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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 3:51 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Mark on Gordie: 'He was an absolute freak of nature'

TORONTO -- Mark Howe has spent his post-playing days an NHL scout, but there is no player he’s seen more games of than his father, Gordie.

That combination gives him a unique prospective when it comes to discussing the career of “Mr. Hockey.”

“His passion and love for the game -- and I watched him play when he was 35 in Detroit,” Mark Howe said. “He was still a heck of a player, one of the top two, three guys in the League. But when he was a player at 45, he was a better player than when he was 35.”

When Gordie was in his mid-30s, Mark was a young boy watching from the seats in The Olympia in Detroit. Eventually, Mark had a chance to play professional hockey, and he decided to play in the old World Hockey Association for the Houston Aeros -- where he was able to skate on a line with Gordie and his brother, Marty.

“[WHA fans] got a chance to watch Gordie Howe play at age 45, 46. He won the MVP one year and it was staggering,” Mark Howe said. “I watched him from the stands every day as a kid growing up, but when you’re in the locker room and around that individual every day you get to appreciate him. Even when he was 52 in Hartford, playing maybe 8-10 minutes a game with no power-play time and on the fourth line, he still had 36, 37 points. What that man did from 45-52 is something that will never, ever be matched.

“When I was 18 in training camp, I was skating circles around him because I had been skating for a month, and then about three weeks later Marty and I are going, ‘Man, we can’t keep up with this guy.’ He was an absolute freak of nature physically, but it was his love of the game that separated him from everyone else.”

Mark Howe said his father actually wanted to play another year before deciding to retire at the age of 52 in 1980. Now he will join his dad in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a large contingent of the Howe family is here to celebrate.

“I am proud. It is great to see him get in here,” Marty Howe said. “It has been a hell of a weekend, and it continues tonight. We’re all happy. We’ve got close to 50 people here, and we had a private dinner last night. We celebrated a little bit. It is great. I’m happy.”

Added Gordie Howe: “It's a tremendous honor. To heck with Gordie Howe - it's Mark Howe. And Marty's here too so he's as proud as I am. ... Hockey brought the Howe family together pretty nicely.”
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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 3:46 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Gilmour provides retort for Roberts' statements

TORONTO -- Gary Roberts used to wonder how Doug Gilmour stayed in shape. He told NHL.com in an interview last week that despite being neighbors with Gilmour, he never once saw "Killer" training outdoors.

"I was out running every day, biking, trying to get in shape, and then in the first practice in training camp he's skating by me like I'm standing still," Roberts said. "I thought, he must work out in his closet."

No he did not.

"I had a gym in my basement," Gilmour said. "He didn't know that."

Gilmour's private workouts helped him get the better of Roberts all the time, even when Roberts finally convinced him to step out of his front door to train.

"Finally Gary got a hold of me to go for a bike ride and he's got all the gear on, this fancy bike, and I've got a five-speed mountain bike with a baby seat on the back," Gilmour said. "We went about 24 kilometers for a ride and had a race up the hill at the end. I beat him on the race and he threw his mountain bike down the hill because he was so mad."

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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 3:12 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Belfour idolized, learned from Tretiak

TORONTO -- Ed Belfour could have picked Ken Dryden or Tony Esposito to be his hockey idol as a 7-year-old boy growing up in Carman, Man. But Belfour went the other way and picked Vladislav Tretiak, the enemy goalie in the epic 1972 Summit Series.

"There were a lot of Canadian kids that idolized Vladislav Tretiak from the Summit Series," Belfour said Monday. "It was so publicized."

For Belfour, though, Tretiak went from idol to coach to friend. Mike Keenan hired Tretiak to be the Chicago Blackhawks goalie coach in 1990, shortly after Belfour got to the Windy City.

Belfour said Tretiak didn't speak a word of English, but they quickly developed a repour that helped Belfour become a Hall of Fame goalie.

"We had an interpreter almost the whole first year and he would come on the ice with us, but for the most part Vladdy would come on the ice too, so he would show me what he wanted done," Belfour said. "He picked up on English very quickly. He did a great job with me and I'm always very appreciative and thankful."

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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Connections run deep among Hall of Fame inductees

TORONTO -- Joe Nieuwendyk’s NHL career spanned 20 seasons with five teams. He won the Stanley Cup three times in three cities.

One of those victories did not come in 2003-04, his lone season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That doesn’t mean that year wasn’t a special one for him.

“Growing up about 40 minutes down the road in Whitby, it was probably the highlight of my career, and I say that with all sincerity,” said Nieuwendyk, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night. “Growing up a Leafs fan, Borje Salming and Lanny McDonald -- that’s why this weekend has been so special. Just to do it for one season was incredible.”

Nieuwendyk is one of four new members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and all four have played hockey for a team in this city. Three of them played for the Maple Leafs, while Mark Howe spent a season with the Toronto Marlboros of the then-called Ontario Hockey Association (the predecessor of the Ontario Hockey League).

Each of them had different experiences playing in this city, but they all look back on that time with fond memories.

“I loved playing here,” said Ed Belfour, who was with the Leafs for three seasons. “The focus of the hockey world is here in Toronto, and I loved being part of that. I love it when everybody knows the game and talks about the game and the passion that you could feel in this city. All those rivalries with Montreal and Ottawa, leading up to the games you could feel the electricity in the city and it was great to be apart of that.”

Belfour backstopped the Leafs from 2002-03 until 2005-06. He was here for Nieuwendyk’s one season, and he also was Doug Gilmour’s teammate ... for one game.

Gilmour was a fan favorite in Toronto for parts of six seasons in the 1990s, and remains incredibly popular here. He returned to the Leafs during the 2002-03 campaign, but injured his knee in his first game back and did not play again.

“This was my longest-standing team, and this is what I still call home,” Gilmour said. “My years in Toronto were just ... I can’t say enough about the management and the ownership and my teammates and the runs that we had. None of this was possible without them.

“The fans here have been great through my career. You play for them. It is amazing when you go out on the ice here, like we did on Saturday night, and part of your getting ready mentally is going out on the ice and seeing the fans and their reactions -- it really gets you motivated. Believe me, [Saturday] night was the closest we’re ever going to get to that again. It was just great and I say thank you to all of them for the support.”
Howe was 17 years old when he moved to Toronto for a season of junior hockey. His team that year was very successful (47-7-9) and included several future NHL players, including his brother Marty, Bob Dailey, Mike Palmateer and Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.

“I was here long before [the other three inductees],” Howe said. “I know Detroit is Hockeytown and I grew up in the States, but anybody, especially when you play pro, if you ever got to watch the morning skate at Maple Leaf Gardens or in the Montreal Forum, the tempo of the practice was just phenomenal. It was like game-pace tempo, and most coaches would have to cut practices short because you come into those building and there’s just so much energy and you’re so excited.

“I got to do that everyday with the Marlies. After a while, I got to work with the broom crew and I got to go down in the old boiler room and do my sticks. The Leafs were struggling at the time but the Marlies had a great year and we got a lot of great press. The people I boarded with, the Tanner family, were great people. If there’s a city that might compare to this is maybe Montreal for hockey history, but even to just be a part of it for one year was special.”

Nieuwendyk is connected to Gilmour and Belfour through previous NHL stops. He won the Cup with Gilmour in Calgary in 1989 and with Belfour in Dallas a decade later.

The Howe family will be in the spotlight Monday at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and for good reason. There will also be a special connection to the Maple Leafs and to this hockey-mad city.

Felix Potvin and I lived about 30 feet from the [Maple Leaf] Gardens, so we would just walk out and just walk into our apartment,” Gimour said. “It was just so electric down there and we saw it all the time. It is just something that you can’t replace.”

Added Nieuwendyk: “This is a fabulous honor to go in with the guys I’m going in with. I played against Mark and I can see why he was a loved teammate and a competitor. I have firsthand knowledge of the other two guys, and I couldn’t go in with a better class. It is a thrill.”
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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 2:43 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Retirement proved difficult for Nieuwendyk

TORONTO -- Joe Nieuwendyk admitted Monday that he struggled mentally immediately after he retired in December 2006.

"I really struggled for a year and a half after that," said Nieuwendyk, who had to end his career due to chronic back pain that didn't allow him to lace his skates on some mornings. "I think a lot of players go through that. I loved being around my teammates. I couldn't wait to get out of the house in the morning and go spend time with them before we even practiced. That was the hardest part."

But Nieuwendyk's post-playing career quickly began in Florida as a special consultant. He moved quickly up the ranks, becoming a special assistant to the GM in Toronto before moving into his current position of GM of the Dallas Stars prior to last season.

Those early days after retirement are forgotten now because Nieuwendyk again feels the competitiveness he felt as a player.

"Cliff Fletcher brought me to Toronto and obviously fast-tracked me to my position in Dallas," Nieuwendyk said. "I'm very thankful for that, and for me it is has been terrific because it's the closest thing to playing again. I still feel the competitive juices and I'm around the guys enough where I get a little bit of that again. It's been terrific."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 2:18 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Love of the game still there for Belfour, inductees

TORONTO -- When someone from the Hockey Hall of Fame called Ed Belfour to tell him he would be part of the Class of 2011, he didn’t answer because he was asleep.

Belfour was taking an afternoon nap, because he had a men's league game in Frisco, Texas, that night.

"I still wish I was playing. That is my release to get back into the game and still be involved," Belfour said. "I play sometimes two or three times a week in a men's league, and I play on two, three different teams. I really enjoy it and I love the game. It is a little different playing out because I don't have to warm up as much."

He doesn't play in net, but Belfour continues to play the sport he loves. Joe Nieuwenduyk also plays, but not quite as regularly as Belfour. Other Class of 2011 members Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe have not been playing hockey of late, but they were all on the ice Sunday at Air Canada Centre for the Legends of Hockey game.

Howe is a scout for the Detroit Red Wings, so he's in hockey rinks all the time. He just hadn't been skating in them.

"Very little because of my back," Howe said. "When we played yesterday and up until two weeks ago, I had not skated in five-and-a-years. My youngest son Nolan works out of a rink near Princeton, N.J., so I went over there and skated with him for three days just so I could hopefully get around the rink a little more.

"I wish I could skate more. I still have fun, but a lot of times it is the aches and the pains and when your feet and your legs start going numb on you, it is time to call it quits."

That said, Howe is going to pull on a sweater again soon. He played 10 seasons for the Philadelphia Flyers, and he will be on the ice against the New York Rangers in early January at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm going to try and gut it out in the Winter Classic alumni game, and I'll pay for it dearly but I'm looking forward to it," Howe said. "I think the fun of that will overtake the pain and agony that I'm probably going to have for a month after."

Gilmour also hasn't played much hockey recently, but he is the general manager of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.

"That was my first game in two years, and believe me I could tell," Gilmour said.

Nieuwendyk is the GM of the Dallas Stars, and still plays every now and then with some of his former teammates and other former players from the organization.

"I do [play] -- we've kind of formed a little bit of an alumni out in Dallas now, which I think is important for the long-term growth of the game in Dallas," Nieuwendyk said. "Now we have Mike Modano coming back to us, which is going to be huge. We get together once in a while and lace 'em up and it is fun."

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Posted On Sunday, 11.13.2011 / 5:27 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Carbonneau on teammates, friends and rivals

TORONTO -- Guy Carbonneau has a special bond with three of this weekend's inductees. He won the Stanley Cup with Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour in Dallas in 1999, and he played in some legendary games in the Montreal-Toronto rivalry against Doug Gilmour.

Carbonneau talked to NHL.com about both:

What's it like to be here this weekend to help honor two of your ex-teammates that you went through so much with?

"It's unbelievable. I always say you make a lot of friends just by playing hockey but probably your best friends will always be the players you won the Cup with. I remember '86, '93 and '99 was a great season for everybody. Having a chance to play against all four guys that are inducted, and especially with Joe and Eddie in '99, it's a thrill."

What was it like to go against Gilmour in those Montreal-Toronto rivalry games?

"He was a great competitor. He was a lot more offensive than I was, but we played the same style. Neither of us wanted to give an inch and those are great memories. Any time you play against a great competitor makes you raise your game a little bit and that's what I always enjoyed."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 11.13.2011 / 5:18 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

McDonald talks Howe, Gilmour and Nieuwendyk

TORONTO -- Lanny McDonald won the Stanley Cup with Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk in 1989, his final season in the NHL. In retirement, McDonald watched Gilmour go on to become a legend in Toronto and Nieuwendyk win the Stanley Cup twice more, first in Dallas and then in New Jersey.

But, prior to joining forces with Gilmour and Nieuwendyk, McDonald played in some tough games against Mark Howe, both when he played with his dad in Hartford and then alongside Brad McCrimmon in Philadelphia.

"Unfortunately I made a mistake to run Mark in Hartford one game and got an elbow from Gordie later on," McDonald told NHL.com on Sunday. "Mark was one of those quiet, calm guys that just played the game at the top level all the time. When you look at the plus minus of him and Brad McCrimmon that year, one was plus-85 and one was plus-83, that tells you how good he was game in and game out."

McDonald, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, also expressed his excitement to see Gilmour and Nieuwendyk.

"They both win a Cup there (in Calgary) and Nieuwendyk goes on to win two more Cups and Gilmour has a phenomenal career not only point-wise but especially how he played in the playoffs every year," McDonald said. "It's an absolute honor to hang out with these guys and be a part of this celebration."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Sunday, 11.13.2011 / 5:07 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

One-on-one with Mark Howe

TORONTO -- I caught up with Mark Howe for a one-on-one after he received his Hall of Fame jacket at the Legends Classic on Sunday. Here is what he had to say about being Gordie Howe's son, the moment he realized he will be in the Hall of Fame, nerves going into Monday's induction speech and how he goes about his normal life after such an emotional, whirlwind weekend:

Q: You're getting a lot of questions about your father and what it means to have your father here with you, but you talked at the Fan Forum about the moment in Philadelphia when you became Mark Howe, not just Gordie's son. Does it feel that way again here, that this is your induction?

"I know it's my induction but part of being the son of Gordie Howe is accepting that fact. And, it's a fact that I figure I'm the luckiest person on the face of the earth to have Gordie Howe as my father. What I hope for this weekend is that maybe I get the attention just because my dad wants me to get the attention when historically it has always gone to him. My wishes are that the people come here and pay me the respect and put him secondary. I would never consider it that way, but it would make him feel better."

Q: We always hear guys talk about how it's an unbelievable feeling, but at some moment it sets in that you're going into the Hall of Fame. What was that moment for you?

"It started yesterday. When I walked out onto that ice yesterday and I was the first individual out there, I had a moment to reflect, and I'm saying, 'Wow, this is starting to really mean so so much.' It's making me really look forward to Monday and being able to thank so many people that have been so important in my life. It's going to hit home because everybody around him, my friends and family, say you don't know what honor you've received yet. Yeah, I'm waiting and it's coming. Today was a better feeling than yesterday, so I know how special tomorrow is going to be."

Q: The speech is also a nerve-wracking experience for some that go into the Hall of Fame. Are you nervous?

"No. Historically I always get a little nervous, a little pumped up. I wrote my speech on a flight going down to Tampa to go scout a game, and it came from my heart. Historically whenever I speak I just speak from my heart and I don't read, but I'm going to be reading (Monday night) because I want to try to get the words correct and get the people in there. I'm sure I'll be a little bit nervous. The hardest part is it brings up so many emotions. How do you put 56 years of life into five minutes. They're awesome emotions, but I just want to be able to keep my emotions under control."

Q: You go back to being a scout after you leave the Hall of Fame. Is it going to be hard to go back into your regular day to day routine?

"No, it's easy because I'm in hockey rinks and I'm around hockey people all the time. It's been my life and it's something I love, something I have a great passion for. Not often do I sit back and reflect on my past a lot, my history, but I'm going to reflect on this day. I'm sure a lot of the people I run into in the scouting world, they're all going to come up to me and pay their respects. I'm going to be reminded of it quite often I'm sure."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 7:31 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 HHOF blog

Inductees honored prior to Sens-Leafs showdown



TORONTO -- Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend is officially under way.

The four player inductees -- Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mark Howe -- were honored Saturday night at Air Canada Centre prior to the Maple Leafs-Senators game.

The night started with a video tribute that showed several members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, including Gilmour and Nieuwendyk in their Maple Leaf blue. Gilmour got the first of what will be several ovations over the next three days.

After introducing 15 members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, including Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, the Class of 2011 got their due.

Since Gordie Howe was the final of the 15 introduced, it was only natural that Mark Howe was the first of the incoming Hall of Fame class to greet the crowd. He walked the line and ended with an embrace with his dad.

How cool is that?

Nieuwendyk was the next up and he received a standing ovation. Nieuwendyk spent the 2003-04 season in Toronto and became a fan favorite. He also received an ovation for winning the gold medal with Team Canada in 2002.

Belfour was up next, and keeping with his natural quirkiness (some call it individuality) he was not dressed the part. While everyone else was wearing a suit, Belfour was wearing a leather jacket and did not have on a tie.

Finally, the ultimate fan favorite here in Toronto, Gilmour got his introduction. The fans stood and applauded and cheered almost the entire time as the P.A. announcer read his biography.

Gilmour, Nieuwendyk, Belfour and Howe stood beside the Toronto Maple Leafs logo on the carpet draped over top center ice as the Leafs and Senators came onto the ice and assembled on their respective blue lines.

Gilmour brought the puck out for the ceremonial faceoff and he dropped it between Dion Phaneuf and Daniel Alfredsson. Soon enough, the legends stepped off center stage, the blue carpets were rolled up, the anthem was performed by Beverley Mahood and the game got under way.

The Hall of Famers will be back here at Air Canada Centre for the annual Legend's Game, where they will be honored again and receive their Hall of Fame jackets.

Now it's time for a hockey game.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

 
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Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential