The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto inducted four new members last night, and all of them are known for their international careers as much as their play in the NHL.
Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov, Pat Quinn, and Rogatien Vachon were all honoured for their years of service to the game, and each one crafted an induction speech touching on their lives in hockey.
Lindros was the biggest name this night, physically and figuratively. A giant even as a teenager, he was a super-power forward who could hit as hard as anyone but who had hands of gold around the net.
Lindros was famously the first overall draft choice of the Quebec Nordiques in 1991, but he refused to play for the team and forced a trade, to Philadelphia, which resulted in Quebec acquiring, among others, Peter Forsberg. Lindros went on to have a great NHL career, notably centring a line with American John LeClair and Swede Mikael Renberg known as the Legion of Doom.
At his best in the mid-1990s, Lindros won the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award during the shortened 1994-95 season, and a year later he had his only 100-point season, finishing with 47 goals, 68 assists, and 115 total points. Although he never won the Stanley Cup, he was the most dominant player of his generation.
In addition to his NHL career, which was cut short because of concussion problems, Lindros was a force with Team Canada. He won two gold medals in three appearances at the World Junior Championships, played at the 1993 senior Worlds, and played in both the 1991 Canada Cup and 1996 World Cup. Most important, though, he was on Canada’s gold-medal Olympic team of 2002 and also won a silver at the 1992 Olympics as an 18-year-old in Albertville.
Lindros made a tremendous gesture at the end of his speech last night, calling his younger brother to the stage to share the moment with him. Brett was forced to retire after only 51 NHL games because of his own serious head injuries. “I’d like to close this chapter with you beside me,” the “Big E” said with Brett by his side.
Makarov was the opposite of Lindros in many ways, but he was equally a great player of a different style. Makarov was diminutive by comparison, and didn’t play in the NHL until age 30. But by the time he made his NHL debut, with Calgary, he had already won eight gold medals at the World Championships and two gold medals at the Olympics (1984, 1988).
Playing on the famed KLM line with Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov, Makarov was a dynamic offensive force in the Soviet Union. In 101 World Championship games, he scored 55 goals and 123 points to rank among the top scorers in IIHF history.
The entire KLM line has been inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame, and Makarov joins Larionov in the Hockey Hall of Fame. “As great a player as he was on the ice, he was an even greater person off ice,” Larionov commented last night.
Also inducted into the IIHF Hall this past May was Pat Quinn, and he was honoured again last night. The late coach had a remarkable career, winning gold at the Olympics, World Cup, U18 and U20. He also ranks 7th on the all-time list in wins at the NHL level.
As in Moscow in May, Quinn was represented by his daughter, Kalli, and, as in May, she had a tough time controlling her emotions. Quinn passed away in 2014, leaving behind many admirers not only for his on-ice success but his generosity of time and spirit off ice.
“For those of you who know my father, you know that he would be taken aback by this recognition,” Kalli said, voice cracking with emotion. “Believe it or not, he would be at a loss for words.”
Last but not least, goaltender Rogie Vachon was accorded a very late honour. He is best remembered by international fans as the small goalie who played a huge role in Canada’s victory in the inaugural Canada Cup, in 1976. In the NHL, Vachon played on three Stanley Cup-winning teams with Montreal between 1966 and 1972.
After being traded to Los Angeles, he was the Kings’ top goalie for many years, and soon after he retired in 1982 his number 30 was retired by the team. Incredibly, 34 years after his final game, he is now a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Vachon made the most touching conclusion to his speech by talking about how the induction experience was incomplete for him. “There is someone very important missing here,” he began in a whisper. “I just lost my wife Nicole. I wish she could be here. Sometimes it’s not fair. She should be here, but it’s not going to happen. She was a wonderful woman. We spent 45 years together. I love you. I’ll see you on the other side.”