After long wait, Dave Andreychuk joins Hockey Hall of Fame

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Dave Andreychuk speaks to reporters after a news conference in Toronto, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO | Dave Andreychuk sensed 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 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 became eligible this year.

“I think 600 goals on the resume, it’s got to happen eventually,” Andreychuk said. “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.”

Andreychuk joined the Hall on Friday a with 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.

An 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, noting he pulled off the road to take the call. “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 before lifting the Stanley Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay.

“It’s like winning the Stanley Cup,” he said. “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 career leader for power-play goals with 274. Most came from in front of the net, with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame paying the price. He earned his paycheck by being a goalie’s nightmare.

“It started in junior, 16, 17 years old,” he said. “You realize that’s where my bread and butter was going to 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 and had 19 seasons with at least 20 goals, with 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 in Buffalo and it 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 in Hamilton.

“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,” Andreychuk said.

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 — Esposito for being a co-founder of the franchise and Andreychuk for bringing the city its first Cup.

Andreychuk said 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 … It paid off for me,” he said.