While there may be some debate about those who were overlooked again – Pat Burns most notably – there should be none about the four players and one coach who made up this year’s inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Defencemen Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and Geraldine Heaney and forward Brendan Shanahan were selected in the player category Tuesday, while the late Fred Shero was finally selected as a builder after years of snubs.
They will all be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame in Toronto on Nov. 11.
It was a long wait for Shero’s family. Shero spent nine seasons as an NHL head coach and won consecutive Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974 and 1975. His son, Ray, is the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and won the 2009 Stanley Cup.
Ray Shero said what he remembered most about his father, who died of cancer in 1990, at 65, was his passion for the game. “He had a great respect for the people in it, and that was the players.”
Burns, who also lost a fight with cancer, dying in 2010, at 58, coached the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup and missed the playoffs only once in 12 seasons as an NHL head coach. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is the subject of much debate, and Ray Shero said he hopes his father’s selection is a signal more coaches will be recognized.
Fred Shero is just the seventh coach named to the Hall of Fame in the last 23 years.
Chelios and Niedermayer were among the top two or three NHL defencemen of their generation.
The same can be said of Heaney in the women’s game. She became just the third woman selected to the Hall of Fame, joining Angela James and Cammi Granato (both in 2010).
Heaney played for 18 years and won seven world championships with the national team, plus an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
“As a young player, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get in the Hall of Fame,” said Heaney, who was born in Belfast and grew up in Toronto. “It just shows you how far the women’s game has come.”
There is quite a bit of overlap with the three male players elected.
Niedermayer joked he was part of one era but Chelios “was part of a few.” Chelios’s 26-year NHL career ended in 2010, at 48.
Niedermayer and Chelios played against each other often, both in the NHL and at the international level, while Shanahan was a teammate of both men on various teams.
“[Chelios] was always giving me a hard time on the ice,” said Niedermayer, who was a smooth skater and puck-handler in contrast to the more physical Chelios. “He was such a competitor. Whether it was a preseason game or a Stanley Cup final game, he was doing everything he could to help his team win.”
Chelios said Niedermayer was just as intimidating because of his skill with the puck. “You always had to be ready [against him].”
Chelios won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman three times during his career, which started with the Montreal Canadiens and included long stints with his hometown Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. He won three Stanley Cups (Montreal in 1986, Detroit in 2002 and 2008).
Shanahan was also on those Red Wings championship teams.
Niedermayer, a native of Cranbrook, B.C., played his first 13 seasons with the Devils (1991 to 2004), and won three Stanley Cups with them. He put in another five seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, winning the Cup in 2007 and being named playoff MVP.
Shanahan, a native of Mimico, Ont., was taken second overall by the Devils in the 1987 NHL entry draft. He went on to have back-to-back 50-goal seasons with the St. Louis Blues in 1992-93 and 1993-94. He also won three Stanley Cups in nine seasons with the Red Wings (1997, 1998 and 2002). Shanahan and Niedermayer played together on the Canadian men’s Olympic team that won the gold medal in 2002.
Chelios’s competitive edge carried over to NHL business matters. He once got into hot water during the 2004-05 NHL lockout for some intemperate remarks about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Chelios did not appreciate being reminded of this on a media conference call.
“Let’s not mention that name on this call. It’s a good day,” he said.