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There must be some mistake: Mark Howe never played for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hockey Hall Class of 2011: Howe, Gilmour, Nieuwendyk, Belfour

Oh, right: He was a Marlie.

Mark Howe is also a Hockey Hall of Famer, ending a lengthy wait for the call (since 1998!) to immortality for a defenseman whose career spanned from the Houston Aeros in the WHA to the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings in the NHL over the course of 929 games. He's the story today: The player that many hoped would get the call but who was perpetually a runner-up for the selection committee.

The Class of 2011:

Ed Belfour, G (stats)

The mystery today wasn't if Belfour would be a Hall of Famer, because two Vezinas, a Stanley Cup and third in career wins (484) necessitates it. It was if he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, given some of his off-ice foibles.

That turned out to be secondary to his numbers and his impact. He may not be Patrick Roy, he may not be Dominik Hasek(notes), but he can easily lay claim to having been the best goalie in the game in two different years and being in the conversation for top three in his position during his prime, which is a handy measure for the Hall of Fame.

Doug Gilmour, C (stats)

He had 450 goals, 1,414 points, one Stanley Cup and a Selke Trophy, along with being tied for seventh in career playoff points (188). A complete player and a tenacious competitor. Should have gone in last year.

Mark Howe, D (stats)

Why Howe? Bill Fleischman's 2008 piece from the Flyers website makes the case:

He's a three-time first-team NHL all-star defenseman. In his first six seasons with the Flyers, he scored 115 goals operating from the blue line. During his 22-year pro hockey career, he collected 405 goals and 1,246 points and has a +400 rating. He is the youngest hockey player to ever win an Olympic medal.

Yet, Mark Howe is still not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He is now. More from Bill Houston back in 2006. This is a long, long time coming.

Joe Nieuwendyk, C (stats)

As we said in our Hall of Fame preview, Nieuwendyk has the prestige. Three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe and a Calder to go along with his being 11th all-time in power-play goals at 215. Best at his position? Hardly. A model player in the NHL? Totally.

The snubs? No Eric Lindros or Pavel Bure or Adam Oates or Dave Andreychuk. No Pat Burns, which remains a tarnish on this process.

What's interesting about this Class of 2011: No builders for the first time since 1981, and we get four players after getting only one last season. Was this due to the incredible Class of 2012 first-ballot guys (Sakic, Sundin, Shanahan,Roenick, Joseph, Gary Roberts(notes) among others) coming up?

"The committee are so involved and serious about their job. They do look at the candidates that are up, and I do not believe that they take into consideration the people that are coming up in the following year," said HHOF selection committee co-chair Jim Gregory.

The full release from the NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame. More coverage later:

TORONTO  (June 28, 2011) — Bill Hay, Chairman and CEO of the Hockey Hall of Fame,  Jim  Gregory and Pat Quinn, Co-Chairmen of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Selection  Committee,  announced  today Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe and  Joe  Nieuwendyk  have  been  elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Player  Category.  The  vote took place today at the annual meeting of the Selection Committee in Toronto

"The  Hockey  Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these four hockey legends as Honoured  Members,"  said Jim Gregory.  "Their contributions to the game of hockey are well documented and their election to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved."

Ed Belfour, a native of Carmen, Manitoba, played on five NHL teams from the 1988 to 2007 seasons, winning the Stanley cup in 1999 as a member of the Dallas Stars.  A two-time Vezina trophy winner, he also won a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

"It  is  hard  to  put into words what this means to me," said Belfour.  "I would like to thank all of my teammates and people along the way who helped me achieve my hockey dreams."

Doug  Gilmour was born in Kingston, Ontario and played Junior hockey nearby as  a  member of the Cornwall Royals, winning a Memorial Cup in 1981.  Doug played  20  years in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

"This  is  an overwhelming honour and one that makes me reflect back on the teammates and coaches I have had over years," said Gilmour.  "Larry Mavety, who  gave  me  a chance in Tier II hockey and Gord Wood who drafted me into Junior  at  Cornwall,  are  two  people who were instrumental in helping me establish myself as a player".

Mark  Howe  played his Junior hockey in Toronto before turning professional with the Houston Aeros in 1973.  He stayed in the WHA until the merger with the  NHL,  playing  with  the Hartford Whalers, the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings before retiring in 1995.

"I  was  elated  to have this dream come true given that it is a tremendous honour  just  to  have my name mentioned with the upper echelon of hockey," said  Howe.  "To actually have my name in the Hall of Fame with my Dad will mean so much to my family."

Joe  Nieuwendyk  played  three seasons at Cornell University before turning professional  with  the Calgary Flames, winning Rookie of the Year in 1988.

Joe  went  on  to win the Stanley Cup with Calgary the following season and twice more — with Dallas in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003.

"Every player does their best year after year and strives to play at a very
high  level," said Nieuwendyk.  "I truly love the game and love to compete,

and I'm pleased to be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame."

The 2011 Induction Celebration will be held on Monday, November 14th at the Hockey  Hall  of Fame in Toronto.  For more information regarding the 2011 Induction Weekend/Celebration, visit http://www.hhof.com.

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