Goalies, Ouellette highlight HHOF induction
by Andrew PODNIEKS|14 NOV 2023
From left to right, 2023 Inductees Mike Vernon, Pierre Turgeon, Caroline Ouellette, Henrik Lundqvist, Eric Lacroix representing his late father Pierre Lacroix, Ken Hitchcock and Tom Barrasso pose for a photo with their honoured member rings during 2023 Inductee Media Conference and Ring Ceremony in the Esso Great Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 10, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
photo: © HHOF Images
The Hockey Hall of Fame hosted its annual induction ceremonies in Toronto tonight, honouring seven new members for their contributions to the game both in the NHL and internationally. The roster of new names joining the pantheon of greats included Caroline Ouellette, who was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame earlier this year, three goalies—Henrik Lundqvist (SWE), Tom Barrasso (USA), and Mike Vernon (CAN)—coach Ken Hitchcock (CAN) and GM Pierre Lacroix (CAN) as Builders, and Pierre Turgeon (CAN) also in the Players’ category.
Ouellette’s story is a familiar one to international hockey fans. Between 1999 and 2015 she played in three Olympics and 12 IIHF Women’s World Championships, winning four gold medals in the former and six gold and six silver medals in Women’s Worlds play. A power forward with a soft touch around the net, she was one of the game’s premium offensive talents for 16 years.
“Thank you to the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee for believing that I belong with the greats of our game,” she said during her speech. “I truly believe there are so many women worthy of this great honour… Growing up, I played with boys from 9 to 17 years old and all those years I was the only girl on my team. I heard all sorts of name calling, but these challenges helped me appreciate how lucky I was to play hockey. At age 15, I was invited to my first Team Quebec camp, and although I wasn’t as good as the other girls it became my only goal, my purpose for everything I do.”
Lundqvist can boast of an impressive resume both in IIHF play and in the NHL, but surely the crowning glory of his career came in 2006 when he backstopped Tre Kronor to Olympic gold in Turin. Additionally, he played in five IIHF Men’s World Championships, three Olympics in total, two World Juniors, one U18 Men’s World Championship, and the 2016 World Cup.
In the NHL, “King Henrik” won 459 regular-season games, 5th-most all time and tops among European goalies. He is the only goalie in league history to win 20 games for 13 straight seasons, and he retired in 2021 as the winningest goalie in New York Rangers’ history.
“I want to thank my coaches over all the years but one in particular, Benoit Allaire, who was my coach for 15 years. Every day he inspired me in so many ways. He made it fun. He was the best coach, the best friend I could ask for.”
Barrasso had his finest moments for Team USA in the 1980s, playing in the 1983 World Juniors and 1986 Men’s Worlds. Around this time, he also played at both the 1984 and ’87 Canada Cup tournaments, and his final appearance came in 2002 in Salt Lake as part of the silver-medal-winning U.S. team.
As an NHLer, Barrasso started with a bang, moving from high school to the NHL directly and then winning the Calder and Vezina Trophies in 1983-94 with the Buffalo Sabres, his first season. He was later traded to Pittsburgh, where he was part of the Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. In all, he won 369 games and has the distinction of being the all-time points leader for goalies, collecting 48 assists in 19 NHL seasons.
“No one gets here alone,” Barrasso said. “You need love. You need support, and most of all you need opportunity… No matter your skill, you need people to give you opportunity…. Scotty Bowman had the courage to start an 18-year-old goalie in the season opener in 1983, and my career was on my way… In 1991, the Pittsburgh Penguins were rebuilding around Mario Lemieux, and the GM was Tony Esposito, who traded for me. He believed in me… And in 2001, Craig Patrick selected me to be part of the Olympic team. Being an Olympian was a highlight of my lifetime, and I put that right beside my two Stanley Cups.”
Vernon represented Canada only twice but won medals both times. He played at the 1983 World Juniors, winning bronze, and in 1991 he appeared at the Men’s Worlds, taking home a silver. In the NHL, Vernon has the distinction of winning two Stanley Cups with different teams, first with Calgary in 1989 and then eight years later with Detroit, when he was also named Conn Smythe Trophy winner as best playoff performer.
“I came from a hockey family, and I strapped my pads on for the first time at the age of five,” the goalie related. “I never took them off. I knew that was the position for me. It was a way to have fun, hang out with my buddies, and dream one day of playing in the NHL. In 1983, I made my NHL debut--11 minutes, four goals against. Later, I was called up and we tied the game, and at the end of the season we played Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. I wasn’t sure I could play with the best players of that era, so I want to thank the NHL and everyone who helped me go from rookie to champion.”
Turgeon was a pure goal scorer, which is why Buffalo drafted him 1st overall in 1987. By the time he retired in 2007, he had scored 515 regular-season goals in the NHL over a 19-year career. His best season was 1992-93 with the New York Islanders when he had 58 goals and 132 points. He also played at the ill-fated 1987 World Juniors, his lone appearance with Team Canada.
“I was inspired to see my brother Sylvain play junior hockey, and I dreamed of following him to the NHL,” Turgeon explained. “The year 1987 was an exciting year for me. It was the second time the Sabres took a Quebecois as the first overall pick… I am so grateful I was able to do something I love for so many years. I still love the game. When I see a game, I get in a bubble. All I think about is, where is that puck? I want it!”
Hitchcock is a coaching legend in the NHL, his 849 wins 4th all time. He was behind the bench for 1,598 games with five teams, culminating in 1998-99 when he led the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup. He also coached Canada at the 2008 Men’s Worlds in Quebec City, winning a silver medal, and again three years later.
“He had an amazing ability to create relationships with all the players, to get them to buy into above all else, the team concept,” said Bob Gainey, who hired Hitchcock in Dallas in 1993. “He cared for them as people first.”
“This is a great honour for me personally, but also an honour for the players I coached,” “Hitch” said. “As a kid, I went from school to the rink every day with my dad. I helped scrape the ice, edge the ice. I was with him every day. I followed him everywhere and learned a lot. My heroes growing up were not players; they were coaches. I built some great relationships in some small towns, and that support from the community was my fuel.”
The late Pierre Lacroix was president and general manager of the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche from 1994 to 2006, the last year a Cup-winning season.
Joe Sakic spoke eloquently about Lacroix, who was represented by his grandson, Max: “Pierre understood team chemistry and the importance of creating a family-like atmosphere like no one else. Everything he did supported that environment. Pierre made every player, no matter what their role, equally important… There’s no doubt hockey was a better place with Pierre in it.”