Dave Andreychuk is feeling grateful.
“We’re actually in a pretty good spot here, to be honest,” the 56-year-old Hall of Famer says from Florida. “We don’t have a lot of cases in our county. We’re all walking outside, holding our distances. I can still get on my boat, still go golfing, and I don’t have to go into the office. Other than no hockey, it’s not too bad.”
In a normal world, Andreychuk might’ve been treated to a doozy of a playoff series between the two clubs for whom he played his best hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Those trips to the office would involve walking past a larger-than-life-sized bronzed statue of himself hoisting the Stanley Cup that welcomes fans to Amalie Arena.
Who knows? Andreychuk may not have been able to captain the Lightning to glory in 2004, however, had he not had the bitterness and hard lessons, good and bad, from the Leafs’ 1993 run to lean on, to lead by.
The Lightning’s vice president of corporate and community affairs is more than happy to talk about his blockbuster trade to the Maple Leafs, a ’93 playoff series that had him flooring the gas to the rink, and how Wendel Clark changed his approach.
Sportsnet: Have you caught any of the classic games being aired these days?
Dave Andreychuk: Our Fox Sports [in Tampa] is showing our ’15 run and the ’04 run. They’re doing all of our 16 wins. It’s kind of cool, actually. I’ve live-tweeted off our Fox Twitter account. But I think we’re going to go via Zoom, get a bunch of guys online. It’s amazing, those teams that have success, how close you still are. A lot of those guys, we’re gonna get him back on the air and let ’em watch those games. But anytime something ’93 comes along, my phone blows up and there’s a lot of text messages going on. So, I’m sure that those games are going to cause a lot of commotion in Toronto.
SN: Take me back to 1992-93. At the deadline, you get traded by Buffalo, the only NHL team you knew. How did you feel joining the Leafs and leaving the club that drafted you?
Andreychuk: Your first trade is always the toughest. When you think about it, I was in Buffalo for almost 12 years. I think the timing was right for me to move on. Was it all of a sudden? I mean, you hear rumours, but I’d heard rumours for a bunch of years. To find out I’m going down the QEW to basically my hometown team, I was excited. The Leafs had made some deals earlier. [Doug] Gilmour was now on board. At the time, I didn’t know Felix Potvin was taking over in net. They had a bunch of people I was watching. I make the move; I drive 90 miles. You know, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Not always is the grass greener on the other side, but it definitely was when I got to Toronto.
SN: Heading into that Round 1 series against Detroit, which was an offensive powerhouse, what was the mood? Did you feel you could take them down?
Andreychuk: When I got to Toronto [in early February], the Leafs had just gone undefeated for 10 in a row, and we actually lost my first game there. That team was starting to make the turn. Our second half was much better now that things were in place. They talked quite a bit down the stretch drive and going into the playoffs about how well we can play. Pat Burns was his same old self, pitting David versus Goliath, making us feel that we were underdogs and we had no chance. Challenging us to be better. So, going into that series, that was our mentality: Hey, if we play well, we know we can beat them. We obviously know they’re a much better team than us, but let’s rally together. It was that us-against-the-world mentality that Pat installed, and we ran with it.
SN: You get blown out in the first two games. What turned the tide in Game 3?
Andreychuk: One, we’re at home. And the excitement of playing playoff hockey in Toronto we all know about. That’s first and foremost. Again, we’ve got nothing to lose. Yeah, we’re in that spot [trailing 0-2 in the series], but it’s that really close-knit team that came together and said, “Hey, we gotta go for it here. We got our backs against the wall. There’s nothing to lose.” The experience some of the guys had — Jamie Macoun, Bob Rouse, Mike Krushelnyski, Glenn Anderson — I mean, these guys had won before. It’s not like it was a young group that hadn’t experienced some things in the past. I had definitely never experienced this in the past, but we had a lot of leaders in that room that let us know this is possible.
SN: You led the series with six goals, all even-strength. What was clicking for you?
Andreychuk: Well, the excitement of being in the playoffs with a new team. That’s first and foremost. It is very unfortunate that I look back on my career with all the good teams in Buffalo and I just really never had any playoff success. For me personally, you’re back in the playoffs, you’re with a new team, you’re excited. Obviously, the chemistry between Gilmour and myself. I was speeding to get to the rink every day knowing I have a great opportunity here to be successful. Going into that series, I wanted to be a difference. I wanted to win my first playoff series.
SN: What was the scariest aspect of that Detroit team?
Andreychuk: The talent level. The Yzermans, the Fedorovs… they had a lot of talent. For me personally, it was the Vladimir Konstantinov matchup. Unfortunately, we know what happened to him later, but, man, he was a heck of a player. He was a competitor. And I challenged myself every day to compete at that kind of level against him. They made sure he was on the ice against the Gilmour line. So, just some unbelievable battles that I look back on and think what a heck of a player this kid was, and how he battled. Nothing fazed him. He was going to do his best to keep us off the scoreboard. You think of hockey today and the way it’s played, which is awesome with the speed, but I think the compete level in that series was just incredible.
SN: Which Leafs teammate stuck out? A guy you knew was good before you got traded to that room but made you say, “Wow, I didn’t realize he was this good”?
Andreychuk: We all watched Wendel [Clark] from afar. We knew he was a good player; we knew he’s a tough guy who’d scare ya to play against. But just the way he came to the rink every day, you saw the struggles that he had physically and what he fought through — it was inspiring to all of us, really. I looked at him and his leadership skills, and I borrowed a lot of that later in my career — what he did and how he acted. He was the one guy that, when I look at that team, he exemplifies who we are. Obviously, Gilmour played a lot and racked up a lot of points and was a Hall of Fame player, but the way the Wendel conducted himself every day was special.
SN: Who flew under the radar?
Andreychuk: Glenn Anderson. You watched him in the ’80s. You knew he was on a team stocked with talent. But now you realize, after playing with him, why the Oilers won. Yeah, they have Gretzky and Messier, but, man, this guy was good. I just loved playing with him. I loved the way he competed. His fearlessness, the way he approached the game, he really rounded out our line. He wasn’t necessarily on our line constantly, but when he was there, I was just impressed with the way that he played the playoffs. He called himself a playoff player and sure backed that up.
SN: After defeating Detroit in seven, did you start believing you could go all the way?
Andreychuk: I don’t know if we felt like we’re gonna win the Stanley Cup. We still felt like we’re underdogs. Yes, we slayed the dragon and a team that was supposed to win, but next, we had to play another team we’ve had some battles with in St. Louis. Going into the L.A. series, maybe our heads got a little bit past us and we start to look ahead a little bit. For me, I was so happy winning one series and playing in the second round. That’s probably why we had some success, because we didn’t look too far ahead.
SN: Was the disappointment of ’93 in your head during your 2004 championship run with Tampa?
Andreychuk: One hundred per cent. Yes. I talked about that a lot, especially in that 2004 conference final. We’re playing the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s a battle. The whole seven games is back and forth. It’s win one, lose one. I talked about my other two conference final appearances with the Leafs, saying, “It’s a missed opportunity. We have to seize this right now.” I used that as motivation in ’04, no doubt — not just for myself but for my teammates.
SN: Anything else fans should know about 1993?
Andreychuk: The one thing that you’ll hear from every guy is the closeness of that team and how we came together, how we battled for each other. That’s something that still lives with me today. I still talk to all of those guys, as many as I can. There’s a definite bond there that is different from the 22 other teams I played with. I’m sure the fans understand that, but if players are going to continue to say that, there’s something there. There was definitely that bond that pushed us on together.