Gilmour, Belfour, Nieuwendyk, Howe Attain Hockey Immortality

By Rahul Vaidyanath, Epoch Times
November 15, 2011 10:31 am Last Updated: November 15, 2011 4:44 pm
Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Ed Belfour were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Ed Belfour were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Mark Howe respectively brought heart, intensity, sportsmanship, and class to the game of hockey and were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday night.

It was a ceremony filled with friendship and memories of four great careers that will forever be memorialized in hockey’s shrine in downtown Toronto. In the 50th year of the Hockey Hall of Fame, three of the inductees played with the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs at one point in their careers.

The only one who didn’t, Mark Howe, perhaps had the most touching moment of the evening when he donned the No. 9 Detroit Red Wings jersey worn by his father, Gordie Howe—arguably the greatest hockey player of all time.

A Son Makes His Own Name

Mark Howe joined his father Gordie in the Hall after a stellar 21-year career in which he was nominated three times for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman.

Gordie Howe was a cerebral defenceman. He played as if he was thinking several steps ahead of his opponents. Famous for his wrist shot, in the 1985–86 season Howe racked up 82 points and an incredible +85 rating.

His former defence partner, Brad McCrimmon, who tragically died in a plane crash along with his entire Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team on Sept. 7 in Russia, had a rating of +83 in that season. McCrimmon’s wife, Maureen, attended the ceremony.

Howe did something probably no hockey player today will do—he played alongside his father. In fact, Howe also played with his older brother Marty at the same time as playing with Gordie as a member of the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association (WHA).

The last person left for Mark Howe to thank was his father. He didn’t thank Gordie for his innumerable hockey accomplishments, however. Instead, he said in his speech on TSN, “Thank you for being the husband and father that you are.” Mark then put on Gordie’s jersey, the only thing his father ever asked of him.

The Eagle Has Landed

The undrafted Ed Belfour won a Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year, two Vezina trophies for best goaltender, and a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars.

His rookie season was truly remarkable—playing in 74 games, winning 43, with a league-best 2.47 goals against average. He was even nominated for the Hart Trophy (league MVP) as a rookie that year.

Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour paid tribute to his mentor, the legendary Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, who had made the trip to Toronto from Moscow.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman described Belfour as bringing “the highest level of emotion and intensity.” A late bloomer, Belfour was simply dominant as a goalie and he singled out the fans for helping him along saying, “The Eddie-Eddie chant always gave me inspiration and helped me play better.”

History of Winning

Joe Nieuwendyk won three Stanley Cups with three different teams in three different decades. He also won the Calder Trophy, scored over 500 goals, and won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2002.

In his rookie season with the Calgary Flames, Nieuwendyk scored 51 goals. He repeated the feat the following season. And the season after that, he helped bring Calgary its one and only Stanley Cup.

After eight seasons in Calgary, he headed south to Dallas. He won the Stanley Cup there in 1999 as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the playoff MVP.

After seven years in Dallas, he went east to New Jersey, where in his second season as a Devil, he won his third Stanley Cup in 2003.

“It has simply been humbling,” Nieuwendyk said of his 20-year career.

Nieuwendyk is currently the general manager of the Dallas Stars, who are off to a flying start this season.

Leafs Favourite

They said he was too small to make a difference in the NHL. But Doug Gilmour never let that stop him. With a playing weight of roughly 165 pounds, Gilmour had more heart than his opponents.

Gilmour played with seven NHL teams, but while he burst onto the scene with the St. Louis Blues who drafted him in the fifth round, he will forever be remembered as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

His signature goal was a backhand wrap-around goal in the second round of the playoffs against his former team, St. Louis, as a member of the Leafs. Leafs fans can still see his smile with his two front teeth missing.

Gilmour won a Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989, alongside Nieuwendyk, and was also part of the 1987 Canada Cup victory.

He gave special thanks to the late Pat Burns, who was his coach with the Leafs. “We all miss him,” Gilmour said sadly. Gilmour’s 127 points in the 1992–1993 season stands as Toronto Maple Leafs record.

Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports