The greatest women’s player in the history of the game was selected for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame Tuesday, the same day she was writing an exam University of Calgary’s medical school. Wickenheiser heads a class that includes Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Jim Rutherford and Jerry York.
Hayley Wickenheiser|Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
This had to be a first for the Hockey Hall of Fame. It turns out that Hayley Wickenheiser could not participate in the conference call with the other five inductees because she was writing an exam at University of Calgary’s medical school and could not access her phone. Obviously her professor in that course is not a hockey fan, otherwise he or she would have scheduled the exam for another day. That’s how much of a Hall of Fame slam-dunk Wickenheiser is for the Class of 2019.
Hockey players do not get inducted wearing the uniform of one team the way baseball players do, but if she did, the most appropriate one would be that of Superwoman. Her on-ice accomplishments are too numerous to mention. They really are. So we’ll just settle on her being the greatest player in the women’s game to ever lace up skates. And one of the most driven. Playing on one ankle at the age of 35, Wickenheiser was the best player on the ice in Canada’s dramatic overtime win in the 2014 gold medal game in Sochi. That was Wickenheiser’s last of four Olympic gold medals with the Canadian team.
And now, aside from studying medicine, she’s also a development coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, on the committee that has distributed the funds to the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and runs Wick Hockey, a worldwide grassroots hockey initiative, all which will one day likely land her a spot on the Multitaskers’ Hall of Fame.
With Wickenheiser as its centerpiece, the Class of 2019 is a good reminder that it’s the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame. After 33 years of waiting, Vaclav Nedomansky was inducted, largely based on his international play with the former Czechoslovakian national team. And Jerry York, the all-time winningest coach in the history of NCAA hockey and the architect of five national titles, also received the call as a builder.
You could certainly argue with some of the choices the selection committee made – and ask precisely what it has against the likes of Alexander Mogliny and Theo Fleury – but it is certainly a well-rounded group. Also inducted were Guy Carbonneau and Sergei Zubov in the players’ category and Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford as a builder.
Here’s the skinny on each of them:
Why she’s in: Because she’s the GOAT.
Year of eligibility: 1
Legacy: A trailblazing player in the women’s game who inspired thousands of young girls to play the game and did it at a incredibly high level for and incredibly long time.
Comment: “Sorry, I’m writing an exam at the moment and I can’t talk. Sorry, professor, it’s just the friggin’ Hockey Hall of Fame calling. I don’t suppose there are any other people writing this exam today who just got inducted into the friggin’ Hockey Hall of Fame, am I right?” (Not entirely accurate.)
Why he’s in: Because he was the best 200-foot player of his era and he has three Selke Trophies and three Stanley Cups to show for it. Carbonneau was a huge offensive producer in junior hockey – he had 323 points in his final two seasons with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens – and transformed himself into a spectacular defensive player.
Year of eligibility: 17
Legacy: One of the greatest defensive players of all-time and an outstanding leader.
Comment: “People thought when I did become a defensive player, I sacrificed a lot of offense. I see it the other way. It gave me chances to put points on the board.”
Why he’s in: Because he was one of the more underrated offensive producers from the blueline and saved some of his greatest work for the playoffs. He scored 117 points in 164 playoff games, 19 in 22 for the Rangers when they won the Cup in 1994.
Year of eligibility: 7
Legacy: A two-time Cup winner and power-play wizard who was an elite puck distributor.
Comment: “There are many moments in a career, like Stanley Cups, but this is truly special. You realize you’ve done something in your life that you can be proud of.”
Why he’s in: Because in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was every bit as good as the great players the Soviet hockey factory was producing. He was a dominant force for the Czechoslovaks and helped the country to a shocking win over the Soviets in the 1972 World Championship.
Year of eligibility: 34
Legacy: An international hero whose exploits were overshadowed by the Soviets’ Big Red Machine. He was also the first player ever to defect from Eastern Europe and would have been a very good NHL player but didn’t start playing in the league until he was 33. He had a 50-goal season with the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association in 1975-76.
Comment: “I had no language, at first it was very difficult. But with the help of my friends, I was able to play on the ice, scoring 40 goals (in the WHA).”
Why he’s in: Because he’s one of the greatest U.S. hockey college coaches of all-time. His five NCAA championships are tied for second all-time, one behind Vic Heyliger of the University of Michigan.
Year of eligibility: N/A
Legacy: York is signed to coach at Boston College through next season, which would give him 46 years of coaching college hockey.
Comment: “My very first recruit was Dave Taylor. With Bowling Green, there was George McPhee, Rob Blake and at BC I’ve had Brian Gionta, Brooks Orpik, Marty Reasoner, Johnny Gaudreau. They make you a better coach when you have those players.”
Why he’s in: Because he’s only the second person in NHL history to win a Cup with two different NHL teams as a GM. He also won an Ontario League title with the Windsor Spitfires and has been named GM of the Year in the NHL.
Year of eligibility: NA
Legacy: In a business that chews up executives and spits them out, Rutherford has endured, in part because he earned the trust of former Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, but also because he has never been afraid to make bold moves.
Comment: “When I retired as a player I met (Karmanos) through someone I knew and he asked me to run a specialty goalie school. And it was very successful and he came and watched it and it was the week before Labor Day and he asked me to come and see him the day after Labor Day and he offered me a job that started a 30-year relationship with him. He was very loyal to me and I learned a lot from him. His goal was always to get an NHL team and he said to me, ‘Just stick with me and we’ll get one,’ and we did and won a Cup together and both made our way to the Hall of Fame.”
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