The newest members to join the ranks of international ice hockey's greatest legends have been announced, as the IIHF has unveiled the Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
The members of the 2020 Induction Class will include five Players and one Builder, as well as the winners of the Richard “Bibi” Torriani Award and the Paul Loicq Award.
They will be honoured at a special induction ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland on 24 May, the final day of the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Player CategoryRyan Smyth, Forward
b. Banff, Alberta, Canada, 21 February 1976
They called him “Captain Canada,” and for good reason. Ryan Smyth wore the “C” for his country at the World Championship more than any other player in tournament history. He played more World Championship games than any Canadian – 61 – and was captain for a record 39.
Smyth has the distinction of having won gold for Canada at five of the most prestigious international tournaments: the World Junior Championship (1995), World Championship (2003, 2004), Olympics (2002), World Cup (2004), and Spengler Cup (2012, as captain).
Smyth’s love of the game was infectious. He was never the biggest or the strongest, never the most graceful skater or the player with the hardest shot. But he was the fiercest competitor, and he had the biggest heart. He didn’t just love to play; he loved to win. His effective play and emotional commitment to his team inspired those around to him to play their best.
After four years in the WHL with Moose Jaw (1991-95), Smyth made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers on January 22, 1995. It was the start of a career that saw him play more than 1,000 games with the Oilers in an NHL career that lasted 19 seasons with four teams.
It was during his final year with the Warriors that he first played for Canada, at the 1995 World Juniors in Red Deer, Alberta. Canada boasted a perfect 7-0-0 record and won gold with relative ease.
Although his first three tournaments were disappointing, Smyth was named to Canada’s 2002 Olympic team for Salt Lake, helping his country win gold for the first time in half a century. A year and a half later, he captained Canada to a World Championship gold, a victory he repeated a year later. Canada went for a third title in 2005, at the end of the NHL lockout season, but fell just short to the Czechs, 3-0, in the gold-medal game, settling for silver.
In between these years, Smyth also played at the World Cup, again helping Canada to victory on home ice in a thrilling finals against Finland. He later played at the 2006 Olympics, and his final international event came in 2010, again at the World Championship, an event cut short by injury.
In the NHL, Smyth had eleven seasons scoring 20 or more goals and ten seasons of 50 or more points. The Oilers reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in game 7 of the finals. But for that score, Smyth would have joined the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club.
A fierce competitor, dedicated Canadian, and winner wherever he played, Smyth made the game better at all times when he was on the ice.
Player CategoryMathias Seger, Defenceman
b. Flawil, Switzerland, 17 December 1977
In order to understand the importance Mathias Seger had to the national team it is important to provide some context. Seger played at the 1996 and 1997 World Junior Championship, alongside other soon-to-be well-known teammates such as Mark Streit, Martin Pluss, Reto von Arx, and Sandy Jeannin among others.
At the senior level, the team had fluctuated between A Pool and B Pool for years, and in 1997 it earned promotion to A Pool for the next year, a year in which Zurich and Basel were scheduled to host the World Championship.
That year was a watershed moment for the national team. Ralph Krueger was hired as the new coach, and Seger and those aforementioned teammates made their debuts at the top level Worlds. The hosts Swiss finished a very solid fourth after losing to the Czechs in the bronze-medal game, and have maintained their status in the top level ever since.
Seger could never have known it then, but he would go on to set a record in IIHF play that might never be equaled. He played in a record 16 World Championships between 1998 and his retirement in 2014, missing only 2007 along the way. His 106 World Championship games is tied for 7th all time.
A defenceman, Seger was never known for his booming shot or his speed. Instead, he was known for his play inside his own blue line, his sportsmanship, and his leadership in the dressing room.
He achieved a rare hat trick of captaincies during his career. He wore the “C”
for the Swiss national team at the World Juniors in 1997, for the senior team at the World Championship four times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014), and for the Olympic team in 2014 in Sochi. Only Jorg Eberle and Raphael Diaz can say the same for Switzerland.
In the playoffs, they stunned the Czechs 2-1 in the quarter-finals and shut out the United States, 3-0, in the semis to advance to the gold-medal game against hosts Sweden. After an unprecedented nine wins in a row, their luck ran out, but with that 5-1 loss to Tre Kronor they won silver, their best result since 1935 (and their only other silver in World Championship history).
Seger captained that team, just as he had the Olympic team a few months later. It was his fourth consecutive Olympics (2002, 2006, 2010). Only Mark Streit and Martin Pluss have played as many and, interestingly, they all played in the same four Games.
On the national stage, Seger was no less impressive. He played in the NLA in Switzerland for 20 seasons, the first three with Rapperswil and the last 17 with ZSC Lions. In all, he won six national titles with Zurich, the last coming in his final season at age 38 in 2015-16.
Player CategoryKimmo Timonen, Defenceman
b. Kuopio, Finland, 18 March 1975
By the time he had retired in the spring of 2015 at the age of 40, Finnish defenceman Kimmo Timonen had pretty much done it all. And yet, his greatest season was arguably his last, when he didn’t play at all for Finland and played a mere 16 regular-season games with his NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Prior to the start of that 2014-15 season, Timonen received shocking news from his doctor. He was diagnosed with blood clots in his right leg and both lungs. Not only was Timonen’s career almost certainly over, but his life off ice was going to change dramatically. The Philadelphia Flyers, the team for whom Timonen had been playing the previous seven seasons, traded him, thinking he would never play again.
But Timonen persevered, returned to play with the ‘Hawks, and then helped the team win the Stanley Cup. Upon receiving the sacred trophy after a clinching, 2-0 win over Tampa Bay in game six, captain Jonathan Toews hoisted the Cup, then turned to Timonen, second in line, and handed him the trophy. It was a miracle end to a remarkable comeback and a career that put him among the greatest defencemen of his era.
The Predators had had plenty of chances to scout Timonen. He played at three World Junior Championships (1993-95), the 1996 World Championships, and the Nagano Games.
He came to North America that fall, played a little bit in the IHL, and then established himself as a rock on the Predators’ blue line. He rose to the ranks of superstar with impressive speed. In all, Timonen played in 1,108 regular-season games with the Predators, Flyers, and Hawks, making it to the 2010 finals with the Flyers before losing to that same Chicago team he would celebrate with five years later.
In 2006, Timonen was named Nashville’s captain, but after one season he was traded to the Flyers and signed a massive six-year contract extension that made him the highest-paid Finn in the league.
But it was with Suomi that he left a much greater legacy. Timonen played at five Olympics, winning silver in 2006 and bronze in 1998 and 2014. He also played at seven World Championships (three silver), and the 2004 World Cup, in which Finland made it to the championship game before losing to Canada.
A Stanley Cup champion in his final game, a five-time Olympian and multiple medallist at the World Championships, Kimmo Timonen is among the finest Finns to play either in the NHL or internationally.
Player CategoryMark Streit, Defenceman
b. Englisberg, Switzerland, 11 December 1977
Arguably the greatest Swiss player of all time, Mark Streit was the first true Swiss superstar in the NHL. It was an ironic achievement in many ways because Streit had been enjoying a career in Switzerland’s National League with Davos and Zurich and for the longest time wasn’t on the radar of any NHL team.
But starting in 1998, he played in ten straight World Championships, and along the way teams in North America took notice of this smooth-skating defenceman. Still, he was drafted by Montreal in 2004 near the very bottom, 264th overall, and he was 27 years old at the time, one of the oldest draft choices in league history.
After Streit played one more year in Switzerland, the Canadiens convinced him to give the NHL a chance. He did, and for the next 12 years and nearly 800 games he never looked back.
Another great irony of his dual careers in both the NHL and the national team is that for Switzerland he was not much of an offensive defenceman. The team wasn’t always the best, and he spent more time in his own end trying to keep pucks out of the goal than in the opponent’s end trying to generate offence.
But in the NHL, he was a force. In his first three seasons with Montreal (2005-08) he went from 11 points to 36 to 62. When he signed as a free agent with the Islanders, he went on to register 205 points in 318 games. At the start of his third season with the Islanders, though, Streit made history, becoming the first Swiss player to be named captain of an NHL team. He wore the “C” for two years before being traded to Philadelphia in the summer of 2013.
A pioneer and giant among Swiss players, Streit made contributions to the game that have resonated evermore after his career. When he made his debut in 2005, he was the 10th Swiss player to make the NHL, but since then another 24 have followed him to make their own impact in the world’s best league.
Player CategoryAlexei Yashin, Forward
b. Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg), Soviet Union (Russia), 5 November 1973
Sometimes you get when you expect, even when you expect a great deal. Such was the case with Alexei Yashin, who was not a late bloomer, did not play in a domestic league for years, and was not a surprising superstar.
Indeed, Ottawa drafted him second overall in 1992, and a year later, after playing for Dynamo Moscow and leading the national junior team to gold at the World Juniors, he came to the NHL at age 19 and immediately established himself as one of the best young players in the game.
Yashin had it all. He was big and tough to knock off the puck. He was a smooth skater with a great shot, and he elevated his game when the situation demanded it. In his rookie season he had 30 goals and 79 points, making him a Calder Trophy finalist for the 1993-94 season. Five years later, he was named the Senators’ team captain and had a spectacular season that included career bests for goals (44) and points (94).
But Yashin was joining a new team in the league, and that meant little playoff success for several years. This allowed him to play for his country internationally, notably nine World Championships (gold in 1993, bronze in 2005), three Olympics (silver in 1998, bronze in 2002), and two World Cups (1996, 2004).
Islanders GM Mike Milbury promptly signed Yashin to a massive ten-year contract, and in 2005 Yashin was named team captain, joining a small list of players to wear the “C” for two teams in the NHL. It was a responsibility with which he was comfortable. Yashin was also captain of Russia at three World Championships (1996, 1999, 2001) as well as the 2004 World Cup. It’s no wonder they called him “Captain Russia” back home.
A lack of playoff success, however, spelled the end of his time on the Island, and Yashin returned home to play in the domestic league for five years before retiring.
Builder CategoryMong-Won Chung, Builder
b. Seoul, Korea, August 4, 1955
It was one of the sporting highlights of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and it was one of the most powerful political moments in Olympic history. When Korea’s women’s hockey team arrived in PyeongChang, it featured players from both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). This historic unification, as well as the very inclusion of the men’s and women’s hockey teams of Korea in the Olympics, could not have happened without the steadfast resolve of Mong-Won Chung.
Chung has been a hockey fan for 30 years or more, and back in 1994 he had the idea to start a hockey team. To that end, he financed a team called Mando Winia. Over the course of the next decade the team changed its name to the more familiar Anyang Halla.
Anyang lost its first game in the new Asia League to Kokudo by an 11-1 score, but a few years later, it can boast of having won five Asia league titles and more regular-season games all time than any other club. As well, Anyang has consistently provided the national team with more players than any other for important international events.
Chung helped start the Asia League in 2003, a pioneering effort involving teams from China, Japan, Korea and later from the Russian Far East. He became the vice-president of the Korean Ice Hockey Federation in 2010, and, not coincidentally, the national team had its greatest successes soon after, earning promotion to Division I-A in 2011.
Chung begged to differ. He was named KIHA president in January 2013 and immediately began to lobby for inclusion in 2018. So began his “PyeongChang Project,” one that eventually won over IIHF president Rene Fasel and the Council. Chung hired former NHLers Jim Paek and Richard Park to run the men’s program and hired the respected coach Sarah Murray to run the women’s program.
If naysayers considered the men’s inclusion a gift, they were proved wrong by Chung in 2017. At that year’s World Championship Division I Group A, Korea finished second and earned an historic promotion to the top level for the 2018 World Championship. This was earned and not given, and all the credit rightfully went to coach Paek on ice and president Chung off it.
The 2018 Olympics, however, will be known in ice hockey circles not so much for the men but for the women. Players from North and South of the Korean Peninsula made up a Unified Korea team of players from both sides of the ceasefire line. They not only walked side by side at the Opening Ceremonies under a unified flag, they also played together on the same team, another historic first. This had never been done before at Olympic Games, in any sport, and who knows if it will ever be done again. But this symbol of peace and non-political sporting participation came about thanks to the vision, ambition, and unwavering dedication of Mong-Won Chung.
Paul Loicq AwardThe Paul Loicq Award honours those who have made outstanding contributions to international hockey. As part of the 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Class, the IIHF has selected longtime Hungary Ice Hockey Federation General Secretary Zoltan Kovacs as the recipient of the 2020 Paul Loicq Award.
b. Budapest, Hungary, 2 January 1962
Zoltan Kovacs has dedicated his life to Hungarian hockey, and that in turn has made the IIHF family stronger and healthier and has developed players across Europe through a strengthened Hungarian program.
Like many successful ice hockey execs, Kovacs began his career as a player. His first major international event was the European Junior Championship in 1979 and again in 1980, when he also played in the B Pool of the World Juniors. This was also the start of his playing career in the domestic league, with FTC (Ferencvarosi Torna Club) in Budapest, which lasted the decade 1980-90. His dedication was such that even while he was a player on the senior team he was coaching juniors.
Kovacz coached the FTC juniors starting in 1987 and became the coach of the national U16 team as well, a position he held until 2000. But Kovacs could see a life in hockey beyond the boards. He spent four years (1988-92) earning a Master’s degree at the College of Sport Education in Budapest after which he earned a degree in economics from Corvinus University.
As General Secretary for the HIHF, Kovacs worked tirelessly to develop hockey at home. He understood that the word “develop” was easy to say but much more difficult to achieve, but he dreamed of getting at least one arena in every major community in Hungary. His aim was always to produce talent at the lower levels that would lead to success at the U18 and U20, and ultimately provide the framework for consistent performance at the top.
Kovacs once said, “We can climb the mountain, but it is hard to stay there.” Indeed, his ultimate goal has been to make it to the top pool, stay there, and then host a World Championship, something Hungary has never done.
In 2017, Kovacs moved up to vice-president of hockey operations of the HIHF, but his goals and determination have remained the same. Hungary made it to the top pool of the World Championships in 2009 and 2016, promising signs that his goal is within reach. And if Hungary does ever host a World Championship, it will be at least in part thanks to Kovacs.
Richard "Bibi" Torriani AwardThe Richard “Bibi” Torriani Award is a special award for international hockey, recognizing players who competed outside the top ice hockey nations but nevertheless made a huge impact for the sport in their countries. For the 2020 Torriani Award, The IIHF honours Dutch star Ron Berteling.
Ron Berteling, Forward
b. Amsterdam, Netherlands, 6 September 1957
In the last 70 years the Netherlands has played in only one Olympics (1980) and one top-level World Championship (1981), and Ron Berteling played on both teams. And the only reason the team played in those events was because it earned promotion for 1980 and ’81 by finishing first at the 1979 Worlds (Pool B) in Romania, in large part thanks to Berteling.
Berteling was born into a sports family and was skating by the time he was seven. Although he played tennis and football, it was hockey that he grew to love the most. His career started in 1974 at age 19, and lasted 25 years in the top domestic league, first with the Amsterdam Tigers and later with Rotterdam Pandas.
Internationally, he first played for the “Oranje” at the 1978 World Championships C Pool, and a year later, when he was just 21, he helped the team earn promotion to the Olympics and subsequent World Championships.
The Dutch were demoted after 1981, but during that tournament Berteling scored two goals, one against the United States and another against East Germany. In the lower Pools, he averaged more than a point a game, and in the domestic leagues he was one of the top scorers of all time. Equally impressive, he was also one of the least penalized players, a man respected by teammates and opponents alike for his competitive play but first and foremost his sportsmanship.
Even before he had retired he made history by being the first hockey player in his country to be knighted, receiving the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1994.
After retiring, Berteling turned to coaching and has led the Amstel Tigers/Amsterdam G’s franchise for many years, winning the national championship five times. He has also been heavily involved in the national team and in developing youth hockey throughout the country.