On Friday afternoon, this year’s induction weekend officially commenced as the Hockey Hall Of Fame welcomed their six inductees to meet with the media and receive their rings. This year’s list ranges from a hand-chosen selection of six with Hayley Wickenheiser headlining the catalog alongside Guy Carbonneau and general manager Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After kicking things off on Friday at the historic museum which is located on Yonge Street, each inductee was made available to provide some insight as to where they’re currently at. Additionally, they discussed their emotions while all reflecting on their impressive careers.
While it’s an honour for each member selected to be chosen and commemorated for their accomplishments, it was especially sweet for Hayley Wickheiser who’s story is different as opposed to the rest. Wickenheiser, 41-years-old, met with the media as the conference concluded, discussing the future of women’s hockey while looking back at her legendary career.
With that in mind, Ailish Forfar of Yahoo! Sports was just one of many to pepper questions at the Canadian centreman ahead of her induction. Forfar, a professional hockey player and current member of the PWHPA, talked about the standstill and momentum they have and when asking about her voice entering the hall and what impact that might have, Wickenheiser said, “Well, I think you just gotta keep working. I mean, This game is not gonna forward if people just, if it didn’t work out, I guess we tried. I tried, the women tried before me for a long time. You know, a whole career of, I think everyday I played, I had to prove something for women’s hockey. it’s not gonna change anytime soon, but I think there’s power in struggle in numbers and with all the women standing together, so my advice would be get all the players in the world in one camp and hold out until it happens. That’s what you have to do to make progress.”
This led to further discussion with regards to the state of the women’s game and when asked about the NHL and the role that they have presumably been coined as responsible for, Wickenheiser said, “Yeah, I think the NHL is the platform that the women’s game needs. It’s hard to do it on your own. I know in conversations with Garry Bettman, you know, he made it clear that he didn’t want another WNBA do-over and I think Garry’s a smart man and they have a plan to move forward the game. I think that the questions need to be asked of the league that’s currently in existence, you know, at which point does that just become a selfish venture or is that a smart move, I don’t know what’s going on in there, but I do know that if truly, collectively everybody’s in it for the right reasons, then we should be picking one camp to all stay in and run with it.”
In connection to this train of thought, Hayley was asked by Luc Gelinas of RDS if she sees a new Canadian Women’s Hockey League being established for these women to play in. With regards to that, in discussing what needs to take place for this to happen, Wickenheiser said, “I don’t know. That’s a great question. I always said, you know, it’s coming, it’s coming. Now I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I think the only way forward for the women’s game is probably with the NHL’s involvement. I know they have a plan, I’m not quite fully understanding why Garry and the NHL don’t want to step up and do it. I know they don’t want to be seen to be breaking up one league or the other, but I think the women deserve it and the game demands it and there’s a market for it. I don’t think either of the leagues currently in existence can play, move forward and you see that and the reason why is the best players in the world don’t wanna play in those leagues, so they know what’s going on, so I hope that’ll be the case, but your guess is as good as mine.”
While Hayley Wickenheiser attracted the media, so did her fellow inductee in the great Guy Carbonneau. Carbonneau, a Sept Iles, Quebec native, not only was an NHL player, but he later went on to retire and become the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Carbonneau, much like his counterparts, led a hockey career that took notice and fast, this easily allowing him to three Stanley Cup Championships.
While the cup is telling tale of one’s contribution both on and off the ice, Guy Carbonneau got comfortable in Montreal which paved the way to a number awards. This includes being named three times the NHL’s recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy. While this game is one of tradition, it tells the same tale for the assets it comes with as the Selke Trophy is a valuable piece, one that very accurately recognizes his accomplishments. With that in mind, Guy led a successful 19-year career and over that span of time, he was named the NHL’s top defensive forward three times.
Speaking of receiving such an honour, Carbonneau told The Canadian Press on Friday, “You sit down and look at what you’ve done. The Selkes were there, the Stanley Cups were there and everything else. There were some years you think you have a chance and there’s some years you know you don’t. Playing in the NHL was a dream. I never dreamt of being in the Hall of Fame.”
Carbonneau, who split his career between the Montreal Canadiens and the Dallas Stars, was awarded the Selke Trophy for his performance in 1988, 1989 and 1992. Throughout the time he spent playing hockey, Carbonneau was known as a defensive enforcer after having come up from his days in junior where that part of his game both developed and launched.
What stood out most about Carbonneau was the hockey IQ that he brought to the ice, a skill he attributes to his early successes with the Montreal Canadiens back in the 1980’s. Speaking of hockey IQ, what separated Carbonneau from his opponents and teammates was the fact that more often than not, he focused on the other side of the puck as a two-way centreman in Montreal right from the start. When discussing the growth of this skill and the wonders it did for him later on, Carbonneau said, “It was something I worked on. I was just happy to be on the ice at important moments.”
Following the conference on Friday, Carbonneau spoke out in greater length about the recognition of a lifetime in Toronto, the call Lanny made to inform him and his emotions going into the induction which will be taking place at the hall on Monday. With that in mind, the former QMJHL president said, “I don’t think my emotion has any clue what’s gonna happen on Monday. I mean, I’m pretty emotional, you know, I was pretty emotional during the call. You know, I’ve read the speech over and over again and I catch myself once in a while kind of being emotional, but I know Monday, it’s gonna be pinnacle, so I’m getting ready for everything.” When asked if he was ok with that, the longtime Canadien said to the media, “People saw me cry before, so I’m not shy, but if I cry on stage, it’ll happen.”
As well, Guy Carbonneau was asked if he saw his induction as the end of a chapter and while the 59-year-old has remained quite active following his career with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, he said, “I think it’s the beginning. I mean, I was, you know, I really enjoyed what I did. I had a lot of fun being a hockey player. I’ve enjoyed staying around hockey after, I’m lucky enough that, you know, I live in Montreal, I still go to the game, I work on TV, I, you know, had the chance to play some hockey with the alumni in Montreal. I see, I meet people, you know, it’s never been work for me and it’s always been fun, so I’m definitely gonna enjoy the next hopefully 34 years.”
In conclusion, when asked about the possibility of wearing the ring on an everyday basis, the former Canadien closed in saying, “No, it’s gonna stay in the safe like my other three rings.”
Joining Wickenheiser and Carbonneau is Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford who enters the hall, but in the builders category, joining Jerry York and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Rutherford has been an integral part of the NHL, leading both the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins during his career. Whether positioned as head coach or general manager or minority owner, Rutherford’s efforts did not go unnoticed, leading both teams to Stanley Cup championships.
Because of his hard work and dedication, the longtime executive got the call from Lanny, this bestowing him in the hall upon history, being named with the game’s highest honour. When speaking about the emotions of receiving his ring on Friday afternoon, Rutherford said with regards to the reality that he’s being inducted, “It’s sunk in. It’s just really hard to put into words how I feel right now.”
Rutherford, 70-years-old, was asked about his speech and the nerves that come with it and in similarity to Habs great Guy Carbonneau, the longtime NHL executive said, “Yeah, it compares. I agree with him. It could be the toughest situation somebody’s in in the game because it’s not about what you’re gonna say, it’s about making sure that you don’t miss somebody.”
As well, when Rutherford was asked about the five months of prep time that he’s had to touch it up, the newly named Hall of Famer said with regards to practice and the time he’s taken to read it over and review it, “I did my speech the week after I knew I was going in after Lanny called me. I haven’t altered it too much and I haven’t read it too much. I’m very nervous about it. Usually when I speak, I like to just get up and do it off the cuff, but because there’s so many names I wanna remember and try to make sure I say the right thing, I guess I’m gonna have to read more of it then do it off the cuff, but it’s all done, ready to go.”
And from that point on, the rest shall be history on Monday night when his plaque is unveiled as he enters the hall amongst yet again, a star studded lineup of players and staff members that have made their marks. Until then, Jim Rutherford can be found behind the bench on Sunday evening when the 2019 Haggar Canada Legends Classic commences at Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto.
Amongst those taking part are Hayley Wickenheiser and Guy Carbonneau, playing for Team Sundin and Team Lidstrom respectively as the game’s very best get ready to clash. The rosters also feature some special additions to make things interesting with Marie-Philip Poulin taking part on one end and Jayna Hefford lacing up on the other. Nick Kypreos and Wendel Clark are another special pair of names that can be seen with Al Iafrate, Eric Lindros and Jeremy Roenick.
Team Lidstrom is led by Chairman Lanny McDonald and Jerry York, meanwhile, Rutherford is joined on the bench for Team Lidstrom by Anders Hedberg. This year’s class of inductees will be honoured in a pre-game ceremony before the puck falls between the two star-studded lineups in the heart of Toronto at 4:00pmET. Until then, there are still select tickets that are available at HHOF.com.