Chelios, Niedermayer, Shanahan highlight ’13 Hall of Fame induction ceremony

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On Monday night in Toronto, three of the NHL’s best — Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, and Brendan Shanahan —were enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with female player Geraldine Heaney and late ex-Flyers coach Fred Shero.

“I owe everything in my life to my family, friends and this great game of hockey,” Chelios said in his speech.

“I am tremendously privileged to have the career that I did,” Niedermayer said in his. “I will always cherish the experiences I shared with my teammates in victory and in defeat, and am very honored to be inducted into the Hall tonight.”

“It is just so great to feel like a hockey player again this weekend,” Shanahan said. “It’s just so great.

“I miss it.”

Chelios and Niedermayer, both defensemen, cracked the HHOF in their first years of eligibility, while Shanahan, a forward, was voted in on his second year of admissibility after being passed over in 2012. Heaney became just the third woman ever inducted to the Hall — Angela James and Cammi Granato were the others — while Shero, who led the Flyers to a pair of Stanley Cups in the 70s, got in posthumously after decades of being passed over, having last coached in the NHL during the 1980-81 campaign.

Some highlights from the evening:

— Chelios lamented all the time he lost to work stoppages (he was involved with three), saying that labor disputes were his “biggest regrets” while adding that, and the end of the day, “nobody won.”

— Penguins GM Ray Shero accepted for his father, Fred. Among the things the younger Shero touched upon were his father’s admiration and respect for education, innovation and his ongoing search for knowledge. “My Dad’s inclusion tonight, into hockey’s greatest team, would make him extremely proud,” Ray said.

Here’s more, from NHL.com:

“Win today and we walk together forever,” Shero wrote. During an introduction video, Flyers great Bobby Clarke said that quote has become the most famous and all these years later because he was right.

Ray Shero closed his speech by saying the city of Philadelphia has continued to have a love affair with that team, and they truly will walk together forever.

— “As a young girl growing up in Toronto, I never dreamed I’d be standing here getting inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Heaney said during her speech. She also acknowledged her position as a trailblazer in the women’s game, and thanked her mom for always supporting her.

“Thanks for never telling me ‘Girls don’t play,'” Heaney said.

— NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that while he respected all of this year’s inductees, one did stand out above the rest.

“Obviously my personal favorite is Brendan Shanahan, because I think his contributions to the game based on what he’s doing now will even exceed what he did in the 21 years he played,” Bettman said of the league’s current discipline czar, as per NHL.com. “He’s making a real mark on how the game is played, making it safer for current players and generations to come.”

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”