The NHL announced the 2009 class heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame on
Tuesday. There couldn?t be a better group of five individuals heading to the
Hall in the same class in recent memory. When you think about the ambassadors of
the game, you immediately think of the standout five names who were elected:
Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc
Robitaille and Brian Leetch, along with builder
Between them, there are 10 Stanley Cups. But even more important than the
hardware is the impact they had on their sport.
Let me start with the architect, and often-called ?Godfather of Hockey?, Lou
Lamoriello. I grew up in New Jersey, and thankfully I had an NHL team to follow
and root for. There would be no Devils team had it not been for Lamoriello, who
brought three Stanley Cups and four conference titles to an area heavily partial
to its NFL and MLB teams. Thank you, Lou.
However, his success did not begin with the pro game. Many in New England
know Lamoriello for his fingerprint on the college game. He is one of the
co-founders of the Hockey East Association. Its championship is the Lamoriello
Cup. He was the athletic director and men?s hockey coach at his alma mater,
Providence College, and will forever be heralded as one of the most
well-respected men in the sport.
Boston College and Boston Bruins fans sure know the name Brian Leetch. Simply
put, he is the greatest American-born player in NHL history, and the first U.S.
player to ever win the Conn Smythe as Playoff MVP when the Rangers won the Cup
in 1994. An 18-year NHL career where Leetch played over 1200 games, scored 247
goals, 781 assists and 1,028 points (not including the playoffs of course) makes
this defenseman a household name. No. 2 jerseys will continue to be the most
prominently displayed among Rangers fans at Madison Square Garden. And Bruins
fans should consider themselves lucky that he donned the Black and Gold sweater
in the ?05 season.
Luc Robitaille may have won the cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, but
of his 19 year NHL career, he?ll most be remembered as the highest scoring left
winger in NHL history, and he did it in an L.A. Kings uniform. Drafted in the
ninth round of the 1984 NHL Draft, no one expected a lot out of him. But after
14 seasons in La-La land, this West Coast organization had a franchise player to
build upon. Robataille delivered and is now headed to the Hall.
In recent years, Brett Hull is known by young hockey fans for his brief stint
as a hockey analyst for NBC and the current executive vice president of the
Dallas Stars, who also at times gets caught for his off-the-cuff statements.
(Would anyone else take a chance on Sean Avery besides his
former roommate from Detroit, Brett Hull? I digress ? )
But the Hull name on the back of the hockey sweater is most associated with
this right winger who played 19 seasons in the league where he scored 741 career
goals, placing him third all-time. With two Stanley Cups to boast and now a
Hockey Hall of Fame title, Hull?s reputation off the ice is just a small piece
of the puzzle. He tormented goalies with his lethal shot, and I?m sure every one
of them would agree that Hull is deserving of this honor.
Finally, the Motor City will be an eternal shrine to No. 19 in a Red Wings
sweater. Steve Yzerman is the greatest captain to ever play the game, he?s one
of the most prolific competitors of all time, and he?s not surprisingly heading
to the Hall of Fame. Yzerman retired as the longest-serving captain of any team
in North American major league sports history, and was once voted to be the most
popular athlete in Detroit sports history. Could anyone ever even come close?
He won three Stanley Cups as a player, a fourth as Red Wings VP of operations in
2008, and amassed countless awards over his 22 season NHL career. And he?s now
a first ballot hall of famer.