His simple philosophy: "That's where the pucks are going to go.''
By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 15, 2002
TAMPA -- Dave Andreychuk wasn't supposed to get this far. The Hamilton Huskies were a nice little team in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, a junior amateur team a few levels from the NHL. He already had exceeded his father's reach and that would be okay with his parents.
Then he exceeded Julian and Roz Andreychuk's expectations.
"I wasn't the best player on the team," the Lightning left wing said. "Never was. But that just motivated me to play more than everybody else. I think my dad was my inspiration, getting up early to drive me to practice and rushing home after work (general foreman at a steel mill) to drive me to a game. That's the kind of things that contributed to who I am now."
Julian got no further than an amateur team in the Hamilton Police Minor Hockey Association. "If David could play junior hockey for a year or two, that'd be great," he said, remembering his aspirations for his son.
Then came the phone call to the Andreychuk household from Joe Cirella, a friend and highly regarded teammate who had gone to Toronto for the NHL's 1982 draft. David didn't go. He had a part-time job working for a veterinarian. And he was certain he wouldn't be picked.
Dave was cleaning out cages when his parents told him he had been drafted 16th in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres and assigned to the Oshawa Generals, their minor-league affiliate in suburban Toronto, about 11/2 hours from home, "close enough for me to be able to slip back to Hamilton and have mom do my laundry," he said. After 14 games he joined the Sabres and never looked back.
He is 38 now, in his 20th NHL season, his first with Tampa Bay stints with Buffalo (twice), Toronto, Boston, Colorado and tonight's opponent, New Jersey. He has played 1,405 games, the most of any active player who has never won a Stanley Cup.
He has spent his hockey life setting up shop at the edge of the goal crease, scoring the way Lightning founder and former general manager Phil Esposito did. "In front of the net," he said matter-of-factly, "that's where the pucks are going to go."
(Famous Boston bumper sticker when Esposito played for the Bruins: Jesus saves. Espo scores on the rebound.)
Andreychuk's name is sprinkled about the record book. No. 2 in career and season power-play goals. No. 3 among left wings in career points, goals and assists. Tied at No. 5 for most consecutive 20-goal seasons. No. 6 among active goal-scorers and No. 14 all time.
"Obviously I'm not going to put up the numbers I put up a while back," he said. "But I think I can still contribute to the game. That's why I'm back playing this year."
He has passed Mike Bossy, Stan Mikita and a lot of other Hall of Famers along the way. "It's hard to believe I'm actually going by these guys," he said. "Someday I'm going to sit back and realize the accomplishments, but right now it's tough to swallow."
Jacques Lemaire coached Andreychuk for three years with the Devils. "Andy came in, and in practice you could see how much he wanted to score," Lemaire said. "I was using him as an example to the other guys, I don't know how many times. ... "Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. Don't always shoot to score.' "
Lightning center Brad Richards echoed Lemaire. "(Andreychuk) will say, "Why don't you just go out there and put a shot on net?' " Richards said. "I remember one time in Washington, it was 1-0 or 0-0 and I wasn't playing very well and it was the second period and he was going, "Just go and get a shot.' I took a shot. It hit (Lightning defenseman Jassen) Cullimore and went in the net. It was kind of like, "Wow!' Sometimes little things like that can go long way."
Andreychuk is a leavening influence, a leader, tutor and adviser, even to coach John Tortorella, four years his senior.
"I've known Andy for so long, he's a peer to me," Tortorella said. "He's been around this league longer than I have. I learn from him. ... He's a good man, good to have around here for some of the young potential scorers we have. Scorers want to talk to scorers."
And he is among veritable children on the Lightning roster. Consider: Andreychuk scored his first NHL goal in his first game, Oct. 6, 1982 against Quebec's Dan Bouchard, one of 139 goaltenders he has beaten. Right about then, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and a few other Tampa Bay teammates were probably finishing their potty training and beginning to learn how to get dressed and undressed (with help).
"We're playing a game we all love," Andreychuk said. "We're all big kids anyway. It's a bit of an adjustment (playing with teammates so young) but I think I have the right kind of personality where younger guys respect you but you can still have fun with them. ... A lot of guys are willing to listen, to learn, and that's the first step."
A father figure? Perhaps. But he's not pushing it. "Ever since he got here he's been one of the boys," Richards said. "He's having as much fun, maybe more, than everybody else."
Even some of Andreychuk's fun things are, at their heart, a serious way of giving his teammates an essential lesson.
A huge Lightning logo sits in the middle of the carpet in the locker room. Players, and everyone else, walk around it gingerly. Step on it and ante up $50. No questions, no excuses. Andreychuk picked up the idea at Colorado, a consistent Stanley Cup contender.
"It's like putting your jersey on the ground and stepping on it," Richards said. "What Dave's done is kind of show you how to respect your team, your teammates and the game."
Buffalo pretty much ran him out of town last year for being, the team and its fans said, lazy. Not so, said Tortorella and Lightning general manager Rick Dudley. They signed him to a free-agent contract.
They knew what he could do -- and not do. When Andreychuk was in the prime of his game in the late '80s and early '90s with the Sabres, Dudley was his coach and Tortorella an assistant.
"Organizations, when they have a big, slow guy, sometimes they consider him a guy that isn't hustling," Tortorella said. "It was the totally wrong way of looking at him. I've seen David (go) through a game with a broken jaw. I've seen him compete when he's really been hurt.
"You've got to be very careful with the assessment of a guy like that. You consider him a lazy guy if he can't get down the ice. ... He's not a young guy any more, and everybody in the league knows he can't skate a lick. His skating is a liability. But get Andy around the net, get him in offensive situations and faceoffs and penalty killing, and he's one of the best."
BORN: Sept. 29, 1963, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
HT./WT.: 6-4, 220.
ACQUIRED: Free agent signed July 13.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: No. 2 in power-play goals in career (239) and in a season (32). No. 3 left wing in career points (1,225), goals (580) and assists (645). No. 5 (tied) for most consecutive 20-goal seasons (14). No. 6 among active goal-scorers and No. 14 all time.
PERSONAL: Wife, Sue; daughters, Taylor 8, Caci 6, and Brooke 11/2.