Adam Oates (born August 27, 1962) is a retired professional ice hockey player and is currently the head coach of National Hockey League‘s Washington Capitals. He was elected into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame on June 26, 2012 along with Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, and Pavel Bure.
Oates’ break came when Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offered him a scholarship. He played three seasons (1982 to 1985), where he majored in management and was the leading scorer on RPI’s 1985 NCAA Division I championship team. Oates eventually graduated with a management degree from RPI in 1991. As of the end of the 2004–05 season, Oates still held school records for most assists in a season (60, 1984–85), most points in a season (91, 1984–85), and most career assists (150). He is third on the school’s all-time list for most assists per game (1.53) and tied for third all-time in career points (216).
After Rensselaer’s NCAA championship season, Oates signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, with the richest rookie contract up to this time at $1 million over four years. Although the team’s second centreman behind Steve Yzerman, Oates solidified his reputation as an elite NHL playmaker with the Red Wings, and by his last season with the club 1988–89, he was scoring at an almost assist-per-game pace. Oates was traded to the St. Louis Blues after the season, along with Paul MacLean, for Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney. Oates would later describe the trade as “heartbreaking”.
In St. Louis, Oates teamed up with Brett Hull and became part of the “Hull ‘n’ Oates” tandem, a reference to the musical duo of Hall & Oates. Hull had three consecutive seasons with at least 70 goals, including the 1990–91 season when Hull scored 86 (a record for right wingers) and won the Hart Trophy. Oates had 90 assists and 115 points in 61 games, earning him an NHL Second Team All-Star. Oates held out for much of the next season, until he was traded to the Boston Bruins in return for Craig Janney andStéphane Quintal.
Oates had perhaps his best season yet in 1992–93, as he scored a career-high 45 goals, 97 assists and 142 points to finish third overall in regular season scoring behind Mario Lemieux and Pat LaFontaine. The next season, Oates again finished third with 32 goals, 80 assists, and 112 points, behind Wayne Gretzky and Sergei Fedorov.
Oates played with Boston until the 1996–97 NHL season, when he was traded on March 1, 1997 to the Washington Capitals with Bill Ranford and Rick Tocchet for Jim Carey, Anson Carter, Jason Allison and Washington’s third-round choice (Lee Goren) in the 1997 Entry Draft, near the trading deadline. As a Capital, he changed his jersey number to 77 (which he would wear for the remainder of his career), in homage to former Boston Bruins teammate and friend, Ray Bourque. Oates helped lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals the next season, but failed to win as the Capitals lost to the Red Wings, Oates’ first NHL team. Oates had a few more productive seasons in Washington, leading the league in assists in 2000–01 and 2001–02, both of which were accomplished in the two seasons leading up to his fortieth birthday which also made him the oldest player to do so. On January 14, 2002, Oates became only the eighth player in NHL history to earn at least 1,000 career assists.
In 2002–03, Oates made his second trip to the Stanley Cup finals, this time with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but again his team was beaten out, this time in seven games by the New Jersey Devils. His career looked to be over after the season, but on November 17, 2003, the Edmonton Oilers, in need of a centre, signed Oates to a contract. However, his 2003-04 season was a disappointment as he scored only 2 goals and 18 points in 60 games. Oates announced his retirement on April 3, 2004, after his team was narrowly eliminated from the postseason.
Oates was one of the NHL’s great playmakers, becoming just the 12th player to win three NHL assist titles (1992-93, 2000-01 and 2001-02). He was a top-20 scorer ten times in his career, including a four-year stretch in which he finished third in the scoring race three times (1990-91, 1992-93 and 1993-94).
He helped Brett Hull win multiple goal-scoring titles in St. Louis, Cam Neely score 50 goals in 49 games in Boston, and Peter Bondra win a goal-scoring title in Washington. In the 1990s, he recorded more assists than any other player except Wayne Gretzky.
Oates played in two Stanley Cup finals, winning the Prince of Wales Trophy in 1998 with the Capitals and the Clarence Campbell Bowl in 2003 with the Ducks. A one-time NHL Second Team All-Star, he was a six-time finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy. Oates holds the distinction of most career points of any collegian to go onto to play in the National Hockey League. Also in the summer of 2011-2012 season he was hired as the head coach of the Washington capitals to succeed Dale Hunter.
Oates was selected for induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
- ECAC Second All-Star Team (1984)
- NCAA East First All-American Team (1984, 1985)
- ECAC First All-Star Team (1985)
- NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team (1985)
- NHL Second All-Star Team (1991)
- Played in NHL All-Star Game (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997)
- Oldest player to lead the NHL in assists in a single season (64 in 2001–02, at the age of 39)
- Player who has accumulated the most career playoffs points without winning the Stanley Cup
- Sixth all-time in assists
On October 2, 2009, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the naming of Oates an assistant coach. He had worked with the Tampa Bay coaching staff during 2009 training camp, focusing on offensive strategies with the forwards. Under his direction, the team’s power play ranked fourth in the NHL in the preseason.
On June 29, 2010, the New Jersey Devils announced Oates would become the second assistant coach behind the bench. He worked alongside Larry Robinson and under head coach John MacLean. Following MacLean’s firing, Oates continued as assistant coach under Jacques Lemaire for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season and under Peter DeBoer for the 2011-2012 season.
On June 26, 2012 the Washington Capitals announced that Oates would be their head coach. Oates played for the Capitals from 1996 to 2002.
Oates played five years of Junior “A” lacrosse for the Etobicoke Eclipse, in which he scored 735 points (regular season & playoffs) in just 130 games. In total, Oates averaged 5.5 points per game during his junior career. He would win three straight league M.V.P awards from 1981 to 1983. Oates also played for the Brampton Excelsiors of Major Series Lacrosse (Senior “A”), in which he scored 94 points in his rookie season. He would retire from lacrosse after the 1984 season to pursue his professional hockey career. He still holds the Ontario junior lacrosse record for assists (19), and points (29) in a game.