In honor of one of the greatest Hockey Hall of Fame classes ever, we’re going to be accomplishing one of the greatest running diaries ever.
Undoubtedly, tonight is a great night for four of the most dynamic, memorable, talented, and defining players of anyone’s time. We’re even more fortunate that Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull, and Steve Yzerman are being inducted on the same night, alongside Lou Lamoriello.
7:01: After some glowing words from current NHL players, the proceedings are thrown over to James Duthie. Which is great because he writes things like this .
That, and he’s a Gemini Award-winner.
7:02: And here’s his co-host, Dick Irvin! Although Dick’s reading this as if he’s got a date after, he’s still as smooth as ever.
7:04: Bill Hay, the Chairman and C.E.O of the Hockey Hall of Fame takes to the podium, introducing them as “fine inductees”.
He also thinks that Steve Yzerman is handsome, Brett Hull got his good looks from his mother, Brian Leetch looked good as a Calder Trophy winner, and so did Luc Robitaille.
The former Calder Trophy winner himself (Hay) just asked “Why are we so handsome?”
Needless to say, Lou Lamoriello didn’t even garner a “lookin’ good” and a subtle wink.
7:06: Our first commercial break of the evening has me wondering: Why don’t advertising companies capitalize on ever major event.
Granted the induction ceremony is no Super Bowl, but with most Canadians tuning in to this tonight, wouldn’t it be great to have a few talking-baby commercials or suggestive beer commercials rather than insurance talk?
7:10: Currently, we’re getting a walk-around of the trophy hall which centers around the Stanley Cup and all of the features in some of the most beautiful rooms in Canada.
Once we go from the beauty of the Great Hall, we go to the Webster’s definition of sniper to describe Brett Hull.
7:12: “Giving your son your skill is like giving him 10,000 pieces of gold”. This, apparently, is an ancient Chinese proverb that gets brought up because of who Hull’s father is.
Unfortunately, the elder Hull couldn’t have passed along a lasting Canadian citizenship.
7:14: “Hull and Oates were a hit.” Get it?! Get it?!? That’s almost as funny as Hull’s abbreviated stint in Phoenix.
7:16: Hull’s thanks are in order, and of course he starts with the Blues and everyone who helped him achieve every single one of his goals. Of course, there are also the greatest moments of any speech: Naming names of people not everybody knows.
7:18: Still no thanks to the Calgary Flames. Fortunately enough Hull knows what “When you’re the farthest from the play, you’re the closest to where it’s going.” Ironically enough, Hull’s son is a goalie, which gets a laugh out of the crowd when he says that his bloodline has over 1,600 goals.
7:22: Hull’s speech closes with a few glowing words about Peter Zezel and some final reflection on where he’s been and how appreciative he is to everyone. Very eloquent words from one of the more blunt superstars of our time.
Brian Leetch is up next after these messages from our sponsors.
7:25: Unfortunately…I’m not sponsored, so I made up my own. Unfortunately the CRTC and the FCC have deemed them too racy to air. Let's leave it at that shall we?
7:26: Bill Chadwick, Ted Kennedy, and Clint Smith’s memoriums greet us as we come back to talking about how Brian Leetch’s ascension throughout the ranks of one of the greatest franchises ever as a High School draft pick, to one of the greatest defensemen ever.
7:27: Now we have an ‘Art of War’ quote. How much do you want to bet that Don Quixote is quoted?
7:28: There are so many things that define this class. First of all, every member has a Stanley Cup ring. Then they’re one of the highest-scoring induction classes ever (if not THE highest scoring class…I’m not sure). There are also two of the greatest American players (Leetch and Hull) being inducted, while there are two of the best wingers ever (Hull and Robitaille), and one of the greatest captains (Yzerman).
7:30: Leetch’s quarter season (if that) in Toronto was just brought up. What’s interesting, is that Leetch is one of only two people in this class (Lamoriello being the other) that wasn’t on the 2001/02 Detroit Red Wings team.
But what if he was? Would this have been the first time that a Hall of Fame to have won a ring with the same team?
7:32: This just in: John Davidson still has his moustache.
7:32: Leetch is doing a very honorable thing. He’s reaching out to his youth coaches, which is heart-warming. Every player inducted into the Hall of Fame should do this because, whatever happens, those coaches were always there to support them and they’ve got so much to owe to them.
7:36: There was something that I never noticed about Brian Leetch, and it was how relaxed he seems (at least on television). Leetch’s composure on the ice is replicated in this speech.
He also has one of the best lines about being inducted in to the Hall of Fame: “If you look at this as a team, whether I ever hit the ice or not, it’s still the greatest team to ever be a part of.”
7:42: As the signal cuts out, they were just introducing the Elmer Ferguson Memorial award for excellence in writing and the Foster Hewitt Award for excellence in hockey broadcasting. Ironic no?
7:44: Jim “Bearcat” Murray, the Calgary Flames’ trainer (mentioned periodically in Theoren Fleury’s book) is also being inducted into the Athletic Trainer’s Hall of Fame.
Granted I don’t know much about great hockey trainers, but from what I’ve heard, Murray was one of the best and fastest to get out onto the ice.
7:45: Gary Bettman just crunched the numbers as far as goals, All-Star appearances, and Stanley Cups go, as well as setting up “an All-Star team on the ice (Yzerman, Hull, Robitaille, Leetch), in the front office (Lamoriello), and in the booth (Davidson and David Molinari).
7:48: Not only did a Henry Longfellow lyric just describe Lou Lamoriello, but he also just got compared to Bruce Springsteen. Granted it was simply because they associated the words “Boss” and “New Jersey” with memorable people, but I’d be hard-pressed to find another executive in another sport that this has happened too.
Along with that, Lamoriello is one of a few remaining execs in any sport that can actually build a team and not necessarily get handcuffed by a greedy super star.
7:51: What some might not know, is that Lou Lamoriello was ice hockey coach at Providence University, as well as (eventually) the athletic director, and he also hired Rick Pitino, who is actually attending Lamoriello’s induction.
Something else that you may not know, is that Lou blames his hair loss on Robitaille, Hull, Yzerman, and Leetch.
7:56: The last, and only time, Sergei Brylin may be mentioned in an induction speech as Lamoriello thanks all five players who were on each New Jersey team that won all three Stanley cups. Just for fun, those teams included Scott Niedermayer (future Hall-of-Famer), Martin Brodeur (future Hall-of-Famer), Scott Stevens (Hall-of-Famer), and Ken Daneyko the lifetime Devil.
That's one hell of a team.
8:00: Three granddaughters. A Perfect hat-trick for Lou Lamoriello.
8:06: Station Break I'm assuming. Which begs the question: Which is heavier? A Stanley Cup ring, or a Hockey Hall of Fame induction ring?
8:09: After a ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and TSN Top-Ten break, it’s time for Lucky Luc Robitaille to get inducted under the veil of a Thomas Jefferson quote.
Robitaille however, embodies the fact that you can make the NHL whether you’re drafted first overall, 201st overall, or undrafted, talent trumps all and on every level.
The junior standout scored goals at every level he played, every team he played for, and any continent he set foot on.
The crowning jewel for a player who’ll always be regarded as a lifetime King (Despite stints with the Penguins, Rangers, and Red Wings) was with another franchise, playing for Detroit.
Like legend Dave Taylor though, Robitaille was able to sell-out any arena, always drawing Kings fans to him.
8:13: Brett Hull was cracking up, but I’m curious as to whether Luc Robitaille will be the first to get really outwardly emotional about this.
8:15: Yet another interesting caveat to the speeches, Robitaille just gave a heart-felt speech specifically to his parents (or at least I think) in French. A little later on in that speech he also thanked Claude Therien in French as well.
Again. I'm not sure. He's a fast talker.
8:16: Alex Smart is the scout who convinced the ownership to draft Robitaille, and he couldn't be more thankful. After all, he sold them on a slow kid who was simply "first to a loose puck".
Luc also credits him for his English-speaking abilities (unnecessary if he wasn't drafted), his career, and his wife. Those are three very...uh..awesome...things that Robitaille should be thankful for.
8:19: While Robitaille slips back to French, we also just found out (whether he was joking or not) that he didn’t check out of his rooms during his career—his roommates did it for him, which is kind of strange, but when you truly embody the words “anything is possible” I guess you can have other people do it for you.
8:24: As we await the end of another commercial break, Steve Yzerman is the last inductee to give a speech, which begs an interesting question: Are the speeches organized by which inductees are most-prolific?
It certainly sounds vain, but despite every one of these athletes deserving this honor, Yzerman has had the best career out of the inductees as he joins Mark Messier and Joe Sakic as two of the people to best exemplify that qualities that everyone looks for in a Captain.
8:27: Rene Fasel is now addressing the inductees, who have also had some of the most decorated International hockey careers as well. Lamoriello, Hull, and Leetch were the centerpieces around the 1996 World Cup team, while Robitaille played internationally early on in his career, and Yzerman defined Canada and numerous international competitions. Stevie Y also owns a 2002 Gold Medal and is constructing this year’s installment of Team Canada for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Sort of gratifying to see how many different facets of the game, not only the NHL but international competition as well, each of these men defined.
8:30: TSN should be going to the Monday Nighter (The Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers). Proving how much hockey means to this country, they aren’t pulling coverage.
Take that Ben Roethlisberger (with cheese)!!
8:32: One thing I didn’t know: The Red Wings actually intended to return Yzerman to the CHL out of training camp when he was first drafted. Needless to say, a rookie season that saw him come in second in the Calder Trophy race proved that he belonged at the NHL level.
8:36: Listening to Yzerman speak, he’s truly sincere, but while this is truly captivating it’s chilling to think that for two decades there were players who got to listen to him try to drive them towards an ultimate goal.
It can only be described as a privilege.
8:39: Scotty Bowman hated the line of Robitaille, Hull, and Yzerman and actually split them up on to three different lines.
Then again, do you think if that team of Hockey Hall of Famers that Leech talked about was to take to the ice it’d be worth trying them together again?
8:44: When you consider the people that Yzerman is thanking, it’s outstanding to see the great hockey minds and attitudes all come together under one team. Scotty Bowman, Ken Holland, and Jimmy Devellano are just a few of the great names to work with that organization in recent memory, which says something about the caliber of athlete and person that that Red Wings look for, while explaining how they’ve been able to build such a dynamic, domineering franchise across the past twenty years.
8:47: And with that, it’s a brief good-bye from James Duthie and Dick Irvin, as well as myself. Hopefully if you weren’t able to catch the speeches live, you’ll look for them online.
As it was one of the greatest induction classes ever, it also offered some of the more insightful speeches from some of the greatest performers ever, making today one of the most treasured days in hockey history.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. When he's not writing for B/R or Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game , he's mailing in running diaries. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to check out his archives .