hockey hall of fame 2011

What they’re saying about tonight’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductees

Tonight, the four newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame — Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Ed Belfour — will be enshrined in a red-carpet affair tonight in Toronto. Here’s a smattering of quotes and opinions about the quartet from around the interweb…

This is as good a group as we’ve ever had going into the Hall of Fame.
— Bill Hay, HHOF Chairman.

Joe Nieuwendyk is one of the best draft stories ever. Cliff Fletcher has admitted that, in 1985, he wanted to take a goalie with the Flames’ second-round pick. With three teams selecting in front of the Flames, all of the keepers on his wish list were still available. New Jersey took Sean Burke 24th and Vancouver grabbed Troy Gamble 25th. That left one goalie (Kay Whitmore) who Fletcher liked, and, of course, Hartford took him 26th. With no one at that position remaining on their list, the Flames took Nieuwendyk. I love that.
— Elliotte Friedman, CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Howe was nothing less than one of the greatest defensemen of his generation, and it was he, perhaps more than anyone else, who made the Flyers of the 1980s a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Howe’s play on the Philadelphia blue line looked an awful lot like Nicklas Lidstrom’s does on the Detroit blue line: near flawless through the use of positioning rather than body checking, virtually penalty-free, and with an effective attacking component that made him doubly good.
— Jeff Z. Klein, New York Times.

Here is the moment that tells you almost everything you need to know about Belfour, who will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night in Toronto. In his first week at the Future Pro Goalie School in Strathroy, Ontario, [Belfour enrolled in 2004 after a playoff loss to Philly] Belfour was watching the other young netminders get ready for a 45-minute off-ice run on a nearby track. He asked [school operator Steve] McKichan if he could join them.

McKichan looked at Belfour, a man with a Stanley Cup ring, more money than he could ever spend, a place in the Hall of Fame waiting for him and wondered, “Seriously, dude?” Sure, McKichan said, go ahead.

Off they went. With about a lap and a half to go, some kid from Boston was leading the group and Belfour started a charge. In a mad dash, Belfour crossed the finish line ahead of the teenager.

“Eddie walked over to me and puked on my shoes,” McKichan recalled. “He looked up at me and said, ‘That kid will never beat me.’ And then he walked back into the arena. … He could barely talk. That, to me, is Ed Belfour.”
— Scott Burnside,

Regardless of the outcomes, the lasting impression of Gilmour come playoffs was of Superman on skates, something the late Pat Burns once confirmed when he told reporters that Gilmour skipped an optional skate because he had to “go back to his planet and rest.”

The post-season stories emerging from the dressing room read like warrior’s tales with an exhausted Gilmour, reduced to 150 pounds, replenishing lost fluids intravenously and receiving injections to dull the pain in his feet.

Dogged. Determined. That was Dougie.
— Rob Sinclair, CBC.

Hay is right about this being a really good HHOF class. It’s not like 1983 (Ken Dryden, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita) or 1979 (Bobby Orr, Henri Richard) — this group will be defined by its depth rather than individual superstars. Gilmour and Belfour were the hyper-competitive warriors, Nieuwendyk the consummate winner and Howe the under-appreciated star and son of hockey royalty.

That said, 2012 is primed to be an equally impressive class. Those that become eligible next year include Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, Gary Roberts, Claude Lemieux…joining the likes of Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Dave Andreychuk and Adam Oates as guys that were overlooked in 2011.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”