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Fennelly: About time Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.
LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.
Published Jun. 27, 2017

It's Andy's time.

And it's about time.

Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had been eligible since 2009, a ridiculously long wait for someone who scored 640 goals, including a record 274 on the power play.

Andreychuk's impact in Tampa Bay goes beyond that. The finest moments of his career were here. He nurtured and led young Lightning talent to make a Stanley Cup champion.

There's a bronze statue of Andreychuk outside of Amalie Arena, him holding Stanley aloft. That Cup run will never go away in Tampa Bay sports history. Andy was in the middle of it.

Monday, he was driving to the airport to pick up his wife, Susan. Andreychuk saw the 416 area code — Toronto, home of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Finally.

Soon he was on the phone to Hamilton, Ontario, to his parents. There was screaming on both ends. Roz and Julian Andreychuk couldn't hold in their joy. Neither could their son.

"Nobody starts their career thinking they're going to be a Hall of Famer," Andreychuk said.

He never imagined a hundred NHL goals, much less 640. But he played and played and scored and scored. And he waited. He played 1,597 games before he lifted the Cup that night in 2004.

"I guess with the Stanley Cup, it made it sweeter," Andreychuk said. "You understand the value and how hard it was to achieve. I guess this is kind of the same thing."

Monday, he thought about his wife and their daughters, Taylor, Caci and Brooke. He thought about all the people in his world, teammates and coaches and everyone else who helped him along the way. He thought about where he came from.

His mother and father worked for a steel mill. The family lived in a house so small, 900 square feet, that Andreychuk could stand in the middle of his bedroom, stretch out his arms and touch the walls. He treasures a photo of him and his dad and the Cup in that bedroom. Once upon a time, it was just a tall, skinny kid with a right-handed shot, shooting against that house.

"We just ruined the walls outside," Andreychuk once said. "My dad used to work nights. Trying to hit a puck against the wall while he was sleeping was an interesting experience."

He learned something in Hamilton.

"Just the values of working. My sisters were the same way. We all had jobs as kids. Of course, my dad wanted to get me a job at the mill. All my friends went to the mill. Now, they were paying good money back then. But it was my driving force, staying in the NHL so I didn't have to go back to the steel mill."

His career was made of steel just the same — 1,639 regular-season games across 23 seasons, an endless point of pride. But it was what he forged here, in the final seasons of his career, that made Lightning history.

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Andreychuk joined the franchise before the 2001-02 season. It was a loser at the time. He was nearly traded to Montreal. But Andreychuk didn't want the deal. He saw something. He saw kids like Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis. He thought the Lightning could be special. Andreychuk helped take it from there. He might not have pushed as hard as coach John Tortorella, but he pushed.

"He taught us to win," Richards said.

There's a great story from the season before the Cup. The Lightning had lost badly to the Islanders in New York. Players dived for cover before media arrived. Andreychuk flushed them out of their hiding places and made them sit at their lockers until media was through asking questions.

"We were going to be accountable," Andreychuk said.

And there was after Game 6 in Calgary during the Stanley Cup final, which St. Louis won with an overtime goal. Back at the hotel, the captain had beer on ice in a suite. He told his teammates they were going to enjoy the night, but when they got on the plane to Tampa and Game 7, it was strictly business.

"We didn't come all this way to lose," Andreychuk told them.

David John Andreychuk didn't come all this way to be just another hockey player. He's a Hall of Famer. He'll point to all the others who made it possible. That's who he is, going all the way back to Hamilton.

But Monday was about Andy.

And it was about time.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.