The uniform changed. Constantly.
But Dave Andreychuk, one of 10 inductees into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame during tonight’s ceremony at HSBC Arena, said his heart never really wavered when it came to his home team.
“I only played about half my career here,” said Andreychuk, the second-leading scorer in Sabres history with 804 points in 837 games. “But in the same sense, I never left. I do call this home and all my friends and family are here. I’ve always got one eye on what the Sabres are doing.”
Others entering the hall at tonight’s reception include Bruce Smith, Boston Bruins’ owner Jeremy Jacobs and former Buffalo Blizzard great Rudy Pikuzinski.
Andreychuk grew up just up the QEW in Hamilton, Ontario, and was the last of three first-round choices the Sabres had in 1982 — PhilHousley (6th) and Paul Cyr (9th) being the others.
The following season, he played 43 games with the Sabres, becoming a fixture in the team’s lineup for the next 11 seasons.
With mentors like Gil Perreault and Craig Ramsay, Andreychuk learned plenty about NHL life before he hit the age of 21.
“It’s all about learning from good players,” he said. “To play with Gilbert and learn from guys like Jim Schoenfeld and (Jerry) Korab, that was something that stuck with me.”
The fun didn’t end there.
Andreychuk, Mike Foligno, John Tucker and Pierre Turgeon later became the veteran staples as the Sabres consistently challenged for the Adams Division title. Andreychuk scored 30 or more goals seven times during the run and maxed out at 41 in 1991-92.
“We had some awesome teams,” he said. “We didn’t have the playoff success that we wanted, but I have some really fond memories of my time in Buffalo.”
John Murphy, the sports director at WKBW-TV and tonight’s emcee, remembers Andreychuk as the ultimate finisher.
“The thing about Andreychuk is that he had great hands. He was just so skilled around the net,” Murphy said. “He wasn’t a fast skater, but when he got in the right position, he knew what to do with the puck. He kind of bridged the gap between guys like Phil Esposito and now into guys like Daniel Briere.”
After stints with Toronto, New Jersey, Boston and Colorado, Andreychuk returned to Buffalo for the 2000-2001 season, hoping to cap his career in Buffalo with a Stanley Cup. Instead, Pittsburgh beat the Sabres in the second round, and Andreychuk left for Tampa Bay.
Three years later, he was the captain of a Lightning team that captured the Cup.
Despite having more playoff success elsewhere, Andreychuk said he has always kept an eye out for Sabres’ scores, and sees something special brewing with this year’s version of the blue and gold.
“I see a lot of similarities with that team and the one that won the Cup in Tampa,” he said. “They got a good taste of success with some younger guys and now they know what they can do. They’re all on the same page and that means something.”
Andreychuk joined the Lightning as a community representative earlier this month and spends winters in Florida, although he still owns a home in East Amherst. He said he’s trying to help the sport grow, but admits it’s sometimes a difficult battle in an area where hockey isn’t near the top of sports priority list.
“It’s gotten better. I think we’re more recognizable since we won the Cup, a lot of people jumped on the wagon,” he said. “But you have to remember, not a lot of people were born down there and they still have hockey in them. Like when I’m there, I’m still cheering for the Bills, but I might be watching the Bucs.”
As for being named to the Buffalo hall, Andreychuk said he didn’t expect the honor, although he seems a natural fit. He finished his career with the fourth-most games in NHL history and ranks 11th in goals. He’s also the league’s best in power play goals, scoring 270 of his 640 with the man advantage.
“I was surprised when they called,” he said. “It’s a huge honor. Traveling around to different teams was good for me, obviously. But I still think in my heart that this is the team that drafted me.
“I look at like this — I was first a Sabre, and I’ll always be a Sabre.”
Contact Group Sports Editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, Ext. 2266.
The uniform changed. Constantly.
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