Hockey Hall of Fame

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Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly dies at age 91

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TORONTO (AP) — Red Kelly, the defenseman-turned-center whose Hall of Fame career included eight Stanley Cups while playing for Detroit and Toronto, has died. He was 91.

Kelly’s family said in a statement that he died Thursday in Toronto.

Kelly spent nearly 13 seasons with Detroit, helping the Red Wings win four championships from 1950-55. In 1954, he was the first winner of the James Norris Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top defenseman.

After being traded to Toronto during the 1959-60 season, Kelly became a forward and scored at least 20 goals in each of his first three full seasons with the Maple Leafs. Toronto won the Stanley Cup four times from 1962-67.

While with Toronto, Kelly was also a member of Parliament. He was elected as the Liberal MP for York-West in 1962 and again in ’63.

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Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay dies at 93

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Detroit Red Wings legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay died on Monday morning. He was 93 years old.

Lindsay suited up for the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks during his 17-year NHL career. He accumulated 379 goals, 851 points and 1808 penalty minutes in 1068 games.

He also won the Stanley Cup four times with the Wings. (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955), while accumulating 47 goals, 96 points and 194 penalty minutes in 133 postseason games.

“Ted Lindsay was a Detroit Red Wings legend and icon, a hall of fame hockey player and Stanley Cup champion, and an even better person off the ice,” wrote Ilitch Holdings President and CEO and Red Wings Governor Christopher Ilitch in a statement. “He operated with a generous heart and was a great humanitarian, particularly to the Detroit Community and to young disadvantaged children. Ted was a great friend to my parents and to my entire family. He was endeared by legions of Detroit Red Wings fans and to all who played the great game of hockey. On behalf of Marian Ilitch and myself, our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. While he will be sorely missed by us and many others, his positive impact to the game and to our community will live on.”

If you pay close attention to the amount of penalty minutes he racked up throughout his career, you can easily see why he was nicknamed “Terrible Ted”. Despite being just 5-foot-8, Lindsay managed to play a robust style throughout his entire career.

Lindsay made up one third of Detroit’s “Production Line,” as he played left wing next to Sid Abel and Gordie Howe. As successful as he was on the ice, “Terrible Ted” also did wonders for his fellow players away from the rink. Lindsay and Montreal Canadiens great Doug Harvey were responsible for creating the first National Hockey League Players Association back in 1957.

Here’s an excerpt from Executive Director Don Fehr on the death of Ted Lindsay:

“All current and former NHL players lost a true friend with the passing of Ted Lindsay. “Terrible Ted” was one of the fiercest competitors to ever play in the NHL, and he enjoyed great success on the Detroit’s fabled “Production Line”, helping lead the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships. On the ice, Ted Lindsay was one of the best players to ever to put on a pair of skates. But his greatest legacy was off the ice. A true trailblazer in seeking to improve conditions for all players, Ted was instrumental in organizing the original Players’ Association in 1957. All Players, past, current and future, are in his debt. All those who have, and will follow him into the NHL, enjoy improved rights and benefits in large part due to the efforts he made.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement:

“The National Hockey League mourns the passing and celebrates the incomparable life of the legendary Ted Lindsay. One of the game’s fiercest competitors during his 17-season NHL career, he was among its most beloved ambassadors throughout the more than five decades of service to hockey that followed his retirement. In Detroit, he was a civic icon.

“What Lindsay lacked in physical stature, he possessed in intensity, desire and will to win. He played 1,068 NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, scoring 379 goals with 472 assists and 1,808 penalty minutes. He appeared in 11 All-Star Games and was named a First-Team All-Star eight times. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s scoring leader in 1950 and, as a driving force on the dynastic Red Wingsteams of the 1950s – including as the left wing on the famed Production Line – he won the Stanley Cup four times.

“Named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966, he had his No. 7 retired by the Red Wings in 1991 and was named one of the NHL’s Top 100 Players during the League’s Centennial Celebration in 2017. As influential off the ice as he was on the ice, Lindsay was instrumental in the formation of the NHL Players’ Association. In 2010, NHL players displayed their reverence for him by renaming their annual award for the most outstanding player the Ted Lindsay Award.

“There was no one quite like Ted Lindsay. We send our condolences to Ted’s children Blake, Lynn and Meredith, his stepdaughter Leslie, his six grandchildren and his three great grandchildren and join them in marveling at his incredible life.”

In April of 2010, the NHLPA announced that the Lester B. Pearson Award would be named the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted upon by the members of the players’ association. Many consider this to be the more meaningful MVP award.

Lindsay was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Who will make up 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame class?

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The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class has been inducted, so why not look ahead and speculate on who could be part of next year’s group. There are seven months until the phone calls are made informing the group of individuals that will make up the 2019 class, so let’s see who might make the cut and find themselves on stage in Toronto next November.

Per the Hockey Hall of Fame, eligible players “must have not played in a professional or international hockey game during any of the three (3) playing seasons prior to his or her election.” A maximum of four male and two female inductees can be elected in the player’s category a year.

THE LOCK

Hayley Wickenheiser – Where do we begin? The hockey legend owns four Olympic gold medals representing Canada, plus seven more golds from the IIHF World Championships. She was the Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006 and is Canada’s women’s leader in goals (168), assists (211) and points (379) after playing 276 games internationally. 

While playing professionally in Finland, she became the first women to record a point in a men’s league. Wickenheiser also participated in two rookie camps with the Philadelphia Flyers and acted as a guest coach in camps with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. She’s currently the Assistant Director of Player Development for the Leafs.

Wickenheiser will no-doubt become the seventh woman in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

THE POSSIBLES

Daniel Alfredsson – 444 goals, 1,157 points, Olympic gold and silver medals, 1996 Calder Trophy, six-time NHL All-Star, 2012 King Clancy Trophy. This is Alfie’s first year of eligibility and he could be the beneficiary of no strong men’s player headlining the class. A veteran of 18 NHL seasons, Alfredsson has an impressive resume and strong international credentials to make the cut. He’s also known for scoring the first shootout goal in league history, and sported Hall of Fame worthy hairstyles over his career.

Curtis Joseph – 454 wins, 51 shutouts, Olympic gold medal, three-time All-Star. A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Joseph had himself a fine career but unlike Osgood didn’t win a Cup. Is he Hall of Fame class or Hall of Very Good class? Only five goalies, including Martin Brodeur this year, have been inducted into the Hall since 1973. Is it time we see more?

Boris Mikhailov – The man Herb Brooks loved to remind his “Miracle on Ice” team looked like Stan Laurel had a decorated career playing for CSKA Moscow and representing the Soviet Union internationally. Domestically, Mikhailov scored 429 goals for CSKA and recorded 653 points, leading them to 11 Soviet League titles. On the international scene, the long time captain captured two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships. And remember that it’s not the NHL Hall of Fame; it’s the Hockey Hall of Fame.

[2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class changed the game]

Alex Mogilny – He was the first Soviet player to defect west and when he arrived he quickly made his mark. His 76-goal season in 1992-93 tied him for the NHL’s goal scoring lead with Teemu Selanne. He would finish with a 127 points that season. A year later he was named the first European captain in NHL history by the Buffalo Sabres. When it was all said and done, the six-time All-Star scored 473 goals and recorded 1,032 points. He’s a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club, which means you’re a winner of the Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Championship.

Jeremy Roenick – 513 goals, 1,216 points, nine-time All-Star, silver medals at Canada Cup and Olympic Games. 

JR’s elite level status only lasted for a few seasons in the early 1990s. After three-straight 100-point and 45-plus goal seasons, his production settled into the “very good” range in the mid-90s. While he certainly has the “fame” part down with the personality he’s shown during and after his NHL career, as well as his influential role in the 1996 movie “Swingers,” he did not win any individual hardware, so it’s likely he’ll continue to have a tough time finding a way in.

Doug Wilson – 237 goals, 827 points, 1982 Norris Trophy winner, eight-time All-Star, Canada Cup gold. You don’t hear the San Jose Sharks general manager’s name much when these discussions come up. He played during an era dominated by Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, but examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. Top 20 in points by a deenseman, top 10 in points per game. Like Andreychuk in 2017, there are always some surprise inclusions every few years. And here’s a good note from Sean McIndoe of The Athletic: “Here’s the complete list of players who both won a Norris Trophy (peak) and finished in the top 25 all-time in defenseman scoring (longevity), but haven’t been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Doug Wilson, and that’s it.”

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Sergei Zubov – His 771 points puts him in the top 20 all-time among defensemen, as does his 0.72 points per game average. He has the 12th-most playoff points for defensemen with 112. Only Sergei Gonchar has more goals and points than Zubov among Russian blue liners. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner, four-time All-Star, and gold medalist at the Olympics and World Junior Championship. If Nicklas Lidstrom hadn’t dominated so much, how much more love would Zubov have received?

THE REST

Tom Barrasso – 369 wins, 38 shutouts, 1984 Calder Trophy, 1984 Vezina Trophy, 1985 Jennings Trophy, 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup titles, 2002 Olympic silver medal.

Dan Boyle – 163 goals, 605 points, 1,093 games, Olympic gold, World Championships silver, one Stanley Cup, six seasons of 50-plus points.

Patrik Elias – 408 goals, 1,025 points, Olympic bronze, two World Championships bronze medals, two-time Stanley Cup winner, nine 20-plus goal seasons.

Theo Fleury – 455 goals, 1,088 points, seven-time All-Star, gold at the World Junior Championship, Canada Cup and Olympics, silver at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey, 1989 Stanley Cup winner.

[What Willie O’Ree’s Hall of Fame induction means to me]

Sergei Gonchar – 220 goals, 811 points, five-time All-Star, 2009 Stanley Cup title (two more as a coach), silver and bronze medals from the Olympics and World Championships, eight 50-plus point seasons, five straight seasons with at least 18 goals.

Steve Larmer – 441 goals, 1,012 points, 1983 Calder Trophy, two-time All-Star, 1991 Canada Cup gold, 1994 Stanley Cup title, owns third-longest consecutive games streak in NHL history.

Vincent Lecavalier – 421 goals, 949 points, 2004 World Cup of Hockey gold and MVP, 2004 Stanley Cup, 2007 Rocket Richard Trophy, 2008 King Clancy Trophy, four-time NHL All-Star. It’s not quite the trophy case of 2018 inductee Martin St. Louis, so that could probably leave Lecavalier stuck in the Hall of Very Good.

Bernie Nicholls – 475 goals, 1,209 points, three-time All-Star, World Championship silver.

Kent Nilsson – 262 goals, 686 points, two-time NHL All-Star, 1987 Stanley Cup title, 1978 WHA rookie of the year, IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame, Canada Cup and World Championship silver medals. The man who inspired Peter Forsberg:

Chris Osgood – 401 wins, 50 shutouts, three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Jennings Trophy winner.  A good goalie on some great Detroit Red Wings teams for a long time. How much has that hurt his candidacy?

Keith Tkachuk – 538 goals, 1,065 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, Olympic silver medal. Like Roenick, Tkachuk’s numbers are good, but he’s in a range where there are a handful of players with similar stats. While Joe Mullen’s inclusion may help Tkachuk or Roenick at some point in time, right now, he’s just on the outside.

Pierre Turgeon – 515 goals, 1,327 points, Lady Byng Trophy, five-time All-Star. A very good player for a very long time. But other than a Byng, no other individual honors to help him standout from the rest.

Mike Vernon – 385 wins, 27 shutouts, 1996 Jennings Trophy, 1989 and 1997 Stanley Cup titles and 1997 Conn Smythe Trophy, five-time All-Star. Also, key player in one of the league’s most memorable brawls:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

What Willie O’Ree’s Hall of Fame induction means to me

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Growing up in Toronto, I didn’t know much about Willie O’Ree.

It was the pre-Internet era. Mike Bossy, Val James and Grant Fuhr were my guys. Bossy shot right like I did, scored a lot of goals, and won Stanley Cups. The first hockey jersey given to me was an Islanders’ No. 22. The reason why I loved James and Fuhr was because they looked like me. I admired James’ toughness on the ice, always standing up for his Maple Leafs teammates. When I played street hockey with my friends, I got in net and wanted to play just like Fuhr.

As I got older, I learned about Willie’s story and what he meant to the game of hockey, which gave the No. 22 an even greater meaning to myself. So when I heard this past June that he would finally be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, I was thrilled.

I also wasn’t surprised. I always felt it was long overdue. 

***

Last year, I submitted a formal letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee explaining why Willie was worthy of induction. In my mind, he was without a doubt deserving to have a plaque hanging in Toronto. The funny thing is, as I’ve talked to people inside the game and with fans around North America over the years I discovered that many believed he was already a Hall of Famer. If that isn’t a sign that he should be in there I don’t know what is.

I decided to get involved in the campaign because I wanted him to be able to experience that honor. For all the work he’s done, he’d earned that level of recognition. I’m looking at the calendar and now time and age has really come into view. When you’re younger, you think you’re invincible and you can live forever, but as you get older time seems to go by a lot faster. As you watch your kids grow up before your eyes, you also become more aware of time.

Slowly, some of the greats in our game are passing away one at a time.

It really hit home when Pat Burns passed away in 2010. I played for Burnsie in Boston and he was one of my all-time favorite coaches. I remember attending his funeral feeling disappointed that he died without seeing his name there as part of the Hall of Fame. He should have had that opportunity to be recognized while he was still here on this earth. That still bugs me to this day.

Things like that make it hit home that life is finite. I also realized that Willie’s not getting any younger.

Willie’s case for induction was always a no-brainer. He was the first black player in the National Hockey League, but I always thought it was bigger than that. Just take a look at what he’s done in helping to grow the game the last few decades.

The fact that he’s going in as a “builder” is perfect. His passion and love for the game comes across every time you hear him speak.

I definitely don’t think Willie expected to be in the Hall of Fame. He hasn’t put in all this work to be a Hall of Famer. He just did it because he loves the game. He joined the NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force in 1998 and has impacted over 122,000 individuals while working tirelessly to introduce hockey to people from all different backgrounds.

I’ve tried to help spread Willie’s gospel since my playing days. Whether it was the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone, the SCORE Boston Hockey program or Ice Hockey in Harlem in New York City, being part of those programs has been important to me.

I always felt it was important for these young kids to see that I wasn’t just some hockey player they watch on TV and I wasn’t a video game avatar. I wanted to show them that I was real person just like them. I wanted them feel like they could interact with me and could be just like me. Most importantly, I just wanted them to fall in love with the game as much as I did.

And there’s still plenty of work to be done.

I think what we collectively can do is find ways to continue to make hockey more accessible to kids and offer more affordable equipment. Just providing equipment for them to play can go a long way. Try Hockey for Free is something that every NHL city offers. It’s a terrific program providing young people with an opportunity to just give hockey a chance. I’ve never heard anyone say “Well, I tried it and I hated it” and I’ve never heard anyone say “I went to a game and it was brutal.” It’s the exact opposite reaction every time.

The hardest part was always getting someone to try it or trying to convince them to attend a game. The typical excuses I heard were “It’s too expensive” or “There’s not enough players that look like me.” Once they actually come, sit in the seats, and appreciate the speed and athleticism of the players inside the arena, they’re hooked. It happened to me. My parents are from Barbados. I always say that the only time they saw ice was in their drinks. The game of hockey was so foreign to them but they fell in love with it because we grew up in Toronto and it was everywhere.

[2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class changed the game]

There’s over seven billion people on this planet. Only 700 individuals earn the privilege to play in the NHL every single year. The chance that these kids play hockey at a young age and then at the NHL level is very slim. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about just picking up a stick, putting skates on. After that, if you fall in love with the game, anything’s possible.

The NHL is constantly trying to increase hockey’s global footprint in this digital age. As the sport continues to grow it’s not going to come from our hardcore base of hockey fans. They aren’t going anywhere and we can never take them for granted, but it’s going to come from people that look like myself. A popular narrative describing an NHL player when I played was “He grew up on a farm in Western Canada, so he must come from a family with good values and a strong work ethic. He has to be a good person we’re willing to take a chance on.” Well, I always wanted to flip that upside down and suggest what about a player whose parents came to Canada with nothing from Barbados and raised three successful children giving them everything they could ever ask for from scratch? That sounds just as impressive, don’t you think?

We’ll hear about those stories more frequently as the NHL continues to evolve.

***

What Willie did back in 1958, becoming the first black player to play in the NHL, it took a special person to do that. It took a special soul to handle what he had to deal with — the racial slurs, taunts and all the garbage that some fans threw his way because he looked different than everyone else.

He’s such a tremendous ambassador. He’s never had a bad day. No one’s perfect, I understand that, but every time I see Willie he’s always got a smile on his face. He always has time for people. Some people have to fake that, but for him, it comes natural.

Willie’s 83 now, but sometimes I forget how old he is because when we’re out together he’s always wondering what the next spot is that we’re going to and what group of kids we’re going to work with that day. I could never look at him and say that I’m tired of working with young people when I see him working non-stop.

***

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player of all-time. When he was traded to the Kings the entire country of Canada was devastated at the thought of losing a national treasure like the Great One to the United States.

In reality, that was the best thing that ever happened to our game. Gretzky was the seed planted in Los Angeles that was catalyst for the growth in many non-traditional hockey markets around the U.S. that we see today. That trade moved the interest needle of the casual sports fan and put in motion the birth of expansion teams in the West and the Sunbelt states.

Gretz might be the seed, but Willie’s the water that helps it grow.

Willie’s hopping on planes, criss-crossing the country to introduce the game of hockey to kids who might not otherwise get the opportunity. He’s impacting people on a personal level and spreading such a positive message.

It shouldn’t just be people of color that should be proud that Willie’s finally being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Willie never cared what race you were, if you were a boy or girl or even what your sexual orientation might be because we both share the belief that hockey is for everyone.

Willie has always been a Hall of Famer in my eyes and now that it’s official, he’ll be seen that way by everyone else, too.

Anson Carter has served as a studio analyst for NBC Sports Group’s NHL coverage on NHL Live and NHL Overtime, NBCSN’s NHL pre- and post-game shows since 2013. Over the course of his 11 NHL seasons from 1996 through 2007, Carter played in 674 games, producing 202 goals and 219 assists with the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.

NBC’s Pierre McGuire named to Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee

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The Hockey Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday that NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire will be replacing Scotty Bowman on the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection committee. Bowman’s 15-year term limit came to an end on Dec. 31, 2017 after serving for 14 years.

“I am very pleased to welcome Pierre to the Selection Committee, as he brings a wealth of knowledge that will complement the Committee’s deliberations in recognition of excellence in the game of hockey,” said Hall Chairman of the Board Lanny McDonald. “I also extend our utmost appreciation and gratitude to Scotty for his distinguished service and outstanding contributions to the Selection Committee.  Scotty’s incredible understanding and perspective of the game has been a tremendous resource throughout his tenure.”

“To receive a call from Lanny McDonald asking me to accept a position on the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee is something I never thought was possible,” said McGuire. “I am honoured and excited to know that I will be a part of this amazing group of hockey people whose mandate is to uphold the Hall’s standards of excellence in the process of celebrating the game’s greatest players, builders and officials.”

“I would like to thank the Hockey Hall of Fame for allowing me to participate on the Selection Committee for the past 15 years, which I have enjoyed immensely,” said Bowman. “It has been a privilege for me to be associated with so many excellent hockey people and to play a contributing role in the selections for hockey’s highest level of career achievement.”

McGuire joined NBC Sports as an analyst on a full-time basis in 2011.

Prior to his radio and television career, McGuire had a long and successful coaching career. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. Over the next several years, McGuire coached at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. In 1990, McGuire was hired as a scout by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and was a part of the organization’s back-to-back Stanley Cup titles as an assistant coach under NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman.  After the 1992 season, McGuire moved to the Hartford Whalers organization for two years where he served as an assistant coach, assistant general manager and eventually head coach. From 1994 to 1996, McGuire worked as a pro scout and assistant coach in the Ottawa Senators organization.

On Tuesday, June 26, the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee meet to decide the Class of 2018, with the induction ceremony held in Toronto on Nov. 12.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.