Every year, all kinds of sports come together to select a few players, coaches, and managers that have had truly remarkable careers, earning themselves a place into their respected Hall of Fames. The Hockey Hall of Fame has seen its fair share of legends enshrined in Toronto, Ontario. Now this year, six more individuals will be a part of history in November when they will be announced as Hall-of-Famers.
First, we have the NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman. Despite the number of boos he receives on a daily basis in a hockey arena, the legacy he continues to leave behind is extraordinary. When NHL president Gil Stein stepped down in 1993, Bettman was hired as NHL’s first commissioner. When he first took over, the league had only 24 teams; now there is 31 teams, with a potential 32nd in Seattle in the near future.
In the 1993-94 season, he convinced the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Florida Panthers to join the league. He as well as played a crucial part in relocating of franchises: the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas in 1993, the Quebec Nordiques to Denver in 1995, the original Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996, the Hartford Whalers to Raleigh in 1997, and in 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers were moved to Winnipeg. The NHL revenues, since Bettman’s hire, has gone up drastically.
In 1993, it was at $400 million, and in the 2016-17 season it is now at an astonishing $4.4 billion. He also has expanded the NHL outside the United States, including China, England, Finland and Sweden.
Second off is legendary New Jersey Devils goaltender, Martin Brodeur. When he joined New Jersey full-time in the 1993-94 season, Brodeur had the second-best GAA (goals against average) and fourth-best save percentage during the regular season, vaulting New Jersey to a second-place finish in the league. That year, he was awarded the Calder Memorial trophy (MVP of the league).
Although the lockout in 1994-95 shortened the season, the Devils swept the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. In the 1999-2000 season, Brodeur won 43 games for the second time in his career to lead New Jersey to another Stanley Cup championship. The Devils continued to keep the foot on the gas pedal in 2002-03, where Brodeur was awarded the Vezina trophy (best goaltender).
He would also win the Jennings Trophy (lowest goals-against average), a berth on the NHL’s First All-Star Team and a start in the NHL All-Star Game. New Jersey would also capture another Stanley Cup title that year. On March 17, 2009, the Devils defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 to give Brodeur an NHL record 552 career wins.
On December 18, 2009, he made his 1,030th career appearance, the most by a goaltender in NHL history. Days later, Martin Brodeur collected his 104th NHL shutout, breaking Terry Sawchuk’s regular-season record. That season, he led the NHL in wins (45), shutouts (9) and games played (77). In 2015, Brodeur retired as the NHL’s all-time leader in wins (691), shutouts (125), and game played by a goaltender (1,266).
Thirdly, Canadian women’s hockey legend, Jayna Hefford. Attending the University of Toronto in 1996-97 while playing with the Lady Blues, she finished the season as the top scorer in the OWIAA (Ontario Women Intercollegiate Athletic Association) and also earned rookie of the year honors. She would then go on to win the gold medal at the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Women’s Championships with Canada.
Overall, she collected seven gold and five silver medals in her 12-year tenure. In 1998, she was named Kingston and Area Amateur Athlete of the Year. In 1999 and 2000, Hefford was the World Championships’ leading scorer.
She also participated in the Olympics five times, collecting gold four times. While playing for the Brampton Thunder in the NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League), Jayna was the league’s top goal scorer and scoring leader in 2000-01, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2006-07. After the 2014-15 season, Hefford retired.
Her 267 games played, 157 goals and 291 points for Canada are second only to former teammate Hayley Wickenheiser. In 2016, the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League) introduced the Jayna Hefford Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s most outstanding player in the regular season.
Next up is NHL game-changer, Willie O’Ree. Granted he played only 45 games in just over two seasons, but his legacy is more than just his playing career. O’Ree was successful with the Kitchener Canucks of the OHL (Ontario Hockey Association) in 1955-56, eventually moving up and joining the Quebec Aces, a senior team affiliated with the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
Willie scored 22 times, helping the Aces win the Edinburgh Trophy, awarded to the winners of a series between the senior champions of the Western Hockey League and the Quebec Hockey League. On January 18, 1958, O’Ree became the first player of color to play in the NHL for Montreal, filling in for an injured player that night. Later in 1960, he was recalled by the Bruins, playing 43 games on left wing, and scoring four goals with 10 assists.
Amidst the surrounding racial taunts and threats from fans in the United States, the winger was traded to Montreal in 1961, but would never again played in the NHL. His playing career would continue, however, in the minors until 1979.
Following O’Ree is NHL legend, Martin St. Louis. As a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (best college hockey player in the United States), Vermont’s all-time leading scorer with 267 points, and named to the ECAC’s all-decade team of the 1990s, St. Louis had some remarkable achievements before he reached the NHL. After a stint with the Calgary Flames from 1998-2000, he signed with the Tampa Bay Lighting, where he made an impact in the 2002-2003 season.
He scored 33 goals and played in his first NHL All-Star Game, finishing second in the Fastest Skater competition and first in the Puck Control Relay event. The following year, Martin St. Louis went on fire: he won the Art Ross Trophy (NHL’s leading regular season scorer) with 94 points, was named to NHL’s First All Star team and helped the Lightning win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship, scoring 24 points in 23 playoff games. In 2006-07. he finished with career highs in goals (43) and points (102) and won the Lady Byng Trophy (league’s most gentlemanly player).
The next season, his 99 points placed him second in league scoring, and again, claimed the Lady Byng. He took home the award a third time in 2012-13. In 2014, he waived his no-trade clause to be dealt to the New York Rangers. St. Louis spent 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
During the playoffs that year, New York was one game away from winning the Stanley Cup, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games. After the 2014-15 season, St. Louis retired from the game, playing 1,134 regular season games, scoring 391 goals and adding 642 assists for 1,033 points in 16 NHL seasons. The University of Vermont retired his number 8 in 2016 and the Tampa Bay Lightning retired his number 26 in January 2017.
Last but not least is Soviet standout Alexander Yakushev. Known as the “Big Yak”, he played 568 games with the Moscow Spartak, starting at the age of 16 in 1963-64. He scored 339 goals and just shy of 500 points in 17 seasons. Yakushev represented the Soviet Union at the World Championships, collectively gathering seven gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze medal.
As also a member of the Soviet team in the Olympics, they claimed gold in 1972 and 1976. From 1966 to 1979, his tenure in the World Championships with the Soviet Union, he scored 60 goals and recorded 33 assists. In 1980-81, Yakushev joined SV Kapfenberg in Austria and continued his incredible scoring, recording 108 goals, 145 assists and 253 points in 109 games before retiring as a player after the 1982-83 season. He was inducted into the Russian Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970 and into the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) Hall of Fame in 2003.
On behalf of everyone here at The Puck Authority, we would like to congratulate these six athletes on their incredible success in the game of hockey.