With all the excitement of NHL free agency and the recent spate of trades, many fans may have missed the announcement of this year’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. For those of you who may not be quite up to date, let’s recap the nominees who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming November.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur of Montreal, Quebec definitely isn’t a surprise inductee as he’s the all-time leader in regular-season wins with 691 and shutouts at 125. He’s one of just 15 netminders who managed to record at least a dozen shutouts during a season and posted a 2.24 career goals-against average along with a save percentage of 91.9. Brodeur won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils while winning 113 postseason games and posting a 90.9 save percentage in the playoffs. He won the Jennings Trophy five times for the league’s lowest goals-against average and took the Vezina Trophy home four times for being the NHL’s best goalie. Brodeur was nominated to seven All-Star Teams overall, was one of just seven goalies to be named rookie of the year since 1967 and added two Olympic gold medals to his collection of awards.
Right-winger Martin St. Louis of Laval, Quebec was deemed by many experts to be too small for the NHL and was never drafted. But he proved the naysayers wrong by scoring 391 goals and 642 assists for 1,033 points in his 1,134 regular-season contests for the Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. St. Louis took home the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP in 2004 as well as the Ted Lindsay Award as the best player in the NHL voted on by his peers. He led the league in scoring twice and helped Tampa win the Stanley Cup in 2004. St. Louis scored a minimum of 25 goals in 10 different seasons and took the Lady Byng Trophy home on three occasions as the league’s most sportsmanlike player. The five-time NHL All Star also helped Canada win the 2014 Olympics and the 2004 World Championships. St. Louis added another 42 goals and 48 assists for 90 points in 107 playoff games.
Eighty-two-year-old Willie O’Ree of Fredericton, New Brunswick was inducted as a builder and was the first African-American player in the NHL. He made his debut in January of 1958 for the Boston Bruins and would end up playing just 45 NHL contests. However, after breaking the colour barrier O’Ree also went on to play in over 1,000 games in the minor leagues even though he was legally blind in his right eye. He won the 2003 Lester Patrick Trophy for helping develop the sport of hockey across America and in 2008 was named to the Order of Canada. O’Ree led the Western Hockey League in scoring twice and posted over 800 points during his pro career.
Alexander Yakushev of Moscow, Russia was one of the best left-wingers in the world during his career and proved it while playing against Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. Yakushev starred for the Soviet Union and led the team in scoring during the eight-game event with 11 points from seven goals and four assists. He played with Moscow Spartak during the 1960s and 70s and once notched 50 goals during a 44-game season. He won a pair of Olympic gold medals as well as seven more golds at the World Championships. After hanging up his skates, Yakushev coached the Soviet national squad and Moscow Spartak and also worked as a referee.
Trenton Ontario’s Jayna Hefford was a right-winger who began playing hockey at the age of six years old and set several scoring records while playing minor hockey in Kingston, Ontario. Hefford later starred for the women’s team at the University of Toronto before playing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League where she became the first player to score 100 points in the league. She also won seven gold medals in various international tournaments while suiting up for Canada along with four Olympic gold medals. Hefford scored the gold-medal winner at the 2002 Olympics and racked up a dozen points in five outings at the 2010 Games. The CWHL trophy for the league’s most outstanding player is named after Hefford.
Current NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman of Queens, New York will be inducted as a builder. The 66-year-old has been running the league since 1993 and has added 10 expansion franchises since then. Under his watch, the NHL now generates over $3 billion U.S in revenue per year. Bettman has also helped build the NHL brand across the world by signing numerous television broadcasting contracts across Europe and other parts of the world. He’s also organized regular-season and preseason contests across the globe and came up with an assistance plan to help out franchises that were struggling to survive. Bettman is the longest-serving commissioner in professional sports and has led the NHL to its most lucrative period in history.