TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.
"Every time he came up I thought he was a Hall of Famer," Bowman told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday. "I knew he was going to get in."
Andreychuk, 53, got the call around 2 p.m. Monday on the way to pick up his wife from the airport and had to pull over. After all, that call hadn't come his first eight years eligible. "Obviously my heart started to race immediately," Andreychuk said. "I was completely thrilled."
Bowman, who drafted Andreychuk in 1982 and coached him his first five seasons in Buffalo, took special pride in being on the 18-member committee that elected him. Andreychuk was a 640-goal scorer and was captain of the Lightning's only Stanley Cup champion (2004).
"I just think it's about time we could do it," Bowman said. "I just felt it was a travesty if he didn't get in. When you're talking about goal scoring at 600, 19 men have done it and if he's the only guy that wasn't in? Wouldn't that have an awful odor about it?"
Andreychuk, a 6-foot-4 power forward, scored more power-play goals — 274 — than anyone in NHL history. Most of his damage was dirty work around the crease.
"Don't forget, when he scored his goals, what people don't realize is you could beat the hell out of a guy in front of the net, but they couldn't push him out of the way," Bowman said. "He was really good around the other team's net, and a terrific shot. He was a pure goal scorer, holy (cow). He had that special knack."
Bowman wasn't surprised at Andreychuk's success. He said a Sabres scout, the late Rudy Migay, followed Andreychuk religiously during juniors in Oshawa.
"The comparison that kept coming back on Dave was Phil Esposito,'" Bowman said. "That kind of player."
Esposito, a Lightning co-founder, saw it, too.
"Andy and I got sort of the same M.O., 'the garbage collector,' " said Esposito, a Hall of Famer with 717 career goals. "But someone has to do it. And Andy had the (guts) to do it. And so did I."
Bowman noted how Andreychuk adapted his game later in his career, becoming a dependable two-way player. He was a major presence and leader on the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup team. Former Lightning star Brad Richards, the Conn Smythe winner on that team, said Andreychuk "taught us how to win."
"In my opinion, the Lightning would have never won the Stanley Cup if it wasn't for Dave," Esposito said. "And I'm not talking about on the ice. What he did off the ice, in the dressing room as a leader. I really believe that."
Andreychuk joins a Hall of Fame class that includes Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi (another former Lightning player), Danielle Goyette, builders Clare Drake and Jeremy Jacobs; they'll be inducted Nov. 11 in Toronto. Esposito texted Andreychuk to congratulate him, welcoming Andreychuk to the elite club, "It's about time."
"For me and my family, whether it was this year or 10 years from now, it didn't matter to us," Andreychuk said. "It's quite an honor."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes-JSmith.