Former Capitals centerman Adam Oates has found his niche in life after 19 years of playing and five years of coaching in the NHL. In 2015, Oates created Oates Sports Group, which provides skills coaching and consulting services to more that 50 NHL players.
“It’s the second half of my life,” said Oates, who remarried a few months ago. “I love hockey. It’s been my life. I love working with the guys. To see the guys improve and stay healthy and play longer has been rewarding. I don’t have any children — so I suppose I have 50 children.”
And Oates has been busy since the league stopped play on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s been on the phone with clients, reviewing video, and providing advice. Using conferencing software, Oates can also consult remotely, reviewing video of a player and marking it up with a telestrator, like the kind featured on sports broadcasts.
Oates told the Boston Globe in a recent interview, “I don’t call them. They call me. I’ve got a couple guys that talk a lot. Those are the guys I talk with the most during the season. Some guys are single, some guys have kids. I enjoy it, trying to figure all this stuff out with them.”
“Everybody’s different depending on how bored they are,” said Oates, reached at his home in Jupiter, Fla., two weeks ago. “Hey, you want to talk a little hockey? Let’s do it, let’s watch some video.”
One common theme from his chats: uncertainty in the layoff. “The guys are all wondering how long this is going to be,” he said. “Two weeks, four weeks, eight weeks … is it going to happen at all? I would imagine they’re going through a day of focus, a day of not being focused.”
Oates, 57, is coy about specifics, but his approach (summer on-ice work, in-season video breakdowns, regular phone contact) has earned him a long list of testimonials, including from Blake Wheeler, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mark Scheifele, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan O’Reilly, who thanked Oates in his Selke Trophy acceptance speech last season.
“I love the skates with him,” Scheifele told Sportsnet in January. “You learn a new thing every single day and you come out of the rink feeling like you got better at hockey.” “He’s helped me defensively, offensively, finding certain areas on the ice to go to, ways to create a little more space for yourself,” said Scheifele in a interview with the New York Times.
“He thinks the game like a guy that scored points in the league,” said Zach Parise, a wing on the Minnesota Wild. “He understands the pressures, the different things that a point-scorer is feeling. He talks about how to get the puck more in the offensive zone, and he has better ideas of what to do with the puck when you’ve got it.”
By Jon Sorensen