BY BRENDAN SHANAHAN
When I got the call informing me I’d be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was a great day. Not just for the tremendous honor, but because I heard from so many former teammates, coaches and friends. When my playing days ended, I didn’t spend much time reflecting on my career. But on the day that call came and for the next couple days, it felt great just to talk like a hockey player again.
The first people who come to mind at a time like this are your immediate family, who make a lot of sacrifices for you along the way. So I thought of my mother, Rosaleen, who just turned 80, and my father, Donal, who was the first one to get me on skates. He passed away in 1990 and actually missed my pro career even when he was still alive because he had Alzheimer’s. Now that I’m a hockey dad, I see the sacrifices they made: early mornings, long car rides. It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work.
One of my career highlights is winning that first Stanley Cup in Detroit in 1997. On that team, only Mike Vernon, Larry Murphy and Joey Kocur had previously won a Cup, so the rest of us were all first-timers. It was the first time in 42 years that the Red Wings had won.
Other highlights include winning gold at the 1994 World Championship, ending a 33-year drought for Canada, and being on the gold medal-winning 2002 Canadian Olympic team, which hadn’t won since 1952. It’s great to be part of any championship team, but when you’re part of one breaking a long drought it makes those moments even more special.
People remember championships, but they might not remember that you deal with huge failures as well. Once you make the NHL, you’ve learned about channelling disappointment, but there’s no point in dwelling on things in a negative way. You use it as fuel for the next time. The more heartbreaking and angering a loss was, the more it was about turning it into motivation for the next year. The 1998 Winter Olympics is a great example. The only thing that got me through the disappointment of losing in Nagano, Japan, was the determination that somehow I’d be a member of the team in 2002. I was fortunate to get that second chance.
I don’t know if you can properly articulate what this Hall of Fame honor means in a speech or interview. But I think when you approach anything in life with passion, people respect that. If you’re one of the fortunate few to play in the NHL, fans want to see that you appreciate it. I loved being a hockey player and I loved being on a team – starting from age five all the way until I retired at 40 years old. – with Adam Proteau