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Class of 2009 gets inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

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TSN.ca Staff
11/10/2009 11:49:51 AM
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When three of the Top 10 goal scorers of all time and a two-time Norris Trophy winner are eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame, it is not a tough call for the selection committee.

Forwards Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and defenceman Brian Leetch were inducted as Honoured Members on Monday in the players category, while New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was enshrined as a builder.

Representing all three forward positions, Yzerman, Hull and Robitaille accounted for 2,101 goals over the course of their careers and won a Stanley Cup together with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. And Leetch helped the New York Rangers end their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994.

At centre, Yzerman made an immediate impact when the Detroit Red Wings selected him fourth overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. The former Peterborough Pete stepped into the lineup and scored 39 goals and added 48 points for 87 points in his rookie campaign.

At the tender age of 21, Yzerman was named captain of the Red Wings in 1986-87. An oddity by today's standards, Yzerman spent his entire 22-year career with the Red Wings, scoring 692 goals to rank eighth on the all-time list.

"I need to thank the NHL for allowing me and all of the players to ply our trade," said Yzerman. "I was fortunate to play with some of the greatest players ever, as is witnessed by the other three I am sharing this night with. There have been some great players over the history of the league, and to be considered in the same class as those guys really humbles me."

A sad-sack organization when Yzerman arrived, the Red Wings have now become a model franchise since the Cranbrook, BC native arrived on the scene, missing the playoffs just twice in 22 years. During his tenure, the Red Wings won three Stanley Cups, with Yzerman winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1998.

Currently, Yzerman is a vice president with the Red Wings as well as the executive director for Canada's men's Olympic hockey team - with his eyes set on winning gold at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

At right wing, Hull ranks third on the all-time list with 741 goals over his 19-year career. The son of Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, the Golden Brett was drafted in the sixth round and broke in with the Calgary Flames during the 1986 playoffs.

But before he reached his goal-scoring potential, he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues in a trade deadline deal that helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989. With the Blues, Hull teamed up with Adam Oates to form a dynamic duo that enabled the sniper to score over 70 goals in three consecutive seasons, including a career-high of 86 markers in 1990-91. He would end his 10-year career in St. Louis with 527 goals for an average of over 50 goals per season.

In 1998, the Belleville, Ontario native moved on to the Dallas Stars and won a Stanley Cup when he scored the infamous 'toe in the crease' goal against the Buffalo Sabres. Over three seasons in Dallas, Hull averaged over 30 goals per campaign at the age of 34.

Hull continued to average over 30 goals a year in three seasons with the Red Wings, winning his second Stanley Cup in 2002. He finished his career with a brief stint in Phoenix. He is currently a member of the front office with the Stars.

"It's a little overwhelming," said Hull. "I look over the other great honorees and have to see it's a bit intimidating to be standing here with them. When you guys were named in this class, they couldn't have picked any better."

At left wing, Robitaille is the highest scoring player at his position in league history, ranking 10th on the all-time list with 668 goals.

Despite a high scoring junior career with the Hull Olympiques, Robitaille was not drafted until the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. But the native of Montreal would surprise many by winning the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie in 1986-87, scoring 45 goals in 79 games.

'Lucky Luc' followed that up with seven straight seasons of 44 goals or more with a career-high of 63 markers in the 1992-93 campaign.

In 1994-95, he spent one season with the Pittsburgh Penguins and then moved on to the New York Rangers for two more years before returning to the Kings in 1997-98.

After four sub-par seasons by his high standards, Robitaille rediscovered his touch around the net in Los Angeles, scoring 39 goals in 1998-99. He would score 112 goals over three years in his second stint with the Kings. 

But one accomplishment was still missing from his resume and that was a Stanley Cup ring. With that in mind, he signed with the Red Wings for the 2001-02 campaign and joined Yzerman and Hull to hoist the holy grail of hockey.

His heart remained in Los Angeles, where he returned in 2003 and retired as a King following the 2005-06 campaign. Not surprisingly, he now works with the Kings in a front office position.

"Congratulations to everyone who is being inducted," said Robitaille. "I've had the privilege of playing with you guys and it's a testament to what kind of people you are in how hard you work. I want to thank everyone who plays the game both past, present and future for dedicating themselves to the game I love."

On defence, Leetch was drafted ninth overall by the Rangers in the 1986 Entry Draft but decided to spend a year playing for the U.S. National Team. The Corpus Christi, Texas native played his first full season with the Rangers in 1988-89, scoring 23 goals and 71 points.

His individual career-best campaign came in 1991-92 when the smooth-skating blueliner surpassed the 100-point mark. He was rewarded with his first of two Norris Trophies as the league's best defenceman.

But his career highlight wouldn't happen for two more years when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in the Rangers' march to the Stanley Cup, a goal that had eluded the Rangers for 54 years.

In 1996-97, he scored 20 goals for the fouth time in his career and won his second Norris Trophy.

"Everyone here has had great careers and I'm honored to be included with them," said Leetch. "I started out playing hockey because it was fun, I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day I'd be standing here. I feel myself to be a very lucky person."

Leetch, who also spent some time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins but will always be remembered as a Ranger, finished his 18-year career with 1,028 points, including five 20-goal campaigns.

In the builders category, Lamoriello has been involved in hockey for over 40 years at the collegiate and NHL levels. The Devils have won three Stanley Cups during his tenure with the organization.

"I've been very fortunate in my life," said Lamoriello. "I've been in New Jersey for over 20 years and I've been blessed with tremendous players, coaches, trainers and fans. All of you deserve a place up here with me because without you there is no way I ever make it here."

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