Blog Entry

The no-brainer class

Posted on: June 23, 2009 7:11 pm
During the Stanley Cup Finals, longtime Philadelphia hockey writer Tim Panaccio was working on a story about Fred Shero, the mastermind before those Broad Street Bullies teams that changed the face of hockey during their mid-70s hey day. Tim was telling me how surprised he was that people he interviewed didn't realize the late great coach was not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

They just generally assumed he was.

I thought about that when Lou Lamoriello's name was announced as part of the 2009 nominations because the players who will be inducted with him in November -- Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille -- were all obviously automatics in their first year of eligibility.

Yzerman certainly is the headliner of the group and arguably one of the quintessential franchise players of all time. He was a first round draft pick by Detroit and spent his entire 22-year career with the Red Wings, finishing as the NHL's eighth all time scorer despite modifying his game to focus on defense in his later years.  Now he's in Detroit's front office and the general manager of Team Canada's entry into next year's Olympics.

Of course everyone here has the right credentials -- Hull finished third all time in goals; Robitaille scored more than any left winger in history; and Leetch won two Norris Trophies and the playoff MVP award when the Rangers broke their 54-year drought with the 1994 Stanley Cup. This is a great class, one that rivals the 2007 group and a few others (think Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion in 1972; Bobby Hull, Ken Dryden, Stan Mikita in 1983; Guy Lafleur, Tony Esposito, Brad Park in 1988) for the title of best ever.

So it seemed anti-climactic when the new names were announced one by one on a HHOF conference call today. But when Yzerman let it slip during his thank you that the New Jersey Devils general manager was going into the Builders' Division, it felt like a double-take moment. Probably for Lamoriello too, since he was waiting to be announced by the Hall chairman who was hosting the call.

"It was a complete surprise," Lamoriello said moments later about his nomination, not Yzerman's faux-pas.

For me too. I just assumed Lamoriello was already in the Hall because guys like him usually are. In many ways the Hall is an old boys club run at the discretion and in secrecy by the induction committee, who tend to honor themselves in that Builders' section. And Lamoriello is one of the NHL's most influential and respected executives, so why wouldn't he be there?

Lamoriello took over a franchise Wayne Gretzky once called "Mickey Mouse" and created a program that has produced perennial contenders for nearly two decades, winning three Stanley Cups.  Before that, Lamoriello was athletic director and hockey coach at Providence College, and played an instrumental role in creating the NCAA powerhouse division, Hockey East.  And Lamoriello served as GM when Team USA beat Canada for the 1996 World Cup gold, a little appreciated title that was the biggest boost for the sport at the grass roots level in the the United States since the Miracle on Ice.

The World Cup win proved that the U.S. produced pro players on par with anyone else's and sparked an amateur development process that has made it common for the number of Americans drafted in recent first rounds to be in double digits. So it's actually fitting that when Lamoriello finally got his due, it was alongside Hull and Leetch, who were both key cogs in the 1996 World Cup team.

"For sure Brett and I were part of a group that were old enough to remember 1980 and to be spurred on that from a country standpoint," Leetch said.

And now they'll all be going into the Hall together on Nov. 9 in what is the best collection of American talent inducted at one time.

"Over my career, I've been fortunate to have been associated with great players and coaches, and this recognizes their contributions to my career," Lamoriello said. "Its humbling."

Just a surprise that it took so long.

Category: NHL

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 4:09 am

The no-brainer class

What's with Gordie Howe in 1972???

Since: Apr 22, 2008
Posted on: June 24, 2009 3:49 pm

Wes is a NO Brainer

You have no idea about hockey, you wrote this article because you have seen these players play before that's all....punk.

Since: Aug 22, 2008
Posted on: June 24, 2009 12:48 pm

The no-brainer class

Great player. Great team. Great franchise. My hat's off to Steve Y.

But I gotta throw this out there too: As far as greatest Captain goes, I nominate another HOF'er in Mr. Raymond Bourque. Raymond too was a great player on SOME great teams who played all but 1+ seasons with the Bruins for a complete bastard of an owner.

NOT trying to take away from Yzerman in any way, his contributions to the team and the game are legendary. But I can't see where he's got anything on Ray Bourque. After all, Raymond even changed the shape of his position.

Both great stories. Congrats to SY; he's at the head of his HOF class.

Since: Oct 29, 2006
Posted on: June 24, 2009 11:25 am

The no-brainer class



Wish he would have stayed with the Pens longer

Since: Jun 16, 2009
Posted on: June 24, 2009 10:08 am

The no-brainer class

Yzerman - The Captain! The epitome of class. I miss the old days of hockey.

Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: June 24, 2009 7:50 am

The no-brainer class

Boy, what a class of inductees.  Congrats to all you fans of these greats, Steve Yzerman, Brent Hull, Luc Robitaille and Brian Leetch.  I was really afraid that Luc and Brian would not get in.  I have always hated the Rangers since I am an Islanders fan, but have always liked Brian Leetch.  This group has a great amount of class.  I was also suprised to see Robitaille get in on his first shot.  Even though I felt he deserved it, I thought that some one would mess it up.  Congrats!!!!

Since: Aug 13, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2009 11:41 pm

The no-brainer class

Yep; this was a no-brainer class all right.  Even Wes Goldstein couldn't have screwed this vote up.Laughing

quando omni flunkus moritati

Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: June 23, 2009 10:15 pm

The no-brainer class

Yzerman....greatest Captain of all time. Good story.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2009 8:12 pm

The no-brainer class

w00t My Hero Steve Yzerman!!!  Congratulation Stevie Y!!!  Well Deserved!

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