VANCOUVER – The 22 winners of the three major championships - the Stanley Cup, a World Championship, and an Olympic gold medal – were inducted into the Triple Gold Club in a ceremony held in Vancouver on Monday. All 22 members of the exclusive club were present, as they were introduced to the stage and handed a national team sweater with special TGC patches.
The 22 players – Tomas Jonsson, Mats Näslund, Håkan Loob, Valeri Kamensky, Alexei Gusarov, Peter Forsberg, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Alexander Mogilny, Vladimir Malakhov, Rob Blake, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer, Jaromir Jagr, Jiri Slegr, Nicklas Lidström, Fredrik Modin, Chris Pronger, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, and Mikael Samuelsson – were all there, as North American TV personalities Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire introduced them to the crowd, before they accepted their membership awards from IIHF President René Fasel, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and President of the Russian Federatioon, Vladislav Tretiak.
Their careers span over four decades, and over four different countries, but on Monday night, the only thing that mattered was that exclusive membership in the Triple Gold Club, as the players reconnected with old teammates – like Peter Forsberg and Valeri Kamensky, and Nicklas Lidström and Igor Larionov – or exchanged a few words with their former idols – like Niklas Kronwall and the former Soviet stars.
“Mats Näslund was from the same town as me, and obviously Peter (Forsberg) was a big idol, too, and to have been able to play with him in a few tournaments has been great,” said Henrik Zetterberg, one of eight players currently participating in the 2010 Olympic tournaments.
“Stanley Cup is a tough one to win, it takes the whole season. In the Olympics, if you go all the way, you play maybe six games, but you have to play them well. The feeling of winning them is the same,” he added.
These 22 are hockey’s royalty – with one, very important distinction. Unlike true royalty, these 22 have earned their place among the elite. Over 7,000 players have been after the Stanley Cup since 1893, over 6,000 have tried to win the World Championship since 1930, and over 3,000 have participated in the Olympics since 1920.
Only 22 have won all three.
Among the first to get all three was Håkan Loob, who completed his triple by winning Olympic gold with Team Sweden in Lillehammer in 1994. He won his Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989, which makes him member number 3 in the club, behind his 1994 teammates Tomas Jonsson and Mats Näslund who had won their Stanley Cups earlier.
“Sure, we were the first, but look at all the huge stars that came in to the club after us,” he said.
“It’s even more difficult to win all three now, with the NHLers playing in the Olympics. I think winning with your club team is huge, because you battle through a long season. Having nine players in the Triple Gold Club is a big honor for Swedish hockey,” said Loob.
Of the 22 players, nine are Swedish, six are Russian, four are Canadian, and three are Czechs.
“There’d be even more players in the club, if the NHLers had been able to play in the World Championships and the Olympics, but sure, look around the room and all you see is great hockey players. It’s a great honor to be a part of this, it’s a very special feeling,” said Joe Sakic, the MVP of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
“I’ve played with a lot of these guys and I watched others play. I was 16 when I saw Montreal and Näslund play against the Soviets. It really is special to be here. I was lucky to play in some great teams.
“To play for your country is huge, you’re representing 25-30 million people, and we all know what hockey means to Canadians. It’s still a game, though, you get the butterflies before the game, but after a couple of shifts, you just do what you need to do to win a hockey game,” Sakic said.
Sometimes knowing something isn’t enough to make an impact. For many of the players, seeing the others was what really made them appreciate their own accomplishments and put them into perspective.
“The Russian players were my big idols and to be here and see them all is very special. It’s been great to meet them and shake their hands. Of course, I’ve also played with Igor (Larionov). I didn’t know who all the members of the Triple Gold Club were, but now that I see them, I’ve realized how special it is to be a part of it,” said Zetterberg.
“It is fantastic, and I still have a chance to win more,” he added.
That's what Triple Gold Cub members are made of.