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Waiting so long for Hall of Fame call makes it even sweeter for Dave Andreychuk

TORONTO - Dave Andreychuk had a sense that his numbers would be good enough to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He just had to stay patient.

Andreychuk retired in 2006 after a 23-year NHL career, and his 640 goals make him the 14th-highest scoring player of all time. Of the 17 retired players to hit the 600-goal mark, he was the only one not in the Hall other than co-inductee Teemu Selanne despite being eligible for induction since 2009. Selanne only became eligible this year.

"I think 600 goals on the resume, it's got to happen eventually," said Andreychuk.

"To be honest when I look at the time it took to get in it just makes it sweeter. I think the numbers speak for themselves. You just hope your time will come. One thing I'm really happy about is my parents are here and that was more important than anything else."

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TORONTO - Dave Andreychuk had a sense that his numbers would be good enough to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He just had to stay patient.

Andreychuk retired in 2006 after a 23-year NHL career, and his 640 goals make him the 14th-highest scoring player of all time. Of the 17 retired players to hit the 600-goal mark, he was the only one not in the Hall other than co-inductee Teemu Selanne despite being eligible for induction since 2009. Selanne only became eligible this year.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Dave Andreychuk (25) and San Jose Sharks' Matt Bradley follow the puck during the first period Friday night, March 1, 2002, at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Fla. Andreychuk had a sense that his numbers would be good enough to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame. THE CANADIAN PRESS/A-Steve Nesius

Tampa Bay Lightning's Dave Andreychuk (25) and San Jose Sharks' Matt Bradley follow the puck during the first period Friday night, March 1, 2002, at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Fla. Andreychuk had a sense that his numbers would be good enough to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame. THE CANADIAN PRESS/A-Steve Nesius

"I think 600 goals on the resume, it's got to happen eventually," said Andreychuk.

"To be honest when I look at the time it took to get in it just makes it sweeter. I think the numbers speak for themselves. You just hope your time will come. One thing I'm really happy about is my parents are here and that was more important than anything else."

Andreychuk became an honoured member of the Hall on Friday along with former NHL greats, Mark Recchi, Selanne and Paul Kariya and Canadian women's star Danielle Goyette. Longtime Canadian university coach Clare Drake and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs entered in the builder category.

A formal induction ceremony was scheduled for Monday night.

The 54-year-old Andreychuk — who was drafted in 1982 by Buffalo and made stops in Toronto, New Jersey, Boston, Colorado and Tampa Bay — was driving on a Florida freeway to pick up his wife from the airport when he got the call.

"My heart started to race right away. I immediately hung up and called my father," said Andreychuk, who mentioned he pulled off the road to answer. "My mother did most the talking, saying 'It was about time,' but my father was crying at the same time."

The long wait never rattled the man described by his peers as a natural leader. Andreychuk went 22 seasons in the league before ultimately lifting the Stanley Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay.

"It's like winning the Stanley Cup," said Andreychuk. "You've been dreaming about it all your life but you don't know how you're going to react until it happens."

Andreychuk is still the all-time leader for career power-play goals with 274. Most of them came from the front of the net with his six-foot-four, 220-pound body paying the price. He made his paycheque by being a goalie's nightmare.

"It started in junior, 16, 17 years old," Andreychuk said. "You realize that's where my bread and butter was gonna be, not a lot of pretty goals to be honest, not sure if there's a highlight-reel goal."

Andreychuk played 1,639 games in the NHL despite his gritty bang-'em-in style of play in an time when players in front of the net could be abused by the opposition. He had 19 seasons with at least 20 goals and a career-high 54 in 1992-93 with Toronto.

Former Maple Leafs teammate Doug Gilmour once said part of Andreychuk's secret to success was his ability to create a better scoring opportunity by intentionally placing a shot at a goalie's pad and then collecting his own rebound.

"Absolutely, it's very true," Andreychuk said. "Players I played with knew what was happening. I did it on purpose."

Andreychuk spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Buffalo and said that it has disappointed him that the Sabres' quality teams in the late 1980s couldn't deliver in the playoffs.

A trade to Toronto in 1993 placed him on a line with another Hall of Famer in Gilmour, which turned into back-to-back 50-goal seasons and two conference final appearances with the team he cheered for growing up as a Hamilton resident.

"Childhood dream to put the Leafs jersey on. Hard to believe a 30-year-old guy could walk into a dressing room and still shake," said Andreychuk.

"Great years with Dougie, we clicked right away. I was very thankful that I was the recipient of a lot of nice plays."

Retiring without a Stanley Cup looked possible for Anderychuk after 19 seasons. But in 2001, at 37, he signed with Tampa Bay and it all came together. He would spend four years with the Lightning, the final three as captain, and won his only Cup.

He still has a leadership role with the organization as the team's vice president of corporate and community affairs.

Andreychuk was originally drafted 16th overall by Buffalo general manager Scotty Bowman, who compared the 18-year-old to Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. Now, Esposito and Andreychuk have statues outside Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay for their contributions to the Lightning organization — Esposito being a co-founder of the franchise and Andreychuk bringing the city its first Cup.

Andreychuk said that it took more than skill to rack up 1,338 points, win a Stanley Cup and get his plaque in the Hall.

"Some of it's God-given talent and some of it you work at. I think all players will attest there was a lot of shots after practice, trying to deflect pucks.

"It paid off for me."

—- Follow Kyle Cicerella at @KyleTheReporter

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