Six members were inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame this afternoon, including former Belarusian captain Ruslan Salei, who received an emotional tribute.
The 2014 IIHF Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place today at the Victoria Olimp hotel in Minsk.
Those honored by the International Ice Hockey Federation in the Players category included Vyacheslav Bykov, Andrei Khomutov, Niklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman and posthumously, Ruslan Salei. Murray Costello was honored in the Builders category and Dr Mark Aubry given the Paul Loicq Award.
The IIHF Hall of Fame was established in 1997 to honour men and women who have made important contributions to the world of international hockey.
Induction ceremony host Paul Romanuk opened the event with a welcome to all in attendance, including IIHF Congress members, dignitaries and media.
The first member of the class of 2014 honoured was Vyacheslav Bykov. The five-time World Championship gold medallist first apologized for his broken English which was, much like his time as a player, impeccable. Bykov spoke of his commitment to the game of hockey and in wanting to continue as an ambassador for the sport.
“It is my duty to promote the sport and work for hockey, a game I think is the best in the world.”
Niklas Lidstrom was introduced as a player with the “presence, mind, shot and touch” and someone who was among the greatest defenceman in history, if not the greatest.
Lidstrom remembers growing up in Sweden he aspired to play for the national team and that through hard work, persistence and dedication he was able to do so on multiple occasions and lead Tre Kronor to gold.
“I didn’t play that many World Championships. I played three of them, and one I came in late in the tournament. I played in four Olympics, and we had both ups and downs in those events. Being a Red Wing for 20 years is hard to top, but any time you get to represent your country, that means so much, especially winning a gold medal for Team Sweden in 2006. That was one of the top moments in my career.”
He also thanked his parents for their sacrifice in helping him to obtain his dream and current Swedish head coach Per Marts whom he said was instrumental in his development from the ages of 16 to 21.
Murray Costello, who has been a tireless advocate for the sport of hockey, was also honoured. Costello, who when he retired from hockey in 1960 went on to become an influential individual both in Canada and internationally. Costello was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2005.
Dr Mark Aubry won the Paul Loicq Award. Aubry said his life “has been a hockey game” and touched upon player safety.
“Players are bigger, faster, stronger and concussions are an important topic,” he said. “The IIHF will continue to strive in this matter to educate on this issue.”
Steve Yzerman, though honoured, could not attend the induction. His responsibilities as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning and preparing for the upcoming NHL draft in June kept him away. Instead, IIHF Vice President and outgoing Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson accepted the honour on his behalf. Nicholson emphasized not only Yzerman’s outstanding achievements as a player for both the Detroit Red Wings and Team Canada but as an executive and the architect of back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014.
Andrei Khomutov also echoed thanks to family, coaches and teammates and how much they mean to him. Khomutov teamed with Bykov to form an impressive combination for the Soviets over the early eighties through mid nineties.
The emotional moment of the ceremony came when the widow of Ruslan Salei, Bethann, and their children spoke via video feed. Salei perished along with his Lokomotiv Yaroslavl teammates in the fateful crash that rocked the international hockey community in 2011.
Bethann Salei spoke of the sacrifice that her husband made for the game he loved so much. Salei’s mother and brother were in attendance.
“I think it’s great that he gets recognized here in his home country,” Lidstrom said of his former teammate with the Red Wings. “He had a great career. He was a great teammate when he played with me in Detroit for one season. He was a great family man, and that plane crash... we miss him dearly and the rest of the guys who went down with it.”
As the World Championship winds down with the bronze and gold medal games tonight, the inductees in attendance will be watching. Khomutov sent high praise to the Russian team.
“The current Russian team reminds me a bit of the old Red Machine, even if the coach doesn't like that comparison,” Khomutov said in an interview after the ceremony. “The guys are playing well, everyone is battling and working for each other. I've got no criticisms, no complaints about them in this tournament. It's been a pleasure to watch them.”