Cross Checks: 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame

Hall night: Seen and heard from Toronto

November, 14, 2011

Here are some news and notes from Monday's Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Toronto:

Howe's moment

Mark Howe had some powerful words at the beginning of his Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech Monday night, when he implored those in power to ensure that the families left behind from September's KHL plane crash are taken care of monetarily.

Howe lost good friend and former blue-line partner Brad McCrimmon, who was in his first season as coach of the Lokomotiv team.

Howe ended his speech by pulling on a No. 9 Gordie Howe Red Wings jersey. What a special moment.

Of course, Howe shared the spotlight with his famous father, Mr. Hockey, all weekend long. Hey, he's used to it.

"As you see, we're doing interviews and he has a much bigger crowd than I," Mark Howe said Monday morning, gesturing at the larger scrum of media around his dad about six feet away. "The first day in the hotel, 50 people came up and asked for autographs. They all asked for Gordie while Marty and I just sat there.

"That comes with the territory, that's so much of what my mother helped her four children to deal with. ... He's aware of what goes on, he wants me to deserve all the credit and get all the credit and be honored for this weekend. He doesn't want to distract from that. It means far more to me having him around than anything else."

CuJo in the house

Former star goalie Curtis Joseph attended the Hall induction gala Monday night after getting a ticket from none other than Doug Gilmour.

"I never played with him, but I did help him get to the Hall of Fame," Joseph said with a laugh. "So I thought I should be here."

Joseph, of course, was referring to the dramatic overtime goal Gilmour scored on Joseph in the Toronto-St. Louis playoff series in 1993.

Belfour's call

Hockey Hall officials couldn't get a hold of Belfour in June to tell him of the great news. He was napping. He plays defense in a men's hockey league in Dallas and still naps on game days.

"I usually still take a pregame nap even though it's just men's league," he said with a laugh Monday. "I was taking a nap that day and no one could get a hold of me. Somehow they got a hold of my brother-in-law. He had a key for the house and came in and woke me up. It was pretty neat."

Much was made about Belfour's leather jacket/no suit approach to the pregame ceremony Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. Well, obviously someone got to him because he was wearing a suit Monday. He admitted he had to buy a shirt and tie for the ceremony while in Toronto. He says he doesn't wear suits any more.

"Nope, not anymore, just for special occasions," said Belfour. "I still have some old suits, but they don't fit."

Gilmour, the prankster

Doug Gilmour was a Jekyll-and-Hyde character during his playing days -- fierce as anyone on the ice, and a total jokester off of it. His fellow inductee Joe Nieuwendyk talked about showing up to the rink when they were teammates in Calgary and Gilmour had put shoe polish on the toilet seats in the dressing room.

For Gilmour, he needed that comical side as a release because of how intense he was during games.

"And I'm glad I'm not playing now because I know I wouldn't get by with some of the things I did on the ice," Gilmour said. "Yes, there's a lot of things I did wrong out there, but that's how I had to play. But I'd come to the rink at 4 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. game and I'd just think of what I needed to do to get everybody [practical jokes]. I was easy-going until warm-up. Once warm-up started, it was game on."

Ringing endorsement

Nieuwendyk was asked about his Dallas Stars and their surprising start during his media availability Monday. The Stars GM said it starts behind the bench with rookie coach Glen Gulutzan.

"I truly believe the coach we have now is going to be a like a Barry Trotz, a 10-year guy that we're going to be talking about," said Nieuwendyk.

High praise, indeed.

Gretzky's special message

Our good friend and colleague Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun was inducted into the Hall on Monday as the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Award. At the end of the media luncheon honoring Jones and Detroit Red Wings color man Mickey Redmond (Foster Hewitt Award winner this year), host Gord Stellick read an email Wayne Gretzky sent earlier in the day in honor of Jones.

    Over the years, the game of hockey has had the good fortune to have great players go into the Hall (Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Rocket Richard), and some of the best coaches ever (Toe Blake, Glen Sather and Scotty Bowman)," Gretzky wrote. "But it has been just as important for the game to have people be able to talk about the game to the average hockey fan who loves the game as much as anyone.

    People like Foster Hewitt, Danny Gallivan, Red Fisher brought the game to life each and every day. That is exactly what Terry Jones has done each and every day for the hockey fans of Edmonton. He lived and died every playoff win and loss, gloating after big wins and reassuring Oiler fans after a tough loss the next game would be better. An honor well deserved; congratulations on being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Welcome, it's a wonderful place to hang your hat.

    Your friend,
    Wayne Gretzky

2011 Hall class all about perseverance

November, 14, 2011

TORONTO -- Ed Belfour went undrafted by the NHL.

Doug Gilmour went undrafted one year before going in the seventh round the next year.

Joe Nieuwendyk didn't think he was good enough for major junior hockey in Canada, so he went to Cornell.

Mark Howe played the first six years of his pro career with the now-defunct World Hockey Association.

Yet all four made their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame, as their long and prosperous journeys were made official with Monday's inductions.

[+] EnlargeHockey Hall
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThis year's Hall class (from left): Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Ed Belfour.

This year's class is the ultimate example of perseverance.

"I think it shows a lot of character and determination, love for the game and passion for sure," Belfour said Monday, referring to all four inductees, after slipping on his Hockey Hall of Fame induction ring and jacket. "When you have that, I don't think it matters where you play; people are going to recognize that you love the game and you're a winner. People recognize that and want to help you get to the next level."

It just goes to show the Hall isn't just for first-round picks and can't-miss hot shots.

"It's what makes it such a special place," Nieuwendyk said. "It doesn't discriminate. I think the common bond with a lot of these faces that I see on the walls, especially the recent ones that I have some history with, is a real genuine passion and a love for the game and high competitive spirit in all of us."

Gilmour gained entry into the NHL by accepting a checking role in St. Louis. He thinks back to that moment, and never in a million years did he think it would lead to his enshrinement into Hockey Hall.

"I [was] 5-10 and maybe a buck-55 [155 pounds] at the time," Gilmour said Monday. "[Former Blues coach] Jacques Demers said, 'Can you check?' I said, 'OK,' because all I wanted to do was stay there. I didn't want to go to the minors. To say at that very point where I'd be today? No, I would have never expected that."

While Gilmour was unsure of his NHL job early on, Nieuwendyk was even less confident, which is why he laughed when asked what his reaction would have been in his Cornell days had someone predicted his HHOF induction.

"I wouldn't have believed it," the Dallas Stars' GM said. "It's funny, I always had a little bit of self-doubt. I think that was maybe a healthy thing; it kept me humble and kept me focused, but I wasn't big enough probably to go the Ontario Hockey League. I know that sounds crazy, but I didn't have many options. I thought maybe I'd be a junior varsity player at Cornell, and when I got drafted by the Flames and was leaving school my first thought was, 'Where's the farm team?' I went through a lot of that [self-doubting], but once you have a taste of success and you get confident in your own abilities, the sky was the limit."

Howe remembers his father Gordie's HHOF induction in 1972, and he surely didn't think at that moment he'd be joining him 39 years later.

"I think every kid growing up who loves the game of hockey wants to be a player," Mark Howe said Monday. "You play in the driveway, you dream of winning Stanley Cups, you dream of winning Conn Smythe trophies, you dream of everything. The only thing you never dream of is making the Hall of Fame, so this is beyond any dream that I've ever had."

Mr. Hockey was plenty proud Monday, saying Mark's induction meant more to him than his very own.

"It's a tremendous honor," Gordie Howe said Monday. "To heck with Gordie Howe, it's Mark Howe."

And to heck with all of those who didn't believe in these four players decades ago. They were proved wrong, and then some.

[Editor's note: Pierre LeBrun and ESPN Insider Craig Custance will be back with more from the Hockey Hall inductions tonight in Toronto.]

It's probably not all that surprising Dayn Belfour sees the same person in his father that everyone else does. It's also not all that surprising he sees much, much more.

And he views his father's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in a manner that is unique and, in many ways, refreshing.

Although Belfour did not chat with about his Hall call, Dayn shared his thoughts on what will be a significant day for the Belfour family.

[+] EnlargeEd Belfour
Dave Sandford/Getty ImagesDayn Belfour, second from left, is a red-shirt freshman goalie at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

A red-shirt freshman at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Dayn, 22, and his father share a love of classic muscle cars, old heavy metal rock and hunting. They also share a passion for the game's most demanding position, goaltender. And when Belfour steps to the podium Monday night in Toronto, no one will be more proud than Dayn.

"I might as well be him," he said.

Dayn's choice to follow so closely in his father's footsteps is the purest form of flattery, respect and adoration.

Dayn's voice is the voice of a son who has managed the tricky task of balancing the natural love a son has for his father while trying to learn a craft from one of the most demanding players the game has known.

We first met Dayn in the summer of 2003 when he and his father were attending Tretiak's hockey school in the Toronto area. We sat with Belfour in his SUV while Dayn went through dry-land training and talked about his career and family. The two seemed comfortable with each other, joking about how Belfour was going to have to keep playing until Dayn was ready to play in the NHL so they could play together. Even now, the two share the same joke; Belfour kids Dayn that he's going to enroll in college so they can take the ice together.

From an early age, Dayn understood his life was different than that of his peers. He hung out in a Blackhawks dressing room with Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick, both of whom he counts as his heroes. He started playing hockey as a defenseman so he could be like his godfather, Chelios, whose children Dayn played youth hockey with. Then he moved to forward because he idolized Roenick. But by the time he was 12, the call of the net was too great.

"I just asked my dad for goaltending equipment one Christmas and Santa Claus came up with some goaltending gear," Dayn said. "I think my dad was thinking, 'Oh no, what's he getting himself into?'"

Around that time, Dayn realized his father represented something special to other people, too.

"As I got older, I realized how much he is a mentor and a hero to lots of other people other than myself," he said.

Once Dayn became a goaltender, his relationship with his father changed. The two worked out when they could with Dayn trying to learn the craft and impress his father at the same time.

"He has got all this knowledge in his brain and he's passing it on to me," he said.

Not that such transferal hasn't had its moments. There were times when the perfectionist in Belfour grated on his son.

"We had a little bit of time there where I just had to be left alone and had to try and find my own way through things," Dayn said.

Still, the two remain close, and the memories of those moments on the ice together are powerful ones for Dayn. "He truly cares and truly wants the best for me," he said.

In the end, Dayn Belfour's voice opens a door to an Ed Belfour that transcends the stats and peculiarities.

"I'm very proud of him. When he starts speaking about his journey, it almost feels like I'm walking the same path," Dayn said. "I do tend to get very emotional when I'm talking about my dad. He's a Stanley Cup winner, a gold medalist; he's like the bionic man. He's everything. He's awesome.

"Words can't really describe what this man is really like."

Watch: Joe Nieuwendyk on Hall election

June, 29, 2011

Joe Nieuwendyk talks with on his selection into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The 2011 Hall class: Who is eligible

June, 27, 2011

Some of the players under consideration for the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame class, which will be announced Tuesday:

First-year eligible players

Ed Belfour
Jocelyn Thibault

Stu Barnes
Mariusz Czerkawski
Andrew Cassels
Dallas Drake
Travis Green
Claude Lapointe
Martin Lapointe
Trevor Linden
Richard Matvichuk
Glen Murray
Mattias Norstrom
Yanic Perreault
Geoff Sanderson
Scott Thornton
Eric Weinrich
Glen Wesley

Other eligible players

Players who have at least 400 NHL goals or 1,000 NHL points, won six Stanley Cups or two Canada/World Cup titles or have won a World Championship, Canada/World Cup and Stanley Cup; the goalies have played at least 500 NHL regular-season games and have won over 250 NHL games or recorded 50 or more NHL shutouts.

Tom Barrasso
Don Beaupre
Dan Bouchard
Sean Burke
Lorne Chabot
Ron Hextall
Kelly Hrudey
Arturs Irbe
Dave Kerr
Mike Liut
Andy Moog
Gilles Meloche
Felix Potvin
Mike Richter
John Ross Roach
Tommy Salo
Rogie Vachon
John Vanbiesbrouck
Mike Vernon

Tony Amonte
Dave Andreychuk
Ralph Backstrom
Matthew Barnaby
Brian Bellows
Peter Bondra
Pavel Bure
Vincent Damphousse
Eric Desjardins
Ray Ferraro
Doug Gilmour
Alexei Gusarov
Larry Hillman
Phil Housley
Dale Hunter
Tomas Jonsson
Valeri Kamensky
Steve Larmer
John LeClair
Eric Lindros
Hakan Loob
Kevin Lowe
John MacLean
Shawn McEachern
Scott Mellanby
Rick Middleton
Alexander Mogilny
Mats Naslund
Bernie Nichols
Joe Nieuwendyk
Adam Oates
John Ogrodnick
Fredrik Olausson
Brian Propp
Claude Provost
Stephane Richer
Mike Ricci
Bobby Smith
Brent Sutter
Jean-Guy Talbot
Dave Taylor
Steve Thomas
Rick Tocchet
Pierre Turgeon
Garry Unger
Rick Vaive
Pat Verbeek
Doug Wilson
Scott Young

Notable women players

Shirley Cameron
Cassie Campbell
Geraldine Heaney
Dawn McGuire
Manon Rheaume
Fran Rider
France St. Louis

TORONTO -- It is time for some repair work at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

That is the theme for the class of 2011 if all goes well here Tuesday, when the Hall's 18-member selection committee meets to debate and ultimately select November's new members.

"Repair" as in make things right for a few players who have been passed over in recent years, because this is the committee's last chance for a while to get some of these players in before a new wave of slam-dunk candidates come. (Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer and Brendan Shanahan are a few of the players who will become eligible in the next two years.)

Ed Belfour is the most notable first-year eligible player in 2011. Third all-time in goalie wins, if Belfour doesn't make it Tuesday, he should eventually get in.

[+] EnlargeDoug Gilmour
Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesDoug Gilmour led the Maple Leafs to back-to-back West finals appearances in 1993 and 1994.

The selection committee can elect up to four male players. Here's hoping they maximize this window by taking four players who should have been inducted before this year. It's worth noting that Hall of Famer Igor Larionov is a new member on the committee this year.

For starters, Joe Nieuwendyk should have been an automatic entry in 2010, his first year of eligibility. Surely he'll get in Tuesday, one hopes. And why not get Doug Gilmour in with his former teammate? The two players were instrumental in bringing the one and only Stanley Cup to Calgary in 1989.

"They both had great careers," Hall of Famer Cliff Fletcher, GM of that '89 Flames squad, told Monday. "Nieu has won three Stanley Cups with three different teams, and he had a great run when we were together with the Flames. Doug was a key player when we won the Cup in '89 in Calgary. And the first two and a half years he was here in Toronto from January 1992 onwards, he carried the team on his back and almost by himself. All I can say is that I hope they both get serious consideration."

Nieuwendyk scored 564 goals among his 1,126 points, but those statistics tell only part of the story of a clutch player who raised his game come playoff time and won Cups with Calgary, Dallas and New Jersey.

Gilmour somehow isn't in the Hall despite 1,414 career points. What really nails the argument for us is Gilmour's 188 career playoff points, tied with Sakic for seventh all-time in NHL history. How is this guy not in the Hall?

Adam Oates also deserves serious consideration; his 1,420 career points are the highest of any eligible player not yet in the Hall. And what of Dave Andreychuk's 640 career goals, 13th all-time in NHL history?

Others who also deserve a look include Steve Larmer, Pavel Bure, Pierre Turgeon, Alexander Mogilny, Kevin Lowe, Mark Howe and Eric Lindros. (I made my case for Big E last year.)

Bure was the most electrifying goal scorer on the planet in his heyday. Yes, a serious of knee injuries limited the duration of his greatness, but you can't tell us there was a more dynamic goal scorer in the NHL than the Russian Rocket, especially when he put together back-to-back 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94 with the Vancouver Canucks.

Last year, the Hall inducted the first women in the player's category (Cammi Granato and Angela James); up to two women can be elected every year, and not at the expense of the four maximum male players who also can be selected.

Having said that, it's not a guarantee that more women will be inducted Tuesday; it's not expected to be an annual rite. If we had our way, however, former Canadian superstar blueliner Geraldine Heaney would be selected this year. The Olympic gold medalist and six-time world champion was known as the Bobby Orr of female hockey during her heyday. In 2008, Heaney joined Granato and James as the first female players inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's Hall of Fame.