With the NHL lockout delaying the start of training camp and threatening the Oct. 11 start of the regular season, Capitals coach Adam Oates took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview with CSNWashington.com Insider Chuck Gormley.In Part Two, Oates discusses his college days at RPI in Troy, New York, the impact of his college coach and the circumstances that led him to coming to Washington in 1997.Tomorrow: Changing the hockey culture in D.C. To read Part One, click here.
CSN: So youre 18 and undrafted. What was the break that led to you having such a long playing career?
Adam Oates: Going to school, going to college. I went to a school RPI where the coach really got to me, he really did. Made me a man.
Who was that?
Mike Adessa. Kind of a Bobby Knight type, which is what I needed in my life.
How did he treat you?
Tough. Tough on everybody, but tough on me. My sophomore year I was probably the best player 26 goals, 57 assists in 38 games and he was hardest on me, at least I felt that. But he taught me a lot about hockey, but made me a man, too.
Why do you think he was so tough on you?
I think he saw someone that would listen to him. I got a kid here who is willing to listen to me and I can teach him. He was a football man, so he had a football mentality. He played pro football for the Giants. He played in Frank Giffords era. I think he was just a blip on the NFL radar, but a big man.
Yeah. Big man. Not a hockey player, but a very smart hockey man. Like I said, he really got to me. Theres nothing I didnt like about him.
Were you a good listener at that age?
Oh, yeah. Im a very good listener. Its funny you ask that because thats a special skill. A lot of people dont listen. Or they hear and dont listen. Thats one thing my father David taught me. No, Im a listener. If you can prove to me you know what youre talking about Im a listener. I dont miss it.
So as your college career is progressing are you thinking about the NHL? Are you thinking about a degree?
To me, college was another vehicle to try to make the pros. My sophomore year 1983-84 we had a really good team. We were ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 28-4-0 record, my game was growing and the NHL was all that was on my radar. We won the national title my junior year and I turned pro, but then I went back and finished my degree.
How long did it take you to complete your degree?
I went back to RPI every summer and finished it. It took five summers. Business management. Its a really hard school. It was a grind, especially when youve played in the pros a couple years. Its hard to go back to a small school.
Why was it important to you to get that degree?
Because it gave me a really good routine. In the summers Id train, go to classes. My college coach made me more of a man; he wanted me to have more responsibilities in my life.
Did you actually graduate with your class at RPI?
No. I just got my degree in the mail. No cap and gown. I was still a hockey player, but it felt like I accomplished something.
I know it was a long one, but tell me about the early part of your NHL career.
I signed with Detroit as a free agent in 1985 and loved it. Got traded to St. Louis in 1989 for Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney and it surprised me. Went to St. Louis and got to play with Brett Hull. In 105 games for the Blues, Oates piled up 58 goals and 228 assists. Absolutely fantastic. Incredible. But money was an issue. I was getting up there 29 years old and I wanted to make some money. Got traded to Boston. Got to play with Cam Neely and Ray Bourque. Great city. Great hockey city. Time of my life. Youre getting older and moneys still an issue.
Why do you think money was always an issue with you?
Because I was always a late bloomer. And I was probably a little selfish at times, for sure. I laugh now because everybodys the same. Some people color it differently, but if you have a chance tomorrow to double your salary, youre all going to go, whether youre a teacher, an auto worker, it doesnt matter. If you can better your family and your situation, you will.
Was it also knowing what other players were making at the time and knowing you were as good if not better?
That was the guideline and back when I played, youre on the clock. No one played to 40 then. I ended up playing to 40, but no one did that then. If you did, you were the one guy the team loved that kept you around. Thats on your mind. You want to make some money. People dont understand the changes going on with our league at that time. Think about Gretz Wayne Gretzky. He made 600,000 Canadian and the next year after getting traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles he was making 10 million U.S. I had a chance to make more money and I was old for a hockey player. I came to Wash, which was not on everybodys radar as a hockey market. It wasnt. But thats OK. My first year 1997-98 we went to the Finals. A new team, but another great experience in my life. I had some good years here and the rest of it I was the old guy hanging on.