HELSINKI – The names are familiar to any fan of international hockey – Pavel Bure, Raimo Helminen, Phil Housley, Milan Novy, Andy Murray. Five hockey greats were inducted into the IIHF hall of fame this afternoon in a ceremony crowded with former inductees and luminaries from the hockey world in Helsinki this afternoon.
Their inclusion brings to 183 the number of inductees representing 22 countries. As well, Kent Angus was given the prestigious Paul Loicq Award for his contributions to the IIHF.
The hour-long event was broadcast live by Canal+ 24/7 Hockey Channel in Finland.
Bure, known as the Russian Rocket for his combination of speed and skill, thanked his family and teammates. The youngest inductee at 41, Bure is a player whose exploits in international hockey and the IIHF are easily remembered.
“It was a great experience to go to another country and play in the best league in the world,” he said of going to the NHL. “It was really interesting. On the other hand, we had lots of international experience already from the World Juniors and World Championships.”
Helminen, tongue in cheek, lamented the fact that he was being honoured in his native Finland, “No free trips to another country,” he joked. “Only a two-hour drive.” His humility belies his incredible career, one which includes six Olympics and a record 331 international games played.
“What a fantastic event,” Helminen enthused. “This is something I will never forget. That a kid from Tampere is included in a group like that is mindboggling.”
Housley noted how appropriate it was to be honoured in Finland considering USA Hockey gave him a two-game tryout in 1982, his first international experience. The ceremony also gave him time to reflect on career highlights.
“Definitely, I look back at the 2002 Winter Olympics, when we won a silver medal. At the World Championships, we won some special games, like beating Russia in their own barn in 2000, or winning the quarter-final game against Canada in 2001 in overtime. Those things you never forget. Just playing in the competition is great in itself. It’s a great game. I always looked forward to international games. The style is a little different, relying more on skill and skating.”
Now that his playing career is over, Housley continues to stay active in the game as a coach. “I’m coaching high school hockey back where I live in Stillwater, Minnesota,” he explained. “I’m also helping out with USA Hockey when they make the call. I’ve been an assistant coach in two World Junior tournaments in 2007 and 2011, and then with the national team in Kosice and Bratislava last year as an assistant. I still have that passion for this game.”
Novy, now 60, also suggested that he was young enough to score a couple of goals in this afternoon’s bronze medal game for the Czech Republic against Finland.
On a more serious note, he appreciated his new place in hockey history. “I'm very happy now. When I started my career I never even imagined about playing for national team. When René Fasel called me to inform me [of the induction], I couldn't believe it.”
But the bon mot of the afternoon goes to coach Murray. “I want to thank President Fasel,” he began, and added with a smile: “I remember when I first met him he was a referee, and I sometimes tell him he’s a much better president than he was a referee.”
What makes Murray’s three World Championship gold medals extraordinary is that each of his teams (in 1997, 2003, 2007) was built in a matter of days. He got the players to work together quickly, and was successful enough to take three very different rosters to gold. What was his secret?
“We came in with the expectation that we were going to win the gold medal,” Murray began. “You work as hard as you possibly can. You make sure that you’re organized. The bottom line is that you have committed players. In each of those tournaments that’s what we had. We got solid goaltending, played solid defence, and scored some timely goals. My dad told me a long time ago you’re only as good as they people who surround you. That was the case with me.”
The Paul Loicq Award went to Kent Angus, who is the point man between the IIHF and Nike, the official supplier for top-level events. Angus has been on the job for 17 years, during which time he has worked at 49 events and supplied more than 75,000 team sweaters.
The IIHF also introduced a new honour called the Milestone Award to be given periodically to teams that have made a significant contribution to the development of international hockey. The inaugural recipients were Team Canada and the Soviet national team 1972 in honour of the eight-game Summit Series, a turning point in the game’s history.
Representing Canada was IIHF Vice President Murray Costello and representing CCCP was the President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the goalie from the series, Vladislav Tretiak.
“Everybody won in 1972,” Tretiak said. “We both played incredible hockey and paved the way for Europeans to play in the National Hockey League.”
To view complete biographies, click here.