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Sakic, Sundin among four selected for Hockey Hall

TORONTO (AP) - Joe Sakic was four years old when his father took him to his first hockey game.

And his life-long love affair with the sport began.

The stylish center who spent his entire 20-year NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques-Colorado Avalanche franchise parlayed that passion into a berth in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sakic was voted into the Hall by the 18-member selection committee Tuesday along with three other star forwards who terrorized goaltenders over the last three decades _ Adam Oates, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.

The players will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 in Toronto.

“I remember. My dad took me to a Vancouver Canucks game against the Atlanta Flames,” Sakic recalled on a conference call. `’I fell in love with hockey and I wanted to play.

“It was all I wanted to do, on the ice or on the street.”

Oates’ honor came only hours after he was named coach of the Washington Capitals.

“Obviously, it’s been an absolutely fantastic day,” Oates said. “I’m excited about the coaching job and to be called to the Hall of Fame … it’s just a special day for me.”

Sakic and Sundin, who began their careers as teammates in Quebec City, were selected in their first year of eligibility, while Oates and Bure made it after waits of five and six years, respectively.

They were the only inductees as no builders or women made it this year. Among those overlooked were power forward Brendan Shanahan, now the NHL’s disciplinarian who was in his first year of eligibility, and former coaches Pat Burns and Fred Shero.

Between them, the four new members had 1,967 regular-season goals and 3,786 assists.

Sakic was one of the smartest players of his era. Despite a slight frame, he could make plays in heavy traffic or snap home a goal.

Sundin was a big, rangy center who dominated the area around the net. He made his name mostly as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Oates was the premier passer of his time. He formed legendary one-two punch combinations with finishers like Brett Hull in St. Louis and Cam Neely in Boston.

Bure, a right winger known as the Russian Rocket, could pull fans from their seats with his spectacular high-speed rushes up the ice for the Canucks, Rangers and Panthers. He led Vancouver to the 1994 Stanley Cup finals.

Sundin is the second Swede in the Hall after another Toronto great, defenseman Borje Salming. Bure joins fellows Russians Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Igor Larionov and Valeri Kharlamov.

Sundin said his eyes were opened to the skill level in the NHL by Sakic when he joined the Nordiques after being picked first overall in 1989.

“When you’re in Sweden, you’re not used to seeing a player like that who can play at both ends of the ice,” the 41-year-old said. “It was not only scoring points that impressed me, it was his overall game. He had no weaknesses.”

Sakic was captain of his team for 16 years, the second-longest tenure in NHL history. He scored 50 goals twice and had six 100-point seasons. He won Stanley Cups in 1996, when he was playoff MVP, and in 2001.

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