who was in his first year of eligibility, and former coaches Pat Burns and Fred Shero.
Between them, the four new members scored 1,967 regular-season goals and added 3,786 assists.
Sakic was a one of the smartest players of his era, who despite a slight frame, could make plays in heavy traffic or snap home a goal.
Sundin was a big, rangy centre who dominated the area around the net. He made his name mostly as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Oates was the premier passer of his time, who formed legendary one-two punch combinations with finishers like Brett Hull in St. Louis and Cam Neely in Boston.
Bure, a right-winger known as the Russian Rocket, could pull fans from their seats with his spectacular high-speed rushes up the ice for Vancouver and Florida.
Sundin is the second Swede in the Hall after another Toronto great, defenceman Borje Salming. Bure joins fellows Russians Vliacheslav Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Igor Larionov and Valeri Kharlamov.
Sundin said his eyes were opened to the skill level in the NHL by Sakic when he joined the Nordiques after being picked first overall in the 1989 draft.
"When you're in Sweden, you're not used to seeing a player like that who can play at both ends of the ice," the 41-year-old said. "It was not only scoring points that impressed me, it was his overall game. He had no weaknesses."
Sakic was captain of his team for 16 years, the second-longest tenure in NHL history. He scored 50 goals twice and had six 100-point seasons. He won Stanley Cups in 1996, when he was playoff MVP, and in 2001.
-- The Canadian Press