The 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class includes a pair of legendary defensemen, a 600-goal scorer, a coach who was known as an innovator, and a woman who drew comparisons to Bobby Orr.
Niedermayer, Chelios, Shanahan and Heaney were voted as members of the Player Category. Heaney is the third woman elected, joining Cammi Granato and Angela James, who were part of the Class of 2010. Shero, the two-time Stanley Cup-winning coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, goes in posthumously as a member of the Builder Category.
The voting was conducted by the Hall's 18-member selection committee, which met in private Tuesday morning to select the Class of 2013.
Niedermayer and Chelios were in their first year of eligibility following their retirement after the 2009-10 season. Shanahan was in his second year of eligibility after being passed over last year, when Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"It's pretty surreal to get this call to be told you're being inducted into the Hall of Fame," Niedermayer said. "It'll probably take a long time for it to sink in. It's a pretty impressive group and it's a real honor to be part of such a great group."
Chelios, 51, was the oldest first-time eligible candidate the selection committee ever had to consider. He played until he was 48 years old, compiling 948 points in 1,651 games (fifth all-time, most among defensemen and most among American-born players) suiting up for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Atlanta Thrashers.
"I always said I'd go right until the tank was empty and I believe I did," Chelios said.
Chelios, who was chosen by the Canadiens with the No. 40 pick in the 1981 NHL Draft, won the Stanley Cup three times (1986 with Montreal, 2002 and 2008 with Detroit). He also won the Norris Trophy three times (1989 with the Canadiens and 1993 and 1996 with the Blackhawks).
He said his time with the Canadiens from 1983-90 was like going to Harvard of the NHL.
"I came in and I played with Guy LaFleur, Steve Shutt, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey," Chelios said. "They took me under their wings and I learned from the best. Hockey players are great guys in general, but to learn from the best, guys who had so much success, you have to listen to them. That, I think, had a big bearing on my career."
Internationally, Chelios represented the United States at the Olympics four times (1984, 1998, 2002 and 2006), the Canada Cup three times and the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, where the Americans won gold. He won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Asked Tuesday to pick the team he identifies himself most with, Chelios said he didn't want to offend anyone, so he went with the United States.
"I think back to Salt Lake, the Olympics, playing against Scott and Shanny, without a doubt I thought that was the best tournament and the best hockey I have ever played in," Chelios said. "It was most exciting because it was in the U.S. and winning a silver medal, it's one tournament where first place isn't the only reward. Walking around the Olympic Village, some of the athletes would die to win any color medal. That was one of the greatest experiences throughout my career."
Niedermayer is the only player in history to win every major North American and international championship. He won the Stanley Cup four times (1995, 2000, 2003, 2007) and a gold medal at the Olympics (2002, 2010), the World Championship (2004), the World Cup of Hockey (2004), and the World Junior Championship (1991). He also won the Memorial Cup with the Kamloops Blazers in 1992.
He was known as one of the greatest skaters of his generation, and perhaps of all time.
"He made it look so easy," Chelios said of Niedermayer. "He was a guy with a ton of skill but also real competitive. He'd stand up to anybody. Watching him and [Scott] Stevens together, two different types of players but both equally effective. He was just as intimidating. You didn't know. You had to be ready at any time. As far as his skill and his leadership and the way he went about his business, I find him very comparable to Steve Yzerman. I have all the respect in the world for Scott. What a great career."
Niedermayer was chosen by the New Jersey Devils with the No. 3 pick in the 1991 NHL Draft. He played with the Devils until 2004 and signed to play for the Anaheim Ducks coming out of the lockout-cancelled 2004-05 season. Niedermayer played 1,263 games over 18 seasons (1992-2010) and compiled 740 points. He had 98 points in 202 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.
"A young defenseman coming into the League when I did, I probably couldn't have asked for a better opportunity," Niedermayer said of his time in New Jersey. "It was really an ideal spot for a young guy to come in and try to figure the game out. We had great teams, we were winning hockey games, we won some championships, and I just learned a lot."
He specifically mentioned former teammates Stevens (Hall of Fame Class of 2007), Slava Fetisov (Hall of Fame Class of 2001), Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver, Alexei Kasatonov and Tommy Albelin as major influences on his career from his early days in New Jersey.
"I'm probably on this [media conference] call because of guys like that," Niedermayer said.
Shanahan, who like Niedermayer was drafted by the Devils (No. 2 in 1987), won the Stanley Cup three times with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002), Olympic gold with Canada in 2002, and World Championship gold in 1994.
Shanahan is one of 18 members of the NHL's 600-goal club; he is 13th all-time with 656. He's 13th all-time in games played with 1,524 and 25th in points with 1,354. Shanahan played for the Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Red Wings and New York Rangers.
Shanahan, in particular, called Detroit "such a special place." He went there when he was in his 10th NHL season and it was the place he stayed the longest (nine seasons), had the most sustained team success, and scored more than 40 goals three times.
"It was just the right fit," Shanahan said of the Red Wings. "They had not won the Cup in several decades. They had been close. At the time that's all I wanted to do. I think you mature a bit as a player, you want to get yourself established, get yourself to feel like you belong, and then all of a sudden you start realizing how hard it is and how difficult it is to win a Cup and you become obsessed with it. I was lucky at that point in my career to join a team that was obsessed with it and a group of guys that were also obsessed with it, and were also talented enough to be a legitimate contender. I know I wouldn't be on this call today if it weren't for my time in Detroit."
Shanahan also looked back fondly on his early years with the Devils, especially 1988, when as a rookie he helped them reach the playoffs for the first time. He went back and finished his career in New Jersey in 2008-09.
"My first year was Lou Lamoriello's first year, so obviously he had started something there, that when I was able to go back at the end I could see that same philosophy that the name on the back of the jersey is not as important as the name on the front," Shanahan said. "The one thing I took from my early years in New Jersey and us storming back to make the playoffs in the last game of the season was just what a group of young guys can do when they play as a team. I'm still friends with a lot of guys from that team."
Shero coached the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975. He was the first coach to win the Stanley Cup with an expansion team. He also brought the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 1976 and the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in 1979.
Shero, who passed away in 1990, coached for 10 seasons from 1971-81 and went 390-225-119. He is 11th all-time in winning percentage (.612) and was the first winner of the Jack Adams Award (1974).
"I am thrilled to hear that Fred Shero was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said in a statement. "There's no sense looking back as to why it didn't happen sooner, because today's a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame. It's a great day for the Philadelphia Flyers."
Shero was considered an innovator because he was one of the first coaches to put his team through morning skates, and he went to the Soviet Union to study the hockey philosophies there in order to incorporate them into his coaching style. He was the first coach to hire a full-time assistant, to make sure his players used in-season strength training, and among the first to study film.
"What my dad always had for the game, which I think I have as well and I'm trying to pass down to my kids, who have a passion for the game as well, is I think he had a great respect for the game and the people in it," Ray Shero said. "In my job as a general manager it's about wins and losses, but I really believe along the way that the people you meet and the friendships are going to be far more important than wins and losses at the end of the day. That's the way he was. I think he had some great friends and certainly in my almost 20 years in the business now I can say the same thing. It's about the respect for the game and the people in it. If I can pass that on to my kids, I think that would be great."
Heaney, a long-time defenseman, won the gold medal with Canada at the World Women's Championship seven times (1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001). She also won gold at the 2002 Olympics and silver at the 1998 Games.
Heaney, Granato and James were inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2008.
"Going down to the Hall of Fame, you never saw females in there so you really didn't think, 'Could this ever happen?'" Heaney said. "I'm so glad that it has, and I think that's what has helped with continuing the growth of girls hockey. The number of girls playing now is unbelievable.
"The IIHF Hall of Fame was great as well, they started it with having the first women in their Hall of Fame, and now the Hockey Hall of Fame has followed. I'm just so happy that they've continued to do it. There are a lot of other great female hockey players out there that are waiting to get there as well.
"This is something very special. You kind of look back on your hockey career and go, 'Wow, this is something.'"
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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