The Class of 2019 includes four Players – Hayley Wickenheiser, Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, and Vaclav Nedomansky – and two Builders: Jim Rutherford and Jerry York.
Wickenheiser was just inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame during its ceremony at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship last month in Bratislava. She is only the sixth woman who is enshrined in both Halls of Fame (after Danielle Goyette, Cammi Granato, Geraldine Heaney, Angela James, and Angela Ruggiero).
“Wick” is arguably the greatest and most influential figure in women’s hockey. Her career lasted 22 years (1994-2016) during which time she became the leading scorer in both Olympics and Women’s World Championship history. No one has won more WW medals than her 13 (7 gold) and no woman has played in more Olympics (6 – 5 in women’s hockey in the Winter, and one in softball in the Summer Games).
What was it about her? In a word – everything. She trained and developed strong legs, giving her a stride no woman could match. She worked endlessly on her shot and could fire the puck like no woman in the game. She trained year ‘round and was strong enough to play with men, which she did, in Finland, becoming the first woman to score in a professional men’s league.
Off ice, her moral and ethical character were so respected that she was asked to recite the athletes’ Olympic oath in 2010, and in 2014 she was Canada’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony. That same year, she was named to the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission, the most important function an athlete can perform in sport away from the field of play.
Typically, Wickenheiser wasn’t available for interviews after being named to the HHOF because she was writing an exam for medical school. Later in the evening, she managed a quick tweet: “Just stepped out of a med school course to the news. A huge honour and dream come true for a little girl from Shaunavon, Sask. Congrats to Guy, Sergei, Vaclav, Jim and Jerry. Thank you for all the kind words. #HHOF2019”
European hockey fans will be particularly impressed by the Hockey Hall of Fame’s decision to induct Nedomansky. He is the first Czech-born player to be inducted not because of his NHL career but because of his career overseas, with the national team of Czechoslovakia. In an era dominated by the Soviet Union, “Ned” was every bit the equal of his longtime adversaries.
He played in every World Championship and Olympics between 1965 and 1974 (9 Worlds and 2 Olympics), but most significantly he helped the Czechoslovas win gold at the 1972 World Championship in Prague. Soon after, he defected to Canada, to play for the Toronto Toros in the WHA, and still later in his career he played for three teams in the NHL.
Despite being in his mid-thirties by this point, Nedomansky outscored virtually every other player in the league his age (except Phil Esposito), recording consecutive seasons of 73 and 74 points between 1978 and 1980, with Detroit.
Nedomansky retired in 1983, his career under-appreciated in North America, but some 36 years later he is getting his due.
“When I made that decision in 1974 to follow my dream, I jumped right into it, and I'm so happy I did that. I would thank all my teams and all my players… thanks to them, I'm where I am today."
Russian defenceman Sergei Zubov is the third player being inducted with strong IIHF ties, yet his 16 years in the NHL is also, of course, a major contributing factor to his honours.
Although he was drafted by the Rangers 85th overall in 1990 and later played a season with Pittsburgh, Zubov is known for his 12 years on the blue line of the Dallas Stars. He was part of the team’s only Stanley Cup win, in 1999, and in all he played 1,068 regular-season games.
Zubov began his career playing the World Juniors in both 1989 and ’90 with the Soviet Union, winning a gold and silver medal. He also played at the 1992 Olympics, the nation’s most recent gold medal, and a few months later he also appeared at the 1992 World Championship. Zubov also played at the 1996 World Cup.
"I was 18 years old when I traveled with the national team,” Zubov related. “We had a tournament in Canada, and I had a chance to walk in the Hall of Fame. Back then, I couldn't even think of or dream that one day I would have a chance to be a part of it."
Guy Carbonneau was perhaps the greatest two-way forward the game had seen since the retirement of Bob Gainey. Carbonneau played more than 1,300 games in a 19-year career, and he was teammates with Zubov for several years in Dallas, including Carbonneau’s last, in 1998/99, when the team won the Stanley Cup.
He also won the Cup in both 1986 and ’93 with Montreal, two teams that weren’t expected to win.
Five times he scored more than 20 goals in a season, but he also won the Selke Trophy three times as best defensive forward in the NHL.
“I had the chance to play with some great players like Bob Gainey, somebody who was pretty close to Frank Selke, so I had a good teacher there,” Carbonneau enthused after learning of his induction.
Jim Rutherford was an NHL goalie of no special importance, but after retiring he moved into the front office and became the general manager of the Hartford Whalers in 1994. Soon after, the team moved to Carolina, and in 2006 the ‘Canes won the Stanley Cup. In 2014, Rutherford moved to Pittsburgh in the same capacity, and under his guidance the team won the Cup in both 2016 and 2017.
Jerry York stands alone among NCAA college coaches. His 1,067 all-time wins ranks number one by a long shot during his 46 years behind the bench. The last 25 of that number have been with Boston College, during which time he has won four national titles – 2001, 2008, 2010, 2012.
York began in 1972 with Clarkson University and moved on to Bowling Green in 1979, capturing a national title five years later.