The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class was named on Tuesday. The six-person group will include (gasp) Gary Bettman, Martin Brodeur, Jayna Hefford, Willie O’Ree, Martin St. Louis, and Alexander Yakushev. Brodeur, Hefford, St. Louis, and Yakushev were inducted under the players category, while O’Ree and Bettman were inducted as builders.
Let’s take a look at each inductee.
Gary Bettman – One of the most controversial figures in NHL history, Bettman has undeniably made a huge impact on the league and sport as a whole. Whether you like it or not.
Yes, this opens up the distinct possibility that a Hall of Fame speech might draw boos, and the decision is getting roasted as expected on Twitter. Still, Bettman’s served as commissioner since 1993, seeing the NHL expand from a league of 24 teams to 31. There have been plenty of successes to go along with polarizing decisions; this induction reflects all of that.
“This is not something I was focused on and I’m speechless and grateful to be included with this group,” Bettman said, via the HHOF. “I’m particularly honoured to be part of a class that includes Willie O’Ree.”
Martin Brodeur – The true “no-brainer” of this class, Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time wins leader at 691.
One could get as fatigued as Brodeur should have been as the New Jersey Devils’ workhorse goalie rattling off all of his records and milestones. Along with that wins record, Brodeur is tops all-time with a ridiculous 125 shutouts. Brodeur amassed eight 40-win seasons and won at least 30 games for 12 consecutive seasons.
Brodeur won three Stanley Cups with the Devils.
One might associate his career with the word “trap.” Along with helping the Devils concoct one of the most successful neutral-zone trap systems, Brodeur’s passing and puckhandling is credited/blamed with the league adopting “the trapezoid.”
Jayna Hefford – From the women’s category, Hefford’s distinguished career includes four Olympic gold medals (plus a silver) and four championships at the IIHF World Championships.
Hefford generated plenty of individual accolades, as well, as Team Canada notes in her profile:
Hefford ranks third all-time in scoring and games played for Canada’s National Women’s Team. At Salt Lake City 2002, it was Hefford who scored the eventual gold medal-winning goal with just one second to play in the second period of the final against the United States. Amongst her other accolades, Hefford was named Top Forward at both the 2004 and 2005 IIHF Women’s World Championships. She was also named to the Media All-Star team at the 2004 Worlds.
Willie O’Ree – This honor is long overdue.
O’Ree broke the color barrier for the NHL when he suited up with the Boston Bruins in 1958, inspiring countless players. The first black player in league history only played 45 games at this level, but his legacy is incredibly important. It’s about time that he’s in the HHOF.
Martin St. Louis – He went undrafted, and that notorious Olympic snub coming off of a scoring title punched his ticket out of Tampa Bay. For much of his career, Martin St. Louis seemed to deal with slight after slight, yet now he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
It’s easy to see why.
St. Louis won one Stanley Cup, one Hart Trophy, two scoring titles, and was a prolific playoff performer. Even with “the clutch and grab” era diluting some of his numbers, St. Louis scored 391 goals and 1,033 points in 1,134 regular-season games. He also generated 90 points in 107 postseason contests.
Combine those totals with an Olympic gold medal and you can’t ask for a much better resume, especially since he had to earn every chance he ever received. Martin St. Louis won’t need to kick down the door this time, though.
Alexander Yakushev – The Russian hockey icon was “a lanky and elegant scoring machine” during his playing days, standing out during the iconic 1972 Summit Series. He’d go on to win two Olympic gold medals (1972 and 1976) and made an impact on hockey after his playing days ended, even serving as a referee.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.