The induction took place not in the Hockey Hall as usual but across the street at Meridian Hall. The event was attended not by the usual 1,800 but by a more modest and safter number, 800, to ensure social distancing as much as possible. But in the end, the six inductees all took their rightful place among the pantheon of greats in the hockey world.
The induction capped off a weekend of celebration that started Friday night with the Hockey Hall of Fame game at Scotiabank Arena. That game featured a come-from-behind, 2-1, overtime win for the hometown Leafs against the visiting Calgary Flames. Earlier in the day the new inductees received their HOF rings. On Saturday, the honourees attended the Fan Forum at the Hall itself to take questions from the public.
And on Sunday, alumni from across the hockey world descended on Scotiabank Arena for the Legends Classic game which included pre-game ceremonies where the inductees received their jackets. Monday afternoon featured a luncheon to honour the Media Inductees, which this year were Rick Peckham, receiving the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, and Tony Gallagher, receiving the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award. And then the big show Monday night.
St. Pierre won three Olympics gold medals and five Women’s World golds in a career that started in 1999 and continued until 2011. In 31 IIHF games she recorded an astounding 17 shutouts and allowed a grand total of just 24 goals. She has a perfect 8-0-0 record at the Olympics and is 19-0-3 in WW play.
“Sometimes you need only one person to believe in you,” St. Pierre said during her speech, “and I was so lucky to have this special person by my side. Danielle Sauvageau, thank you for giving me a chance, a huge chance, and for having a profound impact on my career. Your commitment to taking women’s hockey to the next level is one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen. Thank you for not only being a coach but a mentor and a friend.”
Hossa had a career of dual greatness, both playing internationally for Slovakia and in the NHL. In the former, he appeared in four Olympics, eight World Championships, and two World Cups. In the NHL, he had 525 goals and 1,134 points in 19 NHL seasons. He is the only player in league history to appear in the Stanley Cup finals three successive seasons with different teams—Pittsburgh in 2008, Detroit in 2009, and Chicago in 2010. He played with the Blackhawks the longest, eight years, winning the Cup three times—2010, 2013, and 2015. Hossa is only the second Slovak-trained player inducted in the Hall after Peter Stastny.
For Hossa, nothing was more important than family, whom he credited specifically during his speech.
“My brother Marcel has had a great hockey career that would have been impossible to imagine during the mini-stick hockey games we played in our old, two-bedroom apartment. Marcel, I want you to know how proud I am of you and what you have accomplished—six years in the National Hockey League, seven years in the KHL, leading the league in scoring one year, three Olympic games and six World Championships…In my heart, you are here with me…Dad, thanks for your love and support. You taught us how to play hockey the right way. You taught us discipline at an early age, and it stuck. Thanks for the steady hand that has been a great example for me…My mom, despite the fact she caught the bus every morning at 5.35, she still took Marcel and I to early morning practise every weekend without complaining.”
Iginla was one of the classiest and most respected players to have laced ‘em up in the NHL. He won two Olympic gold medals in three appearances and won gold at every other level as well—World Juniors (1996), World Championships (1997), and World Cup (2004). He had 625 goals and 1,300 points in the regular season, and he came closest to winning the Stanley Cup in 2004 when he led the Flames to the Finals. For all his great play, he is perhaps best known for an assist. In the overtime period of the 2010 Olympics finals, captain Sidney Crosby screamed “Iggy! Iggy!” as he moved through the slot. Iginla made the pass from along the boards, Crosby scored, and the rest has remained history ever since.
“It’s important for me tonight to thank Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr,” Iginla said during his special speech. He is the fourth black player to be inducted after Fuhr, Angela James, and Willie O’Ree. “Grant was one of my idols growing up in St. Albert, just outside of Edmonton, and I was thrilled to play with him in Calgary at the end of his career. I also want to acknowledge recent inductee, the amazing Willie O’Ree, and guys like Claude Vilgrain and Tony McKegney and Herb Carnegie, for breaking racial barriers in hockey. Being a young black hockey player, it was important for me to see other black players in the NHL…It’s thanks to guys like Grant and Willie who made me feel that my dream of playing in the NHL was attainable.”
Lowe is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. A defensive defenceman, he didn’t get much credit in the 1980s playing for the highest scoring team in NHL history, the Edmonton Oilers. On a team with Gretzky, Messier, Anderson, Kurri, and Coffey, Lowe played the quiet hero on many nights. But by the time he had retired in 1998, he had won the Cup six times, played 214 playoff games, and appeared in seven All-Star Games. Incredibly, 23 years later, 2021 has been a memorable year for Lowe who was named to Hockey Canada’s Order of Hockey in Canada, inducted into the HHOF, and had his number 4 retired by the Oilers.
“Over the years, since I retired, people would ask me about how I felt about not being in the Hall of Fame, and I’d say six Stanley Cups is okay. I have enough personal satisfaction. Well, I was lying when I said that! Tonight is just so darn special.”
On a more serious note, he explained how he got to the Hall without the big numbers of many inductees. “My Hall of Fame selection didn’t happen because of my statistical merit. I want to thank the Hall of Fame selection committee for recognizing a player like me. Jacques Lemaire once said, in the game of hockey, it’s important to know there are two nets, and that both are equally important. One net, however, is a little tougher to quantify.”
Wilson experienced much the same delay as Lowe in being honoured. He retired in 1993 but unlike Lowe was a sensational offensive defenceman, finishing with 827 points in 1,024 games. He won the Norris Trophy in 1982 and was on Canada’s championship 1984 Canada Cup team. But he never won the Cup and as the years passed it seemed he might never get inducted—until this year.
He was the first to speak, and he was to the point and precise in thanking the people who helped him along the way, starting with Ottawa 67’s coach Brian Kilrea, as well as his father. He then thanked his greatest influences in his early days in the NHL, with the Chicago Blackhawks. “Stan Mikita was my very first NHL roommate,” Wilson began. “He had a saying, you make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give. Keith Magnuson, one of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life. He taught me that the greatest gift you can give anybody is time. Another gentleman that we just lost recently, my biggest mentor, Tony Esposito. His love of life, his work ethic, his commitment. We miss them all.”
Ken Holland is also being honoured at a good time. He is well-known as the GM for Detroit for 22 years and three Stanley Cups, but he left the Original Six team to assume GM duties for Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, currently the hottest, highest-scoring team in the league. Holland started as a scout with the Red Wings, moved up to assistant GM under Jimmy Devellano, and then took the team to its greatest heights.
After thanking a litany of coaches and scouts, associates and colleagues who helped Holland during his 40 years in the game, he ended with a simple and heartfelt message.
“I’m humbled and grateful for everything the game has given me and my family. I’m very honoured to go into the Hall of Fame. Thank you.”