IIHF class of 2015 honoured
IIHF class of 2015 honoured
Elite talents inducted in Prague
In his opening remarks, IIHF President Rene Fasel described this as a “very special induction class.” And it certainly was.
The memorable gala ceremony held hours before the medal games also highlighted two women’s hockey inductees: builder Fran Rider (Canada) and star player Maria Rooth (Sweden).
Former Italian star Lucio Topatigh became the inaugural winner of the Richard “Bibi” Torriani Trophy for outstanding careers by players from non-top hockey nations. It is named after the greatest Swiss player of the pre-war era.
Monique Scheier-Schneider of Luxembourg was also honoured as the 2015 recipient of the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to international hockey.
The event was expertly MC’d by TSN broadcaster and 2013 Paul Loicq Award winner Gord Miller.
Hasek and Reichel collectively represent the golden era of Czech hockey from 1996 to 2001.
Individually, Hasek’s unique acrobatic style made him arguably the best goalie of his generation, and the Pardubice product backstopped his nation to gold against all odds at the first “NHL Olympics” in Nagano, Japan in 1998. In the NHL, the two-time Hart Trophy winner and six-time Vezina Trophy winner also captured two Stanley Cups (2002, 2008) with the Detroit Red Wings.
In his thank-you remarks, “The Dominator” made a passionate appeal for the NHL to continue Olympic participation in 2018 and beyond: “To win it all for your country is to win for everyone and everything that is at the heart of who you are. To bring back the gold medal from Nagano was indescribable. I encourage the NHL to embrace it and give players like Jaromir Jagr one more shot at a party in the Old Town Square.”
As Miller related, all-time NHL coaching great Scotty Bowman once said: “If I could choose one goaltender to play for me in one winner-take-all game, I would choose Dominik Hasek.” Miller added that Hasek’s Buffalo Sabres teammates once counted that he stopped 111 out of 118 shots during a pre-game warm-up, reflecting his ultra-competitive nature.
Reichel famously scored the semi-final shootout winner against Canada in Nagano. An 830-game NHLer, the talented centre from Litvinov captained the Czech team to three IIHF World Championship titles (1996, 2000, 2001), and wore the “C” on many other occasions.
“For this I’m truly humbled and thankful,” said Reichel.“I will admit there were days where I did not want to get up at 5 o’clock for morning practice.” He thanked his parents, his coaches, and his agent and former Czech teammate, Petr Svoboda.
“The most memorable moment for me was winning that 1998 Olympic gold,” Reichel added. “It was special because it was the first time we played a tournament with the best players. It meant so much not only to me but for our country.”
The smooth-skating Niedermayer, an IIHF Triple Gold Club member, simply won everywhere he went. Born in Edmonton and raised in Cranbrook, the Canadian offensive defenceman captured international titles at the Olympics (2002, 2010), World Championships (2004), World Juniors (1991), and World Cup of Hockey (2004). He also won four Stanley Cups with New Jersey (1995, 2000, 2003) and Anaheim (2007). Niedermayer added a Memorial Cup with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers (1992).
Hockey Canada president Tom Renney accepted on behalf of Niedermayer, currently an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks and unable to attend since his club is taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs. Renney goes back decades with Niedermayer, including coaching him with Kamloops.
“It’s really nice that a coach gets to come up and accept on behalf of a player, because a great player makes a good coach,” said Renney.
Rider, who founded the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association in 1975 and a Canadian national women’s championship seven years later, also spearheaded the first unofficial World Women’s Championship in 1987. Her forward-thinking approach led to the IIHF’s officially inaugurating the Women’s Worlds in Ottawa in 1990. And in 1998, women’s Olympic hockey became a reality – thanks again in large part to this Brampton, Ontario native.
“It was very scary, to be truthful,” said Rider of the early years. “In 1987 at the world tournament, the countries were putting a lot of effort into it. And there was a lot of money involved. We were just hoping that we would have the countries so that we would have the money. It was very volatile. But in the end six countries came, and a total of 11 sent delegates.”
Rooth, a four-time Olympian from 1998 to 2010, made history when she won silver with the Swedish women’s team at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Her hat trick against the powerful Americans, including the shootout winner, led the Damkronorna to a stunning 3-2 upset and ultimately a silver medal. Rooth also earned Olympic bronze in 2002, and added silver and bronze medals during her nine World Championships. The skillful forward from Angelholm distinguished herself as a three-time college hockey champion with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
“Growing up, I was the only girl among 600 players on my club team, Rogle,” recalled Rooth, who said she idolized Wayne Gretzky growing up because she had no female role models. She gave a special shout-out to her university coach Shannon Miller (“You really taught me what the word ‘excellence’ means in hockey”), as well as fellow UMD player Carolyn Ouellette and Damkronorna teammates like Gunilla Andersson and Erika Holst.
In Italian hockey, Topatigh’s passion was unmatched. He represented his nation an amazing 18 times at IIHF tournaments between 1983 and 2006 – including 14 top-level participations (with four Olympics) and four B Pool appearances. His swan song was the 2006 Winter Games in his native land. The Gallio-born power forward won four Italian titles with Bolzano and also starred for years with Asiago.
“I come from a country wherre hockey is not a nationwide sport, but it is in the hearts of many fans, especially in the north,” said Topatigh. He attributed higher values to hockey such as “redemption,” “principle,” “honour,” “sacrifice,” and “interaction with other human beings.”
Scheier-Schneider has done wonders for the development of the game in her native Luxembourg. Since 1992, she has served as the General Secretary of the Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation. An IIHF Council member since 2008, the Schifflange native has also worked as an off-ice official and minor hockey program’s secretary, demonstrating her commitment to the grassroots. She is also the president of the Tornado Luxembourg club, and has managed junior and senior national teams.
“You can’t ask for more than receiving an award for something you’re doing with love and passion,” said Scheier-Schneider in her Paul Loicq Award acceptance speech. “I hope I can still go on some more time because hockey is my life.”
There are now 201 greats representing 23 countries in the IIHF Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1997.
Jerseys worn and signed by Hasek, Niedermayer, Reichel, Rooth, Rider and Topatigh at the induction ceremony are being auctioned off via eBay. The proceeds from the auction will go to charities chosen by the inductees.
– With files from IIHF staff
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