Hockey’s finest gather for 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame induction
- The six newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame were inducted Monday.
- Here are some of the key moments from the induction speeches of Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, Hayley Wickenheiser, Vaclav Nedomansky, Jim Rutherford and Jerry York:
GUY CARBONNEAU: ‘Never in my wildest dreams’
- Guy Carbonneau called it “an unbelievable honor and true privilege” to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, his plaque having been presented by Bob Gainey, both a template and mentor throughout his career.
“As a kid, I was dreaming about playing in the NHL, dreaming of winning the Stanley Cup, dreaming of scoring a goal in the playoffs. Somehow, as we make our way through the hockey ranks, we learn how to react to different things. When we get drafted, when we play our first game, when we score our first goal, and for the lucky ones, when we finally win the Cup. But being inducted in the Hall of Fame? Never in my wildest dreams.”
- Carbonneau brought his audience up the St. Lawrence River to Sept-Iles, where “like all kids in Quebec, rumor has it I learned to skate before I could even walk.”
- For 10 minutes, he switched seamlessly from English to French and back, thanking his minor and junior hockey teams, coaches, community volunteers, billet families, and the friends and teammates he made on the way to the NHL. He liberally spread credit for his success to coaches and managers and teammates at every level, from the minor pros into the NHL, “especially Jacques Lemaire (of the Montreal Canadiens) for believing what I could do on the ice and molding me into the player that got me here today.”
- Carbonneau recalled being drafted by the Canadiens, having spent his childhood “watching Habs games on TV, looking at [Jean] Beliveau and [Guy] Lafleur’s every move, and of course, witnessed their Stanley Cup parades.” He spoke of moving on to the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, the last stop where he won his third and final championship, and of now carving out a post-hockey career as a broadcaster for French-language RDS.
“I had the chance of playing against great players,” he said, naming a handful. “Guys who made me work and sweat for every inch every night and reminded me that success is not something you achieve in one night, but over the course of many years.”
- Family is the cornerstone of Carbonneau’s life; many were in attendance, and he had special, emotional words of thanks and praise for his wife, Line.
“The good part now,” he finished, “is when people ask me in the street if I’m in the Hockey Hall of Fame, my answer will be yes.”
SERGEI ZUBOV: Defenseman opens up, at last
- Zubov may have said more about himself and his life in hockey in 8 1/2 minutes Monday than he did during his 16-season NHL career.
- Zubov, a two-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman, even cracked a joke about it early in his induction speech.
“I had a reputation not to talk too much before,” Zubov said. “Here’s my chance.”
- He started by talking about the first pair of skates his parents got him.
“A few sizes up,” Zubov said, “but they fit me perfect for the next five years.”
- He recalled his first few years in the game as a child growing up in Moscow, skating on an outdoor rink with former NHL defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev, who eventually showed him the indoor rink.
“Most importantly, it had a Zamboni machine,” Zubov said.
- Zubov and Karpovtsev won the Stanley Cup together with the New York Rangers in 1994.
- Karpovtsev died Sept. 7, 2011, in the plane crash that killed 36 members of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team and seven flight crew members.
“I know he’s watching tonight,” Zubov said, looking up to the ceiling.
- Zubov remembered playing his first game for CSKA Moscow.
- Viacheslav Fetisov, his idol and now fellow Hall of Famer, was his defense partner.
- He said Rangers center Mark Messier showed him what it meant to be a leader and a man, and that defenseman Brian Leetch taught him some tricks he used throughout his career.
- Each has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Messier in 2007 and Leetch in 2009.
- Zubov recalled calling his agent in 1996, after the Pittsburgh Penguins traded him to the Dallas Stars, and almost demanding to be traded again.
“But [then Stars general manager] Bob Gainey did his homework and he sent the most beautiful bouquet of flowers to my wife,” Zubov said. “She said, ‘Maybe we should give it a try.'”
- He’s considered the best defenseman in Stars history.
- He won the Stanley Cup with them in 1999.
- Brett Hull, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee who played for Dallas from 1998-2001, presented Zubov his Hall of Fame plaque.
“I’m still in hockey because I love this game so much, and every time it brings me a lot of joy,” Zubov said.
HAYLEY WICKENHEISER: Still assisting the game of hockey
- The highest-scoring player in women’s history added another assist while being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
- Hayley Wickenheiser gave the mic back to Vaclav Nedomansky, who had forgotten to thank some people, including his wife and kids.
- When she resumed her speech, a theme emerged.
“I wanted to play the game so bad I didn’t care what I had to endure, and looking back, as a little girl at that time, it was a lot,” she said.
- Wickenheiser recalled attending a hockey school in Regina, Saskatchewan. There was no place for her to sleep as the only girl at the school. She was offered an usher’s closet at what was then known as the Regina Agridome.
“I remember I actually developed an ulcer,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous to get hit or to go on the ice. That’s actually where I felt good. It was when I had to come to the rink and change in the bathroom, and then walk through the lobby of all the parents and the comments and the harassment that I would often hear.
“But all of those things gave me thick skin and resilience, and they taught me not to listen to the critical opinions of others.”
- When Wickenheiser joined Canada’s national team at age 15, she was welcomed by older women with more hockey and life experience.
“They gave up their careers, they fought for relevance, and instead of asking what the game could give them, they asked what they could give the game,” she said. “And they changed my life forever.”
- Wickenheiser has given back to the game and changed lives through the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, known as WickFest, which has reached 30,000 players during the past 10 years.
- She closed her speech by mentioning her 5- and 6-year-old nieces.
“They can walk into a rink anywhere in Canada with a hockey bag and a hockey stick over their shoulder, and nobody’s going to look twice,” she said. “They don’t have to cut their hair short and run into the bathroom and try to look like a boy like I had to do to blend in. The road is just a little bit easier.”
JIM RUTHERFORD: Proved doubters wrong
- Jim Rutherford and Gordie Howe were teammates with the Detroit Red Wings in 1970-71.
- In 2014, he was hired as general manager of the Penguins by an ownership group that included Mario Lemieux.
- Howe. Lemieux. Elite company indeed.
- But when it came time for Rutherford to single out one special player who left an imprint on his life, he left no doubt about his choice.
“The most special part of my career was to be part of a team with Sidney Crosby,” Rutherford said during his 13-minute induction speech. “It’s remarkable to be able to watch Sid day in and day out,” he said. “His work ethic, and the impact he has on a team and a city.”
- Under Rutherford’s watch, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, becoming the first team to win the NHL championship in back-to-back seasons since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. On each occasion, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handed the Stanley Cup to Crosby, the Penguins captain.
- Another prestigious feat in Rutherford’s career: He’s the first GM to win the Cup with two teams since the 1967 NHL expansion, the first coming with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
- In the process, there was a player who went along for the ride.
“I’d like to recognize the player who was with me for all three, Matt Cullen,” Rutherford said.
- Cullen was on hand for Rutherford’s special night. So, too, was Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan and assistant Mark Recchi. Three of his former assistant GMs, Ron Francis, Jason Botterill and Bill Guerin, were there as well.
- But the best endorsement that Rutherford could have had was that he was presented with his Hall of Fame plaque by Lemieux.
- It was a moment that Rutherford will never forget, and one he said is obtainable to anyone who sets his or her mind to it.
“My advice to people is: Don’t ever let anyone tell you (that) you can’t do something,” he said. “Because that was the story of my career. And the more they told me that, the more I was determined to do it.”
VACLAV NEDOMANSKY: ‘I feel like a movie star, but I’m not’
- Vaclav Nedomansky took his audience through a remarkable, even harrowing journey from his native Czechoslovakia to North America, detailing the sacrifices to bring his family overseas.
- In fact, the voyage spanned two other speeches, Nedomansky sheepishly having forgotten a few thanks after he strayed from his prepared text.
- Following Guy Carbonneau’s words of acceptance, the last inductee of the night, Hayley Wickenheiser, generously invited him back onto the stage to make things right.
“I feel like a movie star, but I’m not,” Nedomansky had begun.
- That’s debatable because his life is the thing of a movie script.
“I had Russian-style training 11 1/2 months a year with two weeks off. I developed into a decent player,” he said modestly. “Decent numbers helped to bring some interest from North America.”
- Nedomansky spoke with some emotion of having been “in trouble” with the government his last couple years in Czechoslovakia. Early attempts by NHL hockey executives to pry Nedomansky out of his homeland failed.
- Eventually, he boldly would flee Europe, signing with the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association.
“This is the proper time to thank the country of Canada for giving me the chance to live my life the way I would like to live,” Nedomansky said. “Coming here between 1962 and 1974 gave me a chance to see how Canadian hockey looks, played in small cities around the country.”
- Nedomansky thanked the late Ted Lindsay, the Detroit Red Wings general manager who brought him to the NHL.
- He remembered playing against the best of the NHL, finishing an illustrious career with memories that overflow his scrapbook.
- Nedomansky’s induction plaque was presented by Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 1981 inductee Frank Mahovlich, who befriended the newcomer from the moment he arrived in Canada in 1974.
“Coming to Toronto wouldn’t have been so easy if my longtime friend Frank Mahovlich and (wife) Marie hadn’t taken care of me right from the start. I don’t know how they did that. I didn’t speak English.”
- On Monday, the man known as Big Ned showed the strength of his adopted language, thanking so many for helping to shape a new life in a new home.
JERRY YORK: ‘We aren’t coaching pucks, we’re coaching people’
- Jerry York has had a long coaching career at the NCAA Division I level, beginning in 1971 at Clarkson University. But coaching was not always on his mind, he said.
- It was only after being offered a tryout with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Professional Hockey League — a minor league team of the Boston Bruins at the time — by Bruins general manager Harry Sinden after graduating from Boston College in 1967 that York realized a playing career was not in his future.
“This isn’t going to work,” York remembered saying to himself after about four days at the training camp. “I’m nowhere near this talent here. I knew I wasn’t going to play in the NHL, but I liked coaching. I could either be a ref, but I didn’t want any part of that, so I decided to go into coaching.”
- Throughout his coaching career, York said it was never the locations or the campuses themselves that made the three schools he has coached – Clarkson University, Bowling Green State University and Boston College — special. It has always been about the people he has met along the way.
“I love coaching, but I’ve loved the people I’ve coached. We aren’t coaching pucks, we’re coaching people,” York said.
- Whenever he is asked what his best coaching skill is, York said that it’s his ability to surround himself with the right people. He had 12 former assistant coaches in attendance for his induction speech.
“It’s picking the right people to be assistant coaches,” York said. “I’ve had a great string of success with my assistant coaches.”
- Dave Taylor, Brian MacLellan, George McPhee, Rob Blake, Brian Gionta and Johnny Gaudreau were cited as players who stood out to him.
- He pointed out Herb Brooks, who invited him to assist in the selection of the United States Olympic team in 1980.
- York said the best piece of advice he ever received was from Bob Johnson, whose positivity he said he always admired, after winning his first national championship with Bowling Green in 1984.
“‘What’s the best thing you just did?’ he said to me. I said, ‘We’re going to have a parade here at Bowling Green, maybe go to the White House,’ and he said, ‘No, no, you have to sit down and think how did you win it? What type of players did you recruit? What was your size and strength, your hockey sense, how did you mold that team? Do it now and it will serve as your blue print and I guarantee you it will help you win another national championship.’ That was terrific advice.”
- York has since won four more titles with Boston College, in 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012.
Sources & Credits: NHL.com;