QUEBEC CITY – It was an unforgettable afternoon as the IIHF Hall of Fame added female players to its ranks for the first time ever, plus two of the greatest centres in international hockey history.
In total, seven new members were inducted for outstanding contributions to the sport of ice hockey and the hockey family worldwide. With about 200 in attendance, the ceremonies were held at the VIP tent outside the Colisée Pepsi. It was the 12th time this event has taken place.
Cammi Granato (USA), Geraldine Heaney (CAN), and Angela James (CAN) headlined the inaugural group of women, while Igor Larionov (RUS) and Mario Lemieux (CAN) brought superstar power on the men’s side.
Also inducted were Philippe Bozon (FRA), a longtime French national team star and NHL player, and Art Berglund (USA), a veteran executive with USA Hockey, in the Builder’s Category.
The recipient of the Paul Loicq Award for lifetime achievement was Slovakian referee Juraj Okolicany.
IIHF President René Fasel kicked off the festivities by noting that the IIHF was founded 100 years ago to the day in Paris, France, at a sports club at 34 rue de Provence. Fasel hailed the work of USA Hockey’s Walter Bush in making women’s hockey an Olympic and World Championship sport. Bush added: “I’m so proud that we have an equal number of women players coming in this time.”
Bozon, however, was inducted first. “I’m more nervous than if this was a game,” said the 41-year-old veteran of four Olympics and 12 World Championships. Thanking the IIHF and his family, he added: “You’re nothing without your teammates.” As the first Frenchman to make the NHL, he played 163 games with St. Louis from 1992-95. In the French League, Bozon was named the best player in 1989 and the rookie of the year in 1984. He won three French Championships in 1984, 1988 and 1991 and then moved onto Germany, where he won another three titles. Bozon ended his 22-year career in 2006 in Switzerland.
Granato, the all-time leading scorer in women’s international hockey, defined the US women’s program during her 15-year career. “To be among the first women going into the IIHF Hall of Fame, it’s hard to put into words, but it’s extremely special to me,” she said. As a young girl in Illinois, she first dreamed of playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. “I want to thank the IIHF for giving me a whole new dream, to play international women’s hockey.”
She played in every IIHF World Women’s Championship and Olympics from the inaugural championship in 1990 until 2005, the year she led the U.S. to its first World Championship gold. A three-time tournament all-star (1992, 1997, 2002), she was a key part of the USA’s winning the first-ever women’s Olympic gold in Nagano in 1998, and she finished her career with two gold and nine silver medals. Her family, including husband and former NHLer Ray Ferraro and 16-month-old son Riley, was in attendance.
The ceremony was emotional for the next two female Team Canada inductees, as Geraldine Heaney’s sister Catherine had recently passed away, and Angela James also knew her. Heaney, who now coaches at the University of Waterloo, spoke with a catch in her voice during her acceptance speech. This gifted defenceman was the first player ever to win seven straight IIHF World Championships, and she finished her career with a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics. She was sometimes called “the Bobby Orr of women’s hockey”.
James, meanwhile, is considered the first superstar of women’s hockey, racking up 34 points in just 20 career games at four World Women’s Championships. “This is among the highest honours I’ve achieved, and I’ll cherish this for the rest of my life,” said the former All-Star forward.
Larionov’s list of accomplishments is virtually unparalleled in hockey history. The playmaking Russian centre won two Olympic gold medals (1984, 88), four IIHF World Championship gold medals, one Canada Cup title (1981) and one IIHF World U20 gold medal (1980). At the age of 41, Larionov captained Team Russia to Olympic bronze in Salt Lake City and he also represented his country in the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
In his 27-year professional career on both sides of the Atlantic -13 in Europe, 14 in the NHL - Larionov played 1378 games, scoring 373 goals and 705 assists for a total of 1078 points. He collected eight Soviet Championships with CSKA Moscow, and three Stanley Cups with Detroit. He is one of the 19 members of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club, as a winner of Olympic and World Championship gold and the Stanley Cup.
Larionov, who emphasized in his remarks that “hockey is a team sport”, attended 10 days after his mother passed away in Moscow, and he dedicated his induction to her.
Lemieux, as the majority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was unable to attend with his team taking on the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL playoffs. Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson accepted the award on behalf of the legendary centre, recalling how Lemieux’s first IIHF experience was collecting 10 points on the fourth line for Canada at the 1983 World Juniors, while his last one involved captaining his country to its first gold in 50 years in Salt Lake City 2002.
He also scored the famous winning goal versus the Soviet Union in the 1987 Canada Cup final, starred at the 1985 World Championship, and captained Canada to the 2004 World Cup. In the NHL, he scored over 1,700 points with Pittsburgh, and won two Stanley Cups, six NHL scoring titles, three Hart Trophies as league MVP, and two playoff MVP trophies, among other honours.
Berglund provided a link to the one previous IIHF World Championship held in North America, mentioning that at the 1962 tournament in Colorado Springs, he sold programs while attending Colorado College. During his five decades of service with USA Hockey, he has managed the American senior national and junior teams in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s, and helped engineer a silver medal for the USA at the 2002 Olympics. Berglund served as USA Hockey’s director of national teams and international activities for 11 years before being named senior director of international administration in 1996. He received the NHL’s prestigious Lester Patrick Award in 1992 for outstanding contributions to the sport of ice hockey in America
Okolicany, the Paul Loicq recipient, has a career in officiating dating back to 1962, and he was an active referee for a quarter of a century before he retired in 1986. Between 1973 and 1985, he was an IIHF licensed referee, working four IIHF World U20 Championships and two B-pool men’s World Championships.
His major accomplishments as an omnipresent personality on the international scene started in the early 90’s when he became one of the IIHF’s top referee supervisors for all major events. Okolicany has worked 11 IIHF World Championships, two Olympic Winter Games and around 45 minor IIHF championships as a supervisor.
LUCAS AYKROYD (with files from IIHF staff)