Dino Ciccarelli was wondering if the call from the Hockey Hall of Fame would ever come.
The prolific scorer whose favourite spot was in front of the opposing team's net finally got it on Tuesday.
The Sarnia, Ont., native was the only male player picked for the class of 2010 inductees. He will go in with women's stars Cammi Granato and Angela James, and builders Jim Devallano and, posthumously, Daryl (Doc) Seaman, a founding owner of the Atlanta (now Calgary) Flames.
"I guess you start thinking that way," said Ciccarelli, who retired in 1999 after 19 NHL seasons. "I was hoping it would come.
"In past years, people would call me and say they heard I was in. I tried not to get too excited this year and when I got the call, I was very excited. It would have been nice to enjoy it with my (parents, both deceased), but I've got my kids and my family to share it with."
Ciccarelli played 1,232 NHL games, piling up 608 goals and an even 1,200 points with the Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars), Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Florida. He had 55 goals in his first full season in 1981-82 and 52 in 1986-87.
But he said his trade to Detroit from Washington in 1992 was what helped forge the style he was known for, as a tireless battler in front of the crease, warding off cross-checks to dig for rebounds and deflections. That grit eventually led to the back injuries that ended his career.
"I always had a nose for the net, I guess," he said. "My career changed a bit when I came to Detroit.
"If I was going to be on the power play, we had (Paul) Coffey, (Sergei) Fedorov, (Nik) Lidstrom, and (Steve) Yzerman. There was only room for one more guy. Those guys could handle the puck, so if I wanted to be on that power play I knew I had to stand in front of the net. But I was always taught that if you want to score goals, you've got to pay the price and be by the net."
Ciccarrelli's NHL career almost didn't happen.
He scored 72 goals as a junior with the London Knights in 1977-78 but the following season he broke his leg and NHL teams, fearing his career was in doubt, passed him over in the draft two years in a row.
But North Stars general manager Lou Nanne and Buffalo Sabres GM Scotty Bowman offered contracts as a free agent. Ciccarelli said he chose Minnesota because it offered a better chance to make the team.
After 48 games in the minors with Oklahoma City, Ciccarelli was called up to the NHL club and never looked back.
That spring, the North Stars went to the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the New York Islanders. Ciccarelli's 14 playoff goals that year remain a rookie record.
"What a turnaround for me," the 50-year-old said. "I just wanted to continue and play in the league.
"You don't think about scoring 600 goals or playing 19 years."
He went to a final once more with Detroit, losing to New Jersey, then was gone to Tampa Bay before the Red Wings ran off two consecutive Cups in 1997 and 1998.
"In our sport, you only get to celebrate the ultimate when you win the Cup," he said. "You don't celebrate winning a division or a conference, so that leaves a lot of people out of celebrating an accomplishment. That's why this is so special."
Devallano was in the Red Wings front office when Ciccarelli played there. At the time, Detroit was in the process of building an organizational system and credo that have become the model for success in the NHL.
Devallano was hired from the Islanders organization to be general manager after Mike Illitch bought the Red Wings from the Norris family in 1982, when Detroit was a bad team playing in a half-empty arena.
"It was a long process," Devallano said. "We didn't win a Cup until my 15th year in Detroit, so it was a long road.
"The thing I'm the most proud of is that I've been able to mentor people like (current GM) Kenny Holland and (assistant GM) Jim Nill, and bring some good young people into the organization who have kept the team very competitive."
Among those overlooked in their first year of eligibility were Joe Nieuwendyk and Eric Lindros, while past stars like Pavel Bure and Doug Gilmour will also have to wait their turn. The selection committee does not comment on why players or builders are passed over.