TORONTO — Martin Brodeur, the winningest goaltender of all-time, did not have to wait long to get the call from The Hall.
The Montreal, Quebec native, who began his career with the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1993-94, went on to become a 10-time All-Star, winning four Vezina Trophies as The League’s top goaltender and three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
“As a player, you get to meet Hall of Fame members and now to have my name in the same sentence makes me speechless,” Brodeur said. “I was fortunate to play on great teams that allowed me to play with my own personality, which is so important to a goaltender.”
Brodeur holds NHL records for wins (691), shutouts (125), saves (28,928) and games played (1,266) and won 30-or-more games in 12 consecutive seasons which included eight 40-win seasons. Brodeur, who grew up idolizing Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens, participated in three Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 leading Team Canada to the Gold Medal in Salt Lake City and Vancouver.
“Even though there’s a lot of talk until you get the phone call from the proper people you always think, ‘Is it going to happen? How is it going to happen?‘” Brodeur said on a conference call after the announcement. “I’m here at Blues prospect camp there are a lot of hockey people around, so I couldn’t walk two feet without people saying, “Did you get the call yet? Did you get the call yet?”
Brodeur, who revolutionized the position with his slick stick work, scored three goals from his end of the ice forcing The League to implement what is known as “The Brodeur Rule” which limited the area goalies could play the puck.
All told, Brodeur, who is currently assistant general manager for the St. Louis Blues, went 691-397-105 during the regular season and 113-91 in the playoffs. His career 2.24 goals-against average ranks ninth all-time.
Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL color barrier with the Boston Bruins, Martin St. Louis, a six-time All-Star who won the Hart Trophy as League MVP while guiding the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 1994, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman highlight the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018 which also includes Jayna Hefford and Alexander Yakushev.
The class will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 in Toronto.
St. Louis — all 5’8” of him — revolutionized the game as well defying odds for players his size by compiling a brilliant, lengthy 17-year career in The National Hockey League for the Lightning, Calgary Flames and New York Rangers amassing 1,033 points in 1,134 regular-season games, winning the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2014.
Despite putting up 267 points in 211 games for the University of Vermont Catamounts in college, St. Louis went undrafted but the diminutive Laval, Quebec native never got discouraged, instead using concerns over his height as a driving force that produced 391 goals and 642 assists, ultimately opening up eyes — and the door — for more undersized players to make their mark in The League.
“When people tried to discourage me along the way, that’s just life,” St. Louis said. “I definitely used that as a motivation in trying to prove people wrong.”
In 2003-04, St. Louis’ trademark creativity and skill led to the Art Ross Trophy as The League’s leading scorer finishing with 94 points. His play continued in the playoffs where he put up 24 points in 23 playoff games to help the Lightning secure the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.
St. Louis joins Brodeur as first-ballot Hall of Famers.
O’Ree, long overdue to get the call from The Hall, was the first player of color to play in The National Hockey League making history as a 32-year old with the Boston Bruins at the Montreal Forum on Jan. 18, 1958.
A native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, O’Ree finished with four goals and 10 assists in 45 NHL games during the 1957-58 and 1960-61 seasons despite being 95 percent blind in his right eye. Despite the odds, O’Ree was a trailblazer, paving the way for more players of color to lace ’em up. Now 82, O’Ree works for the NHL as its diversity ambassador behind the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. This past season, “The Willie O’Ree NHL Community Hero Award” was presented to late Humboldt Broncos’ head coach Darcy Haugan.
“I knew that there were going to be more black players not only playing pro but eventually getting into the National Hockey League,” O’Ree said. “Now there’s 31 teams in the league and you can see that the black players and the players of color that are playing there, they’re there because they have the skills and the ability to be in the league.”
O’Ree will be the third player of color inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Edmonton Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr and Team Canada women’s national team captain Angela James.
Jayna Hefford won four Olympic gold medals and seven world championships as a member of Team Canada’s women’s teams. For over 20 years, Hefford starred for the Brampton Thunder of the CWHL while starring for her country on the international stage accumulating 30 points in 26 Olympic games. With 157 goals and 291 points, Hefford retired as Canada’s second leading scorer, all-time in international competition, behind Hayley Wickenheiser.
Alexander Yakushev, the high-flying Russian-born scorer from Balashikha, U.S.S.R., made his mark at the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union with 11 points in eight games during the international competition. With seven goals in the series, Yakushev tied Paul Henderson and Phil Esposito for the most goals in the tournament to earn Soviet MVP honors, a feat he would go on to win four times at the Summit Series.
Helping his country win Olympic gold medals in 1972 and 1976, Yakushev was a prolific scorer for Spartak Moskva for nearly two decades. He was inducted into the Russian Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970 and into the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame in 2003.
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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