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Friday, 18 November 2011

HHOF 2011 Inductees

 Four exceptional hockey players were inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame Monday Night, one of the greatest individual honors for anyone who's ever "laced 'em up." It's also a great way to cap their historic careers in the league. Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe and Ed Belfour, all had the honor of having their names, etched forever in the HHOF. So lets have a moment to remember their careers, I was lucky enough to see 2 of the 4 players play in the NHL Belfour and Nieuwendyk with the Leafs.

Let's start with Doug Gilmour, a legend of hockey here in T.O. Gilmour is a good Canadian boy, who made his way up through the ranks in the OHL, played for 7 NHL teams. He's best known for his time with the Leafs and the Sabres but won 1 Stanley Cup early in his career with Calgary. Gilmour was quite an amazing hockey player; he won the Frank J. Selke trophy and was nominated for the Hart award. He shattered 3 records in his 1992-1993 season with the Leafs; most points in one season (127), most assists in one season (95), and most assists in one game (6). On January 31, 2009, the Leafs raised Gilmour's #93 jersey to the rafters, symbolizing the retirement of his jersey. Gilmour became the 17th Leaf to have their number retired. He was dubbed "killer" for his physical play on the ice, and was feared and respected by all. Gilmour started his NHL career in 1983 and retired in 2003, quite a career!  What is probably the most amazing thing is how Gilmour came to the Leafs, he was part of a blockbuster deal that featured 10 players, and is still the largest deal in NHL history. Gilmour along with defensemen Jamie Macoun and Ric Nattress, prospect Kent Manderville and goaltender Rick Wamsley all came to the Leafs in exchange for; Gary Leeman, Russian defenseman Alexander Godynyuk, goaltender Jeff Reese, defenseman Michel Petit and enforcer Craig Berube. The deal was also the most lopsided by statistics, as the Leafs got the much better half of the deal. Gilmour was made captain during the lock-out season of 2004. “He’s a hell of a prankster,” said Kingston Frontenacs head coach Todd Gill, Gilmour’s one-time teammate and current employee. “You would never know it by his interviews, where he’s very serious. But he’s the total opposite of that when you get him into a room. “The best [prank] that I remember is when we were in Minnesota, and it’s a long way up the stairs to the dressing room from the ice surface. Me and Dougie were going up the stairs, and we see Mike Foligno going up. So we ran into the dressing room and just above the door — we cracked it open, put a piece of tape in it and put a bunch of cups of water on top of it, so that when Mike opened the door he would get a soak. Unfortunately, [Maple Leafs head coach Pat Burns] came in and not Mike. We just put our heads in between our knees like we were tying our skates.” Gilmour can put the final stamp on his historic NHL career, after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, not bad for a kid who never got drafted. “People said I was too small. ‘You’ll never have a chance.’ I have to say thank you because if it wasn’t for them saying that, I maybe wouldn’t [have worked] as hard as I had to,” Gilmour said.

Joe Nieuwendyke is up next, flip what can I see about Nieuwendyke? He had quite the career, and it's been capped off with an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. First of all, he won 3 Stanley Cup with 3 different teams in 3 different decades! (1980,1990, and 2000) He is one of 9 players to win hockey's holy grail with 3 different teams; (Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils). Wow 3 Stanley cups, I don't know what to say, that is just amazing, very impressive, but his career did not stop there. He also won; a Conn Smythe, King Clancey memorial, and a Calder memorial plus an Olympic gold medal. Not a bad trophy case for a guy who was known as one of the best face-off guys in the NHL. Nieuwendyke was drafted 27th overall in 1985, he scored 51 goals his rookie season, only one of a handful of players to do so. During his 20 year NHL career Nieuwendyke wore a jersey for 5 different teams; Leafs, Stars, Devils, Flames and Panthers. By the end he amassed; 564 goals, 562 assists and 1126 points over 20 seasons. Nieuwendyke and Gary Roberts have been life long best friends, they started their careers together in Calgary, then were reunited in Toronto and then went to Florida together to finish out their careers. A funny story that Nieuwendyke likes to tell; a humorous story about the controversial Dallas Star Stanley Cup victory in Buffalo in 1999.  All of the Dallas team were aware that there was going to be some controversy about how the goal was scored with Brett Hull's skate clearly in the Buffalo crease, which we all remember was against the rules that season and called often. They chose to celebrate like they had won the Stanley Cup and who knows how that might have impacted any possible thoughts of reversing Hull's overtime marker. On getting inducted into the HHOF Nieuwendyk said, "It's what makes it such a special place. It doesn't discriminate. I think the common bond with a lot of these faces that I see on the walls, especially the recent ones that I have some history with, is a real genuine passion and a love for the game and high competitive spirit in all of us."

Mark Howe, proved that he is much more than Gordie Howe's kid. He will always be one of the best two defencemen from the 1980's. Howe played 16 seasons in the NHL, unfortunately he never got to lift the Stanley Cup, he made it to the finals 3 times and was a Norris Trophy runner-up 3 times as well. He was drafted 25th in 1974 and won the plus/minus award from the NHL in 1986. He was fortunate enough to play with his father and brother in 1973 in the WHA. "I think every kid growing up who loves the game of hockey wants to be a player," Howe said. "You play in the driveway, you dream of winning Stanley Cups, you dream of winning Conn Smythe trophies, you dream of everything. The only thing you never dream of is making the Hall of Fame so this is beyond any dream that I've ever had." Howe retired in 1993-1994. Mark Howe selected Blackhawks legend and Hall of Fame member Bobby Hull to induct him. Howe told about how gracious Hull was to all the Howe boys when they were kids even though he and his Chicago team were archrivals of their dad's Detroit team in the old six-team NHL. Hull even took the young Howe boys on a couple of memorable tours of the Blackhawks dressing room. Howe is currently the director of pro scouting for the Detroit Red Wings.

Last but certainly not lease Ed Belfour, a goaltender that I loved to watch play the game. Belfour, like Gilmour was un-drafted and signed as a free agent. Eddie the Eagle, is widely regarded as on of the elite goaltenders to ever play the game. Belfour is ranked 3rd in all time wins as a goaltender with 484. Belfour won 1 Stanley cup in his career (see above, NO GOAL) and added; 2 Vezina trophies, a Calder memorial trophy, 4 William M. Jennings Trophy's, and a Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award as well as being invited to 10 all-star games, and hold the record for most wins in a postseason (16). He added a Olympic gold medal from 2002 and a Canada Cup medal in 1991. One of his best seasons was with the Chicogo Blackhawks in 1990 in which he started 74 games and won 43 of them while only losing 19 (7 ties) with a GAA 2.47 and a .910 save percentage. In 18 seasons his 484 win came in 963 games with a 2.50 GAA and .906 save percentage. He also recorded 76 shutouts. He is most  famous for the eagle design on his goalie mask "I've always liked the eagle as a bird. It is a strong figure representing individuality, leadership, confidence, and outstanding vision. Its hunting and aggression are characteristics I admire, so when I was thinking of what I wanted on my mask, the eagle was a natural choice" due to the design on his helmet, his nickname in the NHL was "the Eagle" He was inducted into the hockey hall of fame, in his first year of eligibility which in its self is quite a feat. Belfour had to run out and buy a new suit, for the ceremony, "I still have some old suits, but they don't fit," Belfour said. Nieuwendyk shared a few funny stories from his days, of playing with the Eagle.
"There was a lot of stuff that went with Eddie," said Nieuwendyk, now the general manager of the Stars. "It was the traveling skate sharpener especially for Eddie, it was the trainers going to get a special orange juice in the city that we were in for Eddie. All of these types of things that people can't even imagine existed, but they actually did. "We lived with it and no one really blinked an eye at it because we knew he was going to be ready and stop the pucks for us.

In my opinion the four men that were inducted into the hall, are quite worthy of the honor, they were a big part of hockey history, and are still helping with the game we see today. They all broke records and shattered expectations thrust upon them when they entered the league.  These four are now, forever, with the best of the best and join a a list of distinguished players that currently reside in the hall. There are currently 362 people in the hall and 247 of them are players. This certantly caps of the career of these fine hockey players, being inducted into the hockey hall of fame, your name perminatly marked in the history of the game we all love!

PS; super sorry this blog was late getting published, it was originally due out on Wednesday night, but due to some technical issues, it got delayed until today! Sorry for the wait folks!

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