Oates orchestrated 50 in 50 feats

Oates orchestrated 50 in 50 feats
November 9, 2012, 3:00 pm
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Whenever soon-to-be-inducted Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates looks back on his playing days, two memories immediately come to mind.

Brett Hull scoring 50 goals in 49 games with the St. Louis Blues in the 1990-91 season. And Cam Neely scoring 50 goals in 44 games as a member of the Boston Bruins in the 1993-94 season.

Oates, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night in Toronto, says there was something magical about being part of each teammate’s quest for 50-in-50, a feat achieved by only nine NHL players.

“When Brett did it in St. Louis he was taking the league by storm, like when Ovi came in here,” Oates said, comparing Hull’s amazing 86-goal season to Alex Ovechkin’s 65-goal outburst in 2007-08.

“It was just fantastic to be a part of it. And when Cam did it he basically did it on one leg. Watching him prepare every day to just try to play the game -- let alone do what he was doing -- was an incredible feat.

“And I had the best seats for both of them.”

Oates will enter hockey’s holy grail because of his ability to pass the puck as well as anyone who has ever played the game. He finished with 1,079 assists, the fifth-highest total in NHL history.

“It was certainly a pleasure to play with Adam,” Neely told CSNWashington.com. “He was a smart hockey player and a very gifted playmaker.

“Especially me being a right wing playing with a right-handed centerman. His backhanded pass, in my opinion, was the best that I could ever imagine.”

During that 1993-94 season Neely scored his 50th goal in his 44th game, which happened to come on a deflection past Capitals goaltender Rick Tabaracci. Neely’s feat is not officially recognized by the NHL because it happened in the Bruins’ 66th game of the season.

Neely spent that entire season battling knee pain that eventually led to his retirement two years later, but he says he’ll never forget the impact Oates had on him that year.

“That was just a magical season,” Neely said. “I didn’t play a lot. I wasn’t practicing very much. But Adam and I seemed to have this chemistry and this magic that year, when everything I put on the net went in. The hockey sense of Adam certainly helped me get there.”

Oates says his only regret is that he couldn’t spend more time playing with Neely, who finished with 395 goals, was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005 and is now president of the Bruins.

“It was a shame that Cam was hurt and we didn’t spend as much time together as we should have,” Oates said. “Every shift we went out there we thought we could score another one.”

Neely says he remembers Oates having a quiet intensity and an unquenchable thirst to learn more about the game, qualities that led him back to the game as a coach.

“He liked to joke around, but he was more quiet than most players,” Neely recalls. “He loved to talk the game of hockey. I was a little surprised he got involved in coaching, but when I think about him as a player it doesn’t surprise me that he’s enjoying it as much as he is because he certainly has a great mind for the game.”

Neely says one thing he remembers most about his own induction is how fast it sped by.

“It’s really a whirlwind weekend,” he said. “A lot of it happens quickly. People are pulling you in different directions. It’s an exciting weekend but it goes by pretty quick. It’s just a matter of taking it all in and digesting it. It’s a thrilling honor.”