Hockeytown's elite shine in Hall spotlight
Toronto — Amid a considerable gathering of hockey royalty, former Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov, the great Olympian and collegiate player Angela Ruggiero and Compuware hockey founder Peter Karmanos Jr. were inducted Monday into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
They are a class of inductees with substantial connections to Michigan, and they were joined by defensemen Chris Pronger and Phil Housley.
A throng of Lidstrom and Fedorov's former teammates, coaches and managers walked down a long red carpet to a huge stage set up in a shopping mall next to the hall and looked on.
They included Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Tomas Holmstrom, Igor Larionov, Luc Robitaille, Jim Devellano and Jim Nill.
Yzerman presented Lidstrom with his plaque in a moment likely now etched in the history of the great, successful franchise.
"Oh, boy, that was a great captain," Lidstrom said, beginning his acceptance.
He said that athletes train to win at every aspect of their game. But entering a hall of fame is special because, "It's something you can't win.
"You can't control that. You can't imagine that, shooting pucks in the driveway."
He repeatedly credited and listed his teammates, a long, inclusive listing.
"Being a professional hockey player, you need people to teach you and to lead you and to make you the best player you can be. And I've had so many friends and family and teammates who led me to being here.
"I had a lot of learning to do, both on and off the ice. Learning how to be a pro. Learning what it means to win. And I learned that from Steve Yzerman
"His dedication and will were nothing like I'd ever seen before"
He also thanked Bowman "for giving me the confidence to be better and really pushing me as a player." He said Mike Babcock "helped me to become a leader on this team an he coached me to be at the level that I wanted to be."
Of the Wings owners, he said, "I can't imagine better owners than Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch. More importantly they really cared about me and my family."
In his acceptance speech, Fedorov started in his youth, playing hockey in the frozen north of Russia nine months a year and coming up through the legendary Soviet hockey system.
"I got so lucky," Fedorov said, of his decision to defect, and play in the NHL. "I'd like to thank the Ilitch family for letting me be a Red Wing.
"I am a Red Wing at heart.
"Since I arrived in Detroit, everywhere I go, I received a good welcome. We won three Stanley Cups. I spent the best days of my life in this organization.
"I'd like to thank all the fans for supporting us in our wins. They stayed with us. They stayed patient. They supported us.
"And we partied together.
"Those victories and one million (people) at the rallies, they will be in my memories forever."
He thanked his Russian and NHL coaches, including the former Wings coach, Bryan Murray, whose health is failing. Fedorov said he had recently visited Murray.
"Scotty Bowman helped me find out what my goals were, on the ice and off the ice."
"To Steve Yzerman, my captain, and my teammates: Guys, again, I would not be standing here tonight (without you)."
Ruggiero credits moving to Harper Woods when she was 16 with providing a huge boost in her performance. She said she loved going into the Hockey Hall of Fame with three other defensemen, and Fedorov, who played a bit of defense, too.
"I loved watching them," she said. "I picked up a few tricks from them along the way.
"When I was little, I didn't know I couldn't play hockey," she said. "When I was 12, I found out women's hockey was going to be in the Olympics and that was my goal."
She said she was enormously proud to pay for the United States.
"I've been so proud to put on that jersey for 16 years, more than any man or woman.
"I think I'm a testament that anything is possible," Ruggiero said.
"I came from a very blue collar background. Our parents struggled just to get us to the rink."
Karmanos, who established the Compuware youth hockey programs in Michigan, owned teams at virtually all levels of play, including a Stanley Cup winner, the Hurricanes, said, "What a thrill! What a thrill to be in this class!"
Karmanos said he "fell in love with hockey," when, on the northwest side of Detroit he watched one of Channel 7's third period broadcasts in 1951, and Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk played for the Wings.
One of the things of which he is most proud, he said, is: "Every kid who has ever played in this (Compuware) program was better and the end of the season than they were at the start of of the season.
"And that's what it means to me."