Adam Oates made stops with seven different teams as he played in 1,337 games over the course of his 19-year Hall of Fame career.
The last sweater Oates donned as a player was that of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2003-04 season. Ahead of his first visit to Rexall Place as coach of the Capitals Thursday night, he looked back on his time in Alberta.
“My last year, what I remember most is how well I was treated by everybody, by Kevin [Lowe], by [Craig MacTavish]. I really, really struggled at the beginning,” Oates said. “As an older guy, in hindsight, you really shouldn’t miss camp. I signed late and it took me way too long to get going and they treated me great. The guys were great. It’s a great franchise — it has been, it is, and good memories from it.”
Oates recorded only two goals and 16 assists in 60 games with the Oilers that year. He had lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final with Anaheim the year before and thought his career might have ended then, when Lowe called with an offer.
“I didn’t train in the offseason because I thought it was over. So I missed my training before camp, then camp. When Kevin called I told him I hadn’t skated, but he said they’d take the time with me to get me in shape,” Oates said. “They were great about it but I don’t think they expected it would take as long as it did. I know I didn’t.”
He was the oldest player on Edmonton’s roster that season at 41 but enjoyed serving as a veteran teacher to younger players like Ales Hemsky — who is still with the Oilers and will suit up on the second line against the Capitals — Raffi Torres and Marc-Andre Bergeron.
“I think I was playing with Hemsky, and I’m older than both his parents,” Oates said with a laugh. “As I got older, playing with the young kids made you feel young and hanging out with them a little bit. It was a lot of fun.”