The big day is approaching at a gallop, but Glenn Anderson still isn’t sure what he’ll say when it arrives.
The 48-year-old former scoring star of the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty team from the 1980s will finally be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night in Toronto, long after old teammates Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr were asked in.
If the Vancouver native is bitter about waiting so long, it hardly showed in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
“I’ve had a little time to think about it, more than the average person, so I’m savouring the moment,” said Anderson. “Ever since I got the call June 17, it’s something I’d like to soak in and remember forever.”
Anderson will be inducted along with Igor Larionov, former official Ray Scapinello and builder Ed Chynoweth.
He and Larionov will have large contingents of friends and family in attendance.
And there will be speeches. Anderson joked as he spoke that his six-year-old daughter Autumn was helping to write his, but really, he hasn’t worked that part out yet. And he’s not sure if he’ll laugh or cry when he is officially in.
“As you get closer to the day, you reflect on the history of how it transpired,” he said. “How did I get where I am? Where did I come from? Where I am and where I’m going – these are the questions you ask yourself.
“The more I think about it, the more things pop up. The memories come back in a flood. That’s why I don’t know how it’s going to be that night. I don’t know how emotional I’ll be or how I’ll react because I’ve never been in this situation before.”
Anderson has much to remember, particularly from the six Stanley Cups he won in a 16-year NHL career. Five came with the Oilers and the sixth in 1994 with the New York Rangers.
The speedy winger with the rifle shot scored 498 goals and 601 assists in 1,129 NHL regular season games, but it was in the playoffs that he really shone.
In 225 post-season games, he had 93 goals, which ranks fifth all-time, and 121 assists. His 214 career playoff points ranks fourth.
He also had five overtime goals in playoff games, which puts him third behind Joe Sakic’s eight and Maurice (Rocket) Richard’s six.
But Anderson always considered his NHL career as only one side of his hockey life.
He was drafted 59th overall in 1979 by the Oilers while playing at the University of Denver, but opted to play the 1979-80 season with Canada’s national team, then based in Calgary under Father David Bauer.
He played in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., watching in dismay as the host Americans beat the Soviet Union, who had beaten Canada, and went on to win gold.
“We had endless conversations about the human spirit and the political end of it – that the (NHL) is not the only league and if you don’t make it, there’s other things to fall back on, schooling or whatever,” Anderson recalled of his season with Bauer
“He opened my eyes to a broader picture. People are programmed by the media that there’s only one league and they get narrow-minded.”
Anderson would have stayed with the national team if Bauer’s program had been kept on, but when it didn’t, he joined the Oilers and became a key piece in one of the best teams in NHL history.
The great stars of that team all seemed to arrive at the same time and it didn’t take long before they were challenging the New York Islanders for league supremacy, finally ending the Isles’ Stanley Cup string at four in 1984.
“The draft pulled that team together, and the players revolved around Gretzky,” he said. “When you’re playing with the best player in the world, you start doing things you never dreamed about doing.”
The Oilers had already begun to be dismantled when Anderson and Fuhr were traded to Toronto in 1991 in a seven-player blockbuster.
He was shipped to the Rangers in March, 1994, just in time to win his last Cup, then bounced around in his final seasons, twice with St. Louis and once on a brief return to Edmonton.
Anderson also played in two Canada Cups and two world championships, and he spent time with two European clubs before he retired in 1997.
Another honour awaits on Jan. 18, when his No. 9 jersey will be retired by the Oilers before a game against the Phoenix Coyotes, who are now coached by Gretzky.
“This and the banner in Edmonton are two different scenarios completely,” he said. “My tenure was mostly with the Oilers, but my hockey career was not just in the professional ranks in North America.
“I was very proud and honoured to be part of Team Canada in international competition and wear the Canadian Maple Leaf.”
Anderson and his family now live in New York, where he does some public relations work for the Rangers. He also plays in old-timers games and has been a regular at the Hall of Fame game in recent years.
When he played, he was a free spirit nicknamed Mork, after a TV alien from outer space. He has his own take on what it means to get into the Hall of Fame.
“I know there’s a plaque,” he said. “I hear there’s ghosts in the hall and I imagine my picture looking right at Father Bauer or Glen Sather, (when we’re) ghosts at some point in time, when we’re no longer here and the lights are out, and Slats saying, ‘It’s past curfew – you’d better go back to bed.’
“I’m really happy that I’m not someone who beats to the same drummer,” he added. “I’m glad that I’m an individual and I am a little different from the average player. I think all players should be that way in their own way.”