DALLAS – The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inducted former players Mike Modano and Eddie Olczyk along with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, while Dick Patrick and Bob Chase received the Lester Patrick trophy, and Murray Costello won the Wayne Gretzky Award.
The energy at the Plaza of the Americas in Dallas Monday night was electric, with many luminaries of the hockey world present for the ceremony honoring the 2012 inductees into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
With such influential American icons as Mike Modano, Lou Lamoriello and Eddie Olczyk entering the Hall, many of their fans and supporters were also present.
Additionally, longtime Hockey Canada executive and IIHF Vice President Murray Costello received the Wayne Gretzky International Award for helping promote the growth of the sport in the United States, while Washington Capitals president Dick Patrick and longtime Fort Wayne Komets broadcaster Bob Chase were each honored with the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to U.S. hockey.
Each person honored has played significant roles in helping promote the growth of the sport in the States, and each has had a major impact on many other important American hockey figures.
“It’s certainly a great honor, very humbling, especially with the group of people that are here,” said Lamoriello, who has won three Stanley Cups as General Manager of the New Jersey Devils since 1987.
“I’ve had an association with all of them for different reasons for a long time. Eddie Olczyk, in ’83 I had him at the (U.S. Olympic) sports festival, and Mike, he was with me at the World Cup in ’96 and at the Olympics, and Murray Costello, we’ve been working together for years in international hockey and Dick Patrick for years on the Board of Governors for over 20 years. All quality people, all great ambassadors for the game and that’s what makes it nice.”
Just the fact that the ceremony was held in Dallas highlights the impact Modano’s presence had on growing the sport in the middle of football country after the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Texas in 1993.
“In hindsight now, it’s been a real remarkable transition the way the game has increased down here,” said Modano, who completed a 22-year NHL career in 2011. “I’m real proud of being part of that when it first started and watching it evolve, see the popularity increase. It was great to see and it was fun to be a part of.”
Olczyk, a member of the 1984 Olympic team and a 16-year NHLer, has probably been even more influential in promoting the game since his retirement in 2000, now that he has developed into one of the most entertaining and insightful commentators on TV, broadcasting for NBC.
“Just a class guy, his approach to the game and professionalism,” Modano said of Olczyk, a teammate on several World Championship teams as well as the 1991 Canada Cup. “He was a lot of fun to be around so we’ve always had that connection since 1991. He’s been remarkable for the game on TV, and what he’s done with NBC. He’s our face and voice of USA hockey, I feel.”
Costello was touched to receive an award from what is essentially his competition, but acknowledged that growing that game in the U.S. helps everyone.
“It’s a very special night for the hockey family,” said Costello, who was instrumental in shaping the World Junior Championships into the spectacle it is today, as well as starting the Women’s World Championships. “The hockey family is international in scope. It’s always nice to be recognized, but when you’re recognized outside your own country, it’s even more special.”
As president of the Washington Capitals for the past 30 years, Dick Patrick has carried on the hallowed family tradition of growing the game in the DC metro area, and was honored to win an award named after his grandfather, Lester Patrick.
“It probably was a little extra special to me,” Patrick admitted. “I knew my grandfather growing up - I was just starting high school when he passed away and I really didn’t know everything he’d accomplished because he was my grandfather. But growing up around hockey and seeing all the people who have won this award, it means a little more because it’s named after my grandfather.”
As for Bob Chase, he blended in with the hockey royalty, but for a man who has broadcasted Fort Wayne Komets games for 60 years, winning the Lester Patrick was extra special.
“I have thought about things, and I’ve had people advocate for me to be possibly inducted into the Hall of Fame, which I would consider an incredible honor,” Chase said, “but the day that my phone rang, I’m driving on the highway. Now I don’t usually talk on the phone while driving, but when I answered the phone, it was commissioner Bettman and when he told me, I nearly wrecked the car. It’s unbelievable.”
Among other hockey dignitaries on hand were Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, former American star Pat Lafontaine, who entered the U.S. Hall in 2003, virtually the entire Dallas Stars front office including GM Joe Nieuwendyk and coach Glen Gulutzan, as well as current Stars Brenden Morrow and Trevor Daley, plus New Jersey Devils and NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick.
“It’s a proud night, it’s a real proud night,” said Lafontaine, Modano’s teammate on the 1996 World Cup squad that defeated Canada for the title. “You share with your family and all your colleagues and your friends and everyone who has supported USA Hockey. I know those guys all feel a tremendous amount of pride tonight. When you look at what those three have done, it’s pretty monumental.”