Nieminen fourth woman inducted, Lou Vairo honoured
COLOGNE – Riikka Nieminen (FIN) became the fourth women to be inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame. In the class of 2010 she was joined by players Dieter Hegen (GER), Arturs Irbe (LAT), Vladimir Krutov (RUS) and builder Rickard Fagerlund (SWE), who passed away on New Year's Eve, a few weeks after the announcement. American Lou Vairo was named as recipient of the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to international hockey.
Scroll down for bios of the 2010 inductees and the Paul Loicq Award winner.
The induction ceremony took place on the final day of the 74th IIHF World Championship (May 7-23).
The IIHF Hall of Fame, which was introduced in 1997, now boasts 160 hockey greats from 22 countries.
Click here for a story on the induction ceremony that took place on May 23, 2010.
Click on this link for a complete list of all inductees.
Dieter Hegen (GER)
Born: April 29, 1962 in Kaufbeuren, West Germany
There are only four players in the world who have participated in five Olympic ice hockey tournaments and one of them is Dieter Hegen, an icon in German hockey. While representing his national team, “Didi” recorded 111 goals in the 290 appearances he made for Germany, which included two IIHF European Junior and World U20 Championship events. At the 1981 U20 tournament he skated away with the scoring title. He was so impressive in that event that the Montreal Canadiens selected Hegen at the NHL Entry Draft some months later, one pick after Chris Chelios.
By the end of his career, Hegen had seen action in 12 IIHF World Championships, one Canada Cup, and one World Cup. It was in 1998 that Hegen tied the record for most Winter Olympic tournaments by participating for the fifth time.
His 290 games with Team Germany places him 13th on the all-time list for most national team games. Hegen served as captain of the German national team from 1996 to 1999 and was later recognized by the German publication Eishockey News as the best left winger in German ice hockey history.
On the domestic scene, Hegen amassed seemingly countless individual awards including rookie of the year in 1981 and eight All-Star team selections. He was the league’s leading goal scorer in 1989 and 1992, and he claimed German Player of the Year honours in that same 1991-92 season with Düsseldorf. Statistically, Hegen was just as dominant nationally as he was internationally, finishing his career as the second leading German scorer of all time tallying 613 goals.
Arturs Irbe (LAT)
Born: February 2, 1967 in Riga, Soviet Union
Undoubtedly the most famous Latvian-born ice hockey player of all time, Arturs Irbe experienced one of the more unique careers that any athlete could. Irbe’s initial international success came during the 1985 IIHF European Junior Championship when he was chosen as the tournament’s top goaltender en route to a silver medal for the Soviet Union squad.
Not long after, Irbe burst onto the professional stage with Dinamo Riga in the then Soviet national league, winning Rookie-of-the-Year honours and leading the club into the finals against the perennial champion CSKA Moscow during the 1987-88 campaign.
Irbe not only starred for Dinamo Riga for four full seasons, he played in two consecutive IIHF World and European Championships for the gold medal winning Soviet Union – claiming the IIHF Directorate Award for Top Goaltender during the 1990 event. In 1991, when the political landscape changed dramatically and Latvia achieved its long sought-after independence, Irbe began what would become a stellar 12-year NHL career. He appeared in two NHL All-Star contests and backstopped his Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002.
Perhaps Irbe’s proudest moment, however, came when he dressed for his native Latvia for the first time, in the 1996 IIHF B Pool World Championship. He led Latvia to promotion to the top division and the country has never looked back.
In all, Irbe represented Latvia in eight more IIHF World Championships and two Olympic Winter Games, including the 2006 competition when he was selected Latvia’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies. In one of the most emotionally charged international games in modern history, Irbe led Latvia to a 3-2 win over Russia in the 2000 IIHF World Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Irbe is currently goaltending coach with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
Vladimir Krutov (RUS)
Born: June 1, 1960 in Moscow, USSR
Vladimir Krutov is without any doubt one of the best forwards ever to play the game. Anatoli Tarasov, the dean of Russian hockey coaches, once concluded that a forward had to keep an eye on every move his partners made while not losing sight of the beautiful women sitting in the 10th row of the stands. According to Tarasov, there were only two players who could accomplish as much – Valeri Kharlamov and Vladimir Krutov.
Together with centre Igor Larionov and winger Sergei Makarov, Krutov formed arguably the best and most elegant forward line ever to perform on the international scene. His resume says it all: Two-time Olympic champion (1984 and 1988), one Olympic silver medal (1980) and five IIHF World Championship gold medals where he was named Best Forward on two occasions. He was selected to the World Championship All-Star Team every year between 1983 and 1987.
Ironically, the one year when Krutov led the World Championship in scoring – 1987 – the team did not win gold. His biggest individual accomplishment was leading the 1988 Olympic tournament in scoring with 15 points in just 8 games.
Krutov was instrumental in the Soviet Union’s sensational 1981 Canada Cup victory at the Forum in Montreal, and he totaled an amazing 139 points in 114 major international competition.
Krutov amassed a truly unbelievable 503 points in 438 games with his club team CSKA Moscow, the national champion eleven times during Krutov’s career.
In 1981, Krutov was made an Honoured Master of Sports in the Soviet Union, the equivalent to being inducted into a national hall of fame.
Riikka Nieminen-Välilä (FIN)
Born: June 12, 1973 in Jyväskylä, Finland
Riikka Nieminen represented Finland in 118 national team games scoring amazing 109 goals, 95 assists and 204 points with only 24 minutes in penalties.
She sprung to international fame by winning the scoring title in the first Olympic ice hockey tournament with women’s participation. While leading Finland to a bronze medal in Nagano, in 1998, Nieminen scored seven goals and five assists in just six games. She was one of the first women’s hockey players from Europe whose individual skills fully equaled her rivals from Canada and the United States.
Nieminen played in three IIHF Women’s European Championships and four IIHF World Women’s Championships, and in 2002 she took part in her second Olympic Winter Games, in Salt Lake City. Apart from the Olympic bronze, she led Finland to three European Championship titles and four IIHF World Women’s Championship bronze medals.
Additionally, Nieminen played for several years in the Finnish Women’s Hockey League, notably with Etelä-Vantaan Urheilijat (EVU), Keravan Shakers, KalPa, JYP and JyHC playing 116 games. In all, she amassed 179 goals and 163 assists for a total of 342 points.
Riikka Nieminen continued her career in Switzerland with SC Lyss and HC Limhamn in Sweden. She led her teams to four Finnish championship titles and one bronze medal and was inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Rickard Fagerlund (SWE)
Born: January 25, 1937 in Södertälje, Sweden
Rickard Fagerlund served as president of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association for 19 years, from 1983 till 2002. During his term, Sweden won four IIHF World Championship gold medals and five silver medals. As well, Sweden captured one Olympic gold medal (1994), one silver (with the women’s team) and two bronze. It was Rickard Fagerlund who led the revival of the Swedish hockey program in the 1980s that led to the successes in the ‘90s and into the 21st century. No other Swedish association president enjoyed so much success during his tenure as Fagerlund.
Always charismatic, outspoken and available to media, Fagerlund made sure that ice hockey got more than its share of exposure in newspapers and on television. Under Fagerlund’s guiding hand, his sport grew enormously in popularity, public awareness, and active participation. He became a member of the IIHF Council in 1994 and as chairman of the IIHF Marketing Committee he was in charge of several programs which increased the visibility of the IIHF.
One of Fagerlund’s main assets was his thorough knowledge of the game. He started as a player, with a local club BK Star in his home town of Södertälje, but was very soon recruited to the big-league club Södertälje SK where he won the Swedish championship in 1956. Fagerlund even managed to play eight games with the national team, Tre Kronor, becoming one of the very few top nation association presidents with national team credentials.
(for outstanding contributions to international hockey)
Lou Vairo (USA)
Born: February 25, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York
Lou Vairo’s career has been spent promoting the sport of hockey in all parts of the world. One of the game’s most accomplished coaches on the international scene, Vairo has directed national and professional teams in both the United States and Europe for parts of four decades.
Since his first professional coaching position with the Austin Mavericks of the United States Hockey League (1975), Vairo has had a profound impact on the game. He has been instrumental in the growth and development of hockey in the United States, the Netherlands and Italy and Vairo was the driving force behind establishing the current IIHF Development Camp program.
A true visionary, he was one of the main architects of the current player development system for the United States’ national teams and he has been coaching the U.S. men’s national team in the Olympics (1984, 2002), the IIHF World Championships (1983, 2000-2003) and the IIHF World U20 Championships (2003). In addition Vairo has been widely involved in the structure and content of USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program and has been a lifelong advocate of inviting those in the international hockey community to the United States to share their concepts.