Adam Oates says that although he is now a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he has never overanalyzed each year’s induction class or the requirements met to be enshrined.
“My ego’s not that big,” he said with a laugh. “It really isn’t. Never was.”
That said, Oates believes this year’s class – Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan and Scott Niedermayer were joined by Fred Shero and Geraldine Heaney Monday night in Toronto – is especially deserving.
In fact, Oates said that of the hundreds of defensemen he faced during his 19-year playing career, Chelios might have been his toughest assignment.
“For me, during my career because we overlapped, he was the hardest guy ever to play against,” Oates said Tuesday. “I was a right-shot center and I went down the left side and he was always there. He was really difficult to play against, a fantastic player.”
Chelios, 51, broke into the NHL two years before Oates and stuck around for parts of 25 seasons, finally retiring following the 2009-10 season. He ranks fifth on the NHL’s all-time games list with 1,651, behind only Gordie Howe [1,767], Mark Messier [1,756], Ron Francis [1,731] and Mark Recchi [1,652].
Oates, now 51, played alongside Shanahan, 44, for one season, when they both played for the St. Lois Blues in 1991-92 .Shanahan went on to record 656 goals and 698 assists for 1,354 points in 1,524 career games in the NHL
“A rare guy in the sense he could score and be tough,” Oates said. “He could really snap the puck. And a real competitor.”
Oates also praised Niedermayer, 40, for his longevity, saying he was a “fantastic” defenseman during his 17-year career with the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks.