IIHF honours international mix for Hall of Fame ʼ23
by Andrew Podnieks|09 DEC 2022
The Class of 2023: Jimmy Foster, Cristobal Huet, Brian Leetch, Caroline Ouellette, Henrik Zetterberg, Sandra Dombrowski, Kalervo Kummola, Viktor Szelig (Torriani Award) and Kimmo Leinonen (Loicq Award).
The IIHF Historical / Hall of Fame Working Group has met, made the selections and its chairperson, IIHF President Luc Tardif, has informed the honoured members in person. And now, the time is at hand to announce the newest honourees into the IIHF Hall of Fame for 2023, a truly eclectic mix of international Players and Builders, men and women, from eight countries, all of whom have contributed to the rich history of hockey at home and abroad.

In the Player category, the inductees include Jimmy Foster (GBR), Cristobal Huet (FRA), Brian Leetch (USA), Caroline Ouellette (CAN) and Henrik Zetterberg (SWE). Joining them will be Sandra Dombrowski (Official, SUI) and Kalervo Kummola (Builder, FIN), and rounding out the honourees are Richard “Bibi” Torriani Award winner Viktor Szelig (HUN), and Paul Loicq Award winner Kimmo Leinonen (FIN).

The IIHF Hall of Fame’s 2023 Induction Ceremonies will take place prior to the medal games of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on Sunday, 28 May in Tampere, Finland. 

Sandra Dombrowski (now Frey) will make history as the first female game official inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. She founded the women’s hockey club BOMO and played for Switzerland at the first, unofficial Women’s World Championship in Toronto in 1987, and after retiring as a player she turned to refereeing. Dombrowski was the first woman to referee a Women’s Worlds gold medal game, in 1992. She subsequently held the whistle at the gold games in 1994 and 1997 as well, all games featuring the classic Canada-United States rivalry. She also had the whistle as both a referee, and in an emergency, as a linesperson, at the 1998 Olympics, the first time women competed for a medal. Dombrowski ended her 15-year career as a game official a few months later and worked as a referee supervisor for the IIHF and SIHF watching both men’s and women’s games, was meeting with officials, and giving them feedback and guidance as need be including the following two Olympics. In 1998 she also became the first woman in the IIHF Officiating Committee.

Jimmy Foster played in 29 games at the Olympics and World Championships in the 1930s, winning Olympic gold in 1936 and two silver medals at the Worlds. No other goalie outside the “top six” hockey nations has ever won as many medals in international play. He allowed only 22 goals and recorded a combined 16 shutouts, more than any other goalie in IIHF history. During the period 1936-39, no other goalie played for Great Britain in IIHF competition, and he lost only five games, three of which were against Canada. In four of those five losses, Great Britain failed to score a goal. 

Cristobal Huet, another goalie from another era, was the best and most successful netminder in the long history of hockey in France. He represented his country whenever he was asked, starting with the 1997 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. It was to be the first of an incredible 13 appearances in WM play. He also played at the two most recent Olympics for France, in 1998 and 2002. During those 13 World Championships, France played 80 games, and Huet was in the blue net for 54 of that total, wearing his long-familiar number 39.

In 2001, he was selected 214th overall by Los Angeles in the NHL draft, and two years later, he made his debut, becoming only the second Frenchman, after Philippe Bozon, to make it to the NHL. In all, he played seven seasons in the world’s best league, culminating in 2009/10 when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, making Huet the first Frenchman to have his name on the silver chalice. 

But perhaps the biggest highlight of his career came in 2017 when Paris co-hosted the World Championship with Cologne, Germany. France barely missed out on a place in the quarter-finals, but the team’s final game was an impressive 4-1 win over Slovenia. Huet was the winning goalie and named the team’s Best Player of the game, and the players sent him off the ice in style one last time. 

Kalervo Kummola was a giant in the world of Finnish hockey for more than half a century, and his role went from local to national to international with such success it’s hard not to think of him primarily within the IIHF, even though his career had so much more to it. He was president of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association for two decades (1997-2016) and a vice-president of the IIHF from 2003-2021. As well, he served on perhaps more committees than anyone previously, including the committees for Sport, Marketing, Disciplinary, Coaching, and Co-ordination, to name but a few. 

Additionally, Kummola served a term as a Council member and was president of the Champions Hockey League for two years (2008-10). In addition to his contributions to the ongoing success of hockey in his country, Kummola also co-founded the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame and was on its Board of Directors for 33 years. He continues to Chair the Selection Committee, a role he started in 1986. 

Brian Leetch was, quite simply, one of the greatest defenders in hockey history. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for his remarkable NHL career, spent mostly with the New York Rangers and during which time he became one of only eight blueliners to eclipse the 1,000-point mark.

He was also a frequent and reliable representative for his country in international play, appearing in the World Junior Championships three times (1985-87) and the 1987 World Championship as a teenager. He also played at the 1988 Olympics before moving to the NHL, and he also played at the 1989 Worlds. But it was in the 1990s when IIHF/NHL best-on-best tournaments were played that Leetch elevated his game to another level. 

In 1991, he played for Team USA at the Canada Cup. Canada beat the U.S. in the finals, but five years later, at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey, this same core of Americans, led by Leetch, turned the tables on the favourites, beating Canada, 5-2, in game three of the ’96 finals. Leetch wore the “C” for USA at this historic victory, the most important between 1980 and today. 

One of the most successful and dominant players in women’s hockey, Caroline Ouellette won gold four times at the Olympics and six more at the Women’s World Championship (along with six more silver medals). Big and strong, she was an imposing figure on the ice and a leader on a team that dominated the women’s game for more than a decade.

Ouellette’s greatest goal came in 2012 in the gold-medal game of the Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. First, she set up Meghan Agosta for the late tying goal to make it a 4-4 game against the U.S., and then she scored the golden goal in overtime. In all, Ouellette averaged better than a point a game over 12 Women’s Worlds events. Count that alongside her four Clarkson Cups, and she was without question one of the most successful women players ever by the time she retired in 2018.

The 21st member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club, Henrik Zetterberg was a player of exceptional skill and class during a career that spanned two decades in both Sweden and North America. In IIHF play, Zetterberg appeared in four Olympic games, six World Championships, the 2004 World Cup, and the 2000 World Juniors. He was part of that historic double in 2006, when Tre Kronor won gold at both the Turin Olympics and the World Championships in Riga.

In his rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002/03, Zetterberg had 22 goals and was runner-up for the Calder Trophy. He was instrumental in Detroit’s successful run to the Stanley Cup in 2008 when the Wings beat Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh in six games. Zetterberg scored the Cup-winning goal early in the third period, only the seventh European to have done so, and he was given the Conn Smythe Trophy for his superior play throughout the playoffs. After Nicklas Lidstrom retired, Zetterberg was named Detroit captain starting in 2012/13. He wore the “C” for the final six years of his career, retiring in 2018 because of a back injury.

The Torriani Award goes to one of the most loyal and enduring players in IIHF history. On the national and international levels, few players have had careers as long and rewarding as Hungary’s Viktor Szelig. It all began in 1992 when he represented the Magyars for the first time, in the C-Pool of the European U18 Championship. But who could have known then that more than 20 years later, approaching 40 years of age, he’d still be wearing the national sweater of Hungary after 17 appearances in the senior World Championship? The highlight of his career occurred in 2008, when Hungary earned promotion to the top level for the first time since 1939, and then were welcomed by devoted fans at that top level in Switzerland in ’09.

The 2023 Paul Loicq Award winner is Kimmo Leinonen, a named and face known to everyone connected to the IIHF. In all, Leinonen was the IIHF’s PR and Marketing Director for 12 years, 1995-2007, leaving his position to assume the duties of general secretary for Finland’s historic co-hosting with Sweden of the 2012 and 2013 World Championship. But to call Leinonen “only” the IIHF’s PR and Marketing Director is to sell short what he did for the organization. He was a technical delegate to four Olympic Games (1998-2010) and worked at 14 World Championships during this time. He was part of various Organizing Committees to men’s and women’s tournaments and has been tournament chairman to more than 40 IIHF events from 1995 up to the present. 

Handing the Paul Loicq Award to Leinonen is allowing the IIHF to celebrate the person who helped create the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame itself, in 1996, alongside the late Hall of Famer Walter Bush, Jr.. And it was not the first time Leinonen had created such an organization. In 1984, he had co-founded the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, which had come out of another Leinonen co-creation – the Finnish Hockey Museum, which he had helped establish in 1978 as a means of celebrating the game in his homeland. It is located in Tampere, the place that will host the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship (with Riga) and the induction ceremony of the new IIHF Hall of Fame class, and well worth a visit.

And so this sensational group of men and women, who have devoted decades of their lives to hockey at home and abroad, represent the IIHF’s Hall of Fame Class of 2023. It is a group that has endured from the past to the present, that is celebrated for play on ice and work off it, and continues a long line of distinguished individuals who have loved the fastest sport on earth.

Click here for the full list of IIHF Hall of Fame members.