Rare is the hall of fame inductee announcement that includes one honoree explaining how another honoree shattered his jaw. Then again, this is also the first hall of fame class to include the singular gifts of Derian Hatcher(notes) and Jeremy Roenick(notes).
Former NHL defensemen Derian and Kevin Hatcher, center Jeremy Roenick, "Miracle On Ice" team physician Dr. V. George Nagobads and IIHF Hall of Fame member Art Berglund were announced today as the Class of 2010 for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame; to be enshrined at a Oct. 21 ceremony at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
All three former NHLers share several bonds, such as all appearing on the 1998 U.S. Olympic hockey roster. Derian Hatcher and Roenick, however, share a different bond: Almost teammates with the Philadelphia Flyers before Roenick's trade to the Kings in
1995, 2005, and the
aggressor and victim in arguably the most brutal moment of Roenick's NHL
On March 23, 1999, Roenick laid out Stars center Mike Modano(notes) with a high, clean hit in the corner. The Dallas players were incensed. In their next meeting, on April 14, Hatcher retaliated and broke Roenick's jaw. "Modano getting hurt and Jeremy getting hurt, there were reprisals," [Coach Ken] Hitchcock said. "There was a genuine hatred there between the two teams. Jeremy was the focal point of their team, just as Modano was ours. But there was always that grudging respect."
During their Hall of Fame chat today, Hatcher and Roenick revisited that incident while also discussing what it meant to help build hockey's success in the U.S. -- occasionally at the expense of Canada.
Roenick has said in the past that he and Hatcher had a mutual respect, and Hatcher has said they're cordial away from the ice. Today, Roenick wanted to make it clear that the extent of his injuries -- a jaw dislocated and broken in three places, with eight teeth broken -- weren't his opponent's objective.
"I knew people were coming after me. I knew I was targeted. I knee I was going to feel pain," said Roenick. "Never did Derian go out there to break my jaw or get my knee. Derian goes out there and just plays hard hockey. He's passionate. He's extremely big and strong. Never have I held any kind of bad or ill feelings [towards Derian]."
He said they've never spoken about the incident, which made today's indirect discussion a bit of a landmark.
"I never went out with the intention of hurting you," said Derian Hatcher, who was suspended for two regular season and five playoff games for the illegal hit. "He never says a word about it, and I think that's a testament to Jeremy. He understands it's a game out there."
For the three former pros, it was a game, and its name was "Earning Respect."
They came through the system during a time when the United States was living off its Miracle on Ice legacy but doing nothing much to build on it. They had an average finish of sixth place in the five Olympics between 1980 and 2002. They didn't win a medal at world championships until 1996. All the while, Canada remained a superpower, frequently trouncing their neighbors to the south.
"Growing up in the Boston area, I think we in Boston had the attitude that it was the capital of hockey in North America. But every time we went up to Canada to play, we'd struggle against the Canadian teams. They have a full, year-round style of life that they play hockey like we play basketball or football in the United States. And we could never beat them," said Roenick.
"In the 1980s, and the late '70s when you'd watch the Olympics, the U.S. teams were always the teams that were somewhere near the bottom."
That disparity only intensified feelings on the U.S. side.
"Let me tell you: There was always a ton of motivation playing against the Canadians," said Kevin Hatcher methodically, earning a laugh from the other two former NHLers. "Say no more."
Both Hatchers were on the U.S. team that captured the World Cup of Hockey in Montreal in 1996, one of the most significant victories for the burgeoning national team program since the Miracle.
"As a hockey player, the rivalry just stews and grows," said Kevin Hatcher. "When we had an opportunity to beat them, and the way we beat them in Montreal in '96 ... it was like being on the bottom for so long and then finally getting to the top."
Roenick takes pride in seeing what the U.S. has accomplished in later years on the ice internationally. "I'm very proud - and I'm sure Derian and Kevin are very proud - that we were part of the generation that allowed the United state to become a superpower in the game of hockey," he said.
"Now, it's time for the younger guys to step up and continue what we built."
The Hall of Fame beckons, as it has for the Hatchers and Roenick.