The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee announced its Class of 2015 on Monday: Detroit Red Wings legends Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov; former Buffalo Sabres great Phil Housley; current Arizona Coyote Chris Pronger; former Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Bill Hay and Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Jr. in the Builder category; and U.S. Olympic great Angela Ruggiero in the women’s player category.
Hall of Fame forwards and defensemen will have played a minimum of 800 NHL regular season games or recorded a minimum of 300 goals, 400 assists or 700 points.
It’s an incredible class of NHL stars.
The word “legend” gets tossed around a little too much in sports, but it’s hardly ever more applicable than in discussing defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
He won seven Norris Trophies in his 20-season career. He won four Stanley Cups. He won the Conn Smythe. He won Olympic gold in 2006. He has 1,142 points in 1,564 games, including 878 assists, fifth highest for a defenseman in NHL history. His postseason performances were epic, including a plus-61 all-time in the playoffs, an NHL record.
Stylistically, he was a player many young defensemen tried to emulate: Smart as well with the puck and perhaps even smarter with his body positioning. He showed you could be a dominant defenseman without throwing your body around, which isn’t always an easy thing to prove when you’re a European in the NHL.
He was nicknamed “The Perfect Human,” and that might have been an understatement.
Fedorov was, like Pavel Bure, an absolutely show-stopper of an offensive player at center and wing. Blazing fast, a brilliant shot and the kind of moves that had kids emulating him in the street. But he was the total package: Before Pavel Datsyuk became the go-to name for dominant defensive forwards for the Red Wings, it was Fedorov that collected Selke Trophies in 1994 and 1996.
Fedorov won the Hart Trophy in 1994 for a 120-point season that saw him score 56 goals. He captured three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, and scored 176 points in 183 playoff games. He played 1,248 games and had a points-per-game average of 0.945, which is better than Mike Modano (.917) and Mike Gartner (.932).
Pronger is considered one of the most physically dominating defensemen in NHL history, or at least one of the most physically intimidating given his nearly dozen career suspensions.
He played with an edge, and crossed the line more than a few times, but he also had 698 points in 1,167 games, the Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy in 2000 and a Stanley Cup championship in 2007. He could have even earned a pair of Conn Smythe Trophies in losing efforts in 2006 with the Edmonton Oilers and 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Of course, Pronger’s case is a unique one: He’s still being paid on an NHL contract despite having no hope of playing again after suffering a concussion in Oct. 2011 when a stick struck him in the head. Pronger’s cap space was traded to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
These three were considered locks. Housley was not. But the defenseman had a lot of momentum heading into the committee vote.
He is third in all-time career points by an American born player with 1,232 behind Brett Hull and Mike Modano, having played 1,495 games in the NHL. He’s considered one of the best offensive defensemen to have ever played the game, spending 21 seasons in the League, most of them with the Buffalo Sabres.
But a lack of awards and a Stanley Cup ring are significant drawbacks, as were knocks about his all-around game. But it’s hard to argue that after Lidstrom and Pronger, he wasn’t the next most-deserving defenseman.
Sitting on the outside looking in, again: Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk and Jeremy Roenick.
As for Ruggiero, she won a gold and two silvers for the U.S. women’s hockey team at the Olympics, as well as four world championships. She’s one of the most inspiring figures in the history of women’s hockey in the U.S., whose 13-year playing career served as motivation for subsequent generations of players.
On Jan, 28, 2005, she also became the first woman skater to actively play in a pro hockey league during the regular season, suiting up for the Tulsa Oilers in the Central Hockey League.
In the Builder Category, Bill Hay and Peter Karmanos Jr. were elected.
The first NCAA graduate to play in the National Hockey League, Bill Hay’s contributions to hockey span from grassroots to the professional level. His distinguished hockey resume includes contributions made while serving as President and Chief Operating Officer of Hockey Canada, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Calgary Flames, and most recently as Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Peter Karmanos Jr. has helped enable the success of dozens of American hockey teams and thousands of players. The Detroit native captured a Stanley Cup as Chief Executive Officer, Owner and Governor of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
He's also the reason the Whalers left Hartford. Hopefully the play "Brass Bonanza" during his induction.
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