Wickenheiser, Zubov among ’19 HOF inductees
TORONTO — Hayley Wickenheiser, regarded as the greatest player in the history of women’s hockey, joined four others in the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 induction on Monday night in Toronto.
The class also included former Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars center Guy Carbonneau; former Stars, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Sergei Zubov; Vaclav Nedomansky, a leading scorer in Czechoslovakia who became the first player to defect to North America; current Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, a three-time winner of the Stanley Cup; and Boston College coach Jerry York, the all-time wins leader in Division I.
Wickenheiser played 23 years with the Canadian women’s national team, helping it win four Olympic gold medals and seven International Ice Hockey Federation world championships. She retired as the leading scorer in Olympic women’s hockey history with 18 goals and 33 assists in 26 games, and was Canada’s flag-bearer at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Wickenheiser was a trailblazer in the sport, becoming the first woman to play full time professionally, in a position other than goaltender, when she suited up with HC Salamat, a Finnish men’s team. Called “one of the game’s great ambassadors” by Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald, Wickenheiser is currently Assistant Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs while also going to medical school at the University of Calgary.
“Being in the Hall … look at all the names on the wall,” she said when getting her Hall of Fame ring this weekend. “The NHL impacted my life. I didn’t grow up having female hockey players to look up to. As I stand here today, I can say that’s changed a lot. That feels really great to be amongst the best in the game, and that there’s a place in the world for some little girl to do the same.”
Carbonneau played 1,318 NHL games and captured the Stanley Cup three times, twice with Montreal and once with Dallas. He was considered one of the best defensive centers in league history, winning the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward three times and finishing in the top four for the award eight times.
Zubov was the antithesis of Carbonneau: A Russian-born player who was a finalist for the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL’s best defenseman, just once in his 1,068-game career. But after his retirement in 2009, there was a reassessment of his career through an analytic prism, and Zubov’s offensive consistency and defensive prowess were seen as criminally overlooked during his career.
“I don’t know that we even used the term Hockey IQ at the time, but his understanding of the game was extremely high,” former Stars assistant coach Rick Wilson told NHL.com recently. “He saw things as well as anyone when he was on the ice. It wasn’t only a creative mind, it was sort of semi-genius.”
Known as “Big Ned,” Nedomansky won Olympic silver and bronze as a legendary player in Czechoslovakia. He defected in 1974, playing just over three seasons in the World Hockey Association with the Toronto Toros and the Birmingham Bulls. At 33, he joined the NHL and played for the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.
“It’s like a circle in my career: From my first days in Toronto, to my last days in Toronto. I’m very happy,” he said.
Rutherford was a journeyman goalie in his 13-season NHL career before moving into management. In 1994, he became director of hockey operations and a part owner of the Hartford Whalers, eventually moving over to the Carolina Hurricanes when the team located. He built a Stanley Cup winner in 2006 with the Canes, but it was his second act that made him a Hall of Famer in the builder category: Taking over the then-floundering Penguins in June 2014 and winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
“My playing days built a foundation for me to become a manager. Most of the stuff I learned was through tough times,” he said at the Hall of Fame ring ceremony. “Winning the first Stanley Cup, there was excitement to it. Going to Pittsburgh and winning back-to-back … that’s really hard to do.”
York made some waves in the Toronto media by choosing to coach Boston College in its game against Vermont this weekend rather than attending some of the Hall of Fame events. The Eagles won both games.
This year’s class included some players on the men’s side that had been waiting for their call, but next year should have a first-ballot inductee: Former Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla, who is 16th all-time with 625 goals scored.
Among the players in the mix in 2020 include fellow first-year eligible player Shane Doan, a winger who played his entire career with the Coyotes organization; Daniel Alfredsson, the Ottawa Senators star who’s been passed over in three classes; Alex Mogilny, the first Russian player to defect and an offensive dynamo who has been eligible since 2009; and Jeremy Roenick, the brash former Chicago Blackhawks star who had 1,216 points in 1,363 career games. He’s been eligible since 2012.