Two of the most talented European-born players to play in the NHL highlight the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which was announced Monday.
Goaltender Dominik Hasek of the Czech Republic and Swedish center Peter Forsberg were joined by American center Mike Modano, along with defenseman Rob Blake, coach Pat Burns and referee Bill McCreary.
"When we go through the meetings, we make it very clear that is the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is a world-renowned Hall of Fame," said Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson, who is chairman of the selection committee. "This tells me our game is growing worldwide and our game is being recognized all over the world for the great game that it is. When we have a class like this that is coming into the Hall, I think it says a lot about our game and how worldwide it really is."
The inductees were chosen by an 18-person committee this past weekend in Toronto. The 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Nov. 17.
Also being honored are USA Today hockey reporter Kevin Allen, the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for excellence in hockey journalism, and Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play announcer Pat Foley, who received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for broadcasting.
Hasek won the Vezina Trophy six times in his 16-year NHL career, which is tied for the second-most of all time behind Jacques Plante. He's also the only goaltender to win the Hart Trophy more than once, earning League MVP honors in 1996-97 and 1997-98 with the Buffalo Sabres.
He won 389 games, 11th in League history, and led the NHL in save percentage six times. Hasek did not win the Stanley Cup until later in his career (twice with the Detroit Red Wings), but he punctuated his prime by helping the Czech Republic to a gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the first time NHL players participated.
"To be honest, in 1992 I was thinking about going back to Europe because I was in the minors, I was with the Indianapolis Ice," Hasek said. "However I stayed and I got the chance in 1992 when I was traded to Buffalo. Actually, it was the best thing that could have happened to me because in Buffalo I got a chance to play and prove I could play on the highest level."
Forsberg became a national hero before becoming an NHL champion with the Colorado Avalanche. His shootout goal to help Sweden secure the gold medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics is the most famous in the 1-on-1 format in the sport's history. The moment has been commemorated on a postage stamp in Sweden.
Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, Forsberg became part of the massive package used to acquire the rights to Eric Lindros from the Quebec Nordiques in 1992, and Forsberg went on to be one of the best players of his generation while winning the Stanley Cup twice with Colorado.
Forsberg won the Calder Trophy in 1994-95, the Hart Trophy in 2002-03 and the Cup in 1996 and 2001. His career was cut short by injuries, but he finished with 249 goals and 885 points in 708 career games. His 1.25 points-per-game average is eighth all-time, and his 0.90 assists per game rank fifth.
He's also 11th all-time in points per game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, having totaled 171 points in 151 playoff games.
"It's been a good run and I wouldn't change places with anybody," Forsberg told the Hockey Hall website. "Joining Borje Salming and Mats Sundin in the Hall of Fame as the third Swedish member makes it especially gratifying for me."
Modano is the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history, with 561 goals and 1,374 points, His 1,499 games played, all but 40 with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, are the most by a U.S.-born forward.
A seven-time all-star, Modano was the face of the franchise when it moved to Texas, and he remains an icon in both places. He helped the Stars win the Stanley Cup in 1999, and he leads all American players with 146 playoff points.
"This trumps it all," Modano said. "This is the one thing that when you retire you look back and wander if you had a big enough impact on the game on and off the ice that you might get a call like this in a couple years. It all sort of lingers in the back of our minds.
"It's the pinnacle. This is obviously the greatest recognition a player could ever get among his peers and guys he played with. The guys I'm going in with are certainly some of the best guys, some of the best players the game has ever had to offer."
Blake had 240 goals and 777 points in 1,270 games with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado and San Jose Sharks. He won the Norris Trophy in 1997-98 and the Stanley Cup in 2001 with the Avalanche. He recently won the Cup a second time as an executive with the Kings and also won gold with Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
The other three players are all being inducted in their first year of eligibility. Blake was in his second year.
"It was very similar to the year before," Blake said of how he approached the possibility. "It is a great honor, so I tried to approach it the same as last year, but it is very rewarding when you answer that phone call."
Burns was elected in the builder category. He spent parts of 14 seasons as a coach in the NHL, winning the Jack Adams Award with three teams and capturing the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003. He also reached the Cup Final in 1989 with the Montreal Canadiens and got the Toronto Maple Leafs to back-to-back conference finals in 1993 and 1994. Burns died Nov. 19, 2010.
"It's a tremendous honor," said Lynn Burns, Pat's widow. "I know that Pat would have been so happy, so grateful, so proud to accept this honor. It is a very emotional day for the Burns family, I can tell you that. I think it is a great day not only for the family, but for his fans as well."
McCreary was inducted in the referee/linesman category. He officiated 1,737 regular-season games and an NHL-record 292 playoff games from 1984 to 2011. He also worked 44 Stanley Cup Final games, also a record. He worked in three Olympics (1998, 2002 and 2010), including the gold-medal game in each competition, and the 1991 and 1994 Canada Cups.
"What makes this so unbelievably special for me is to be inducted alongside the great players, Rob Blake and Dominik and Peter and Mike Modano and also the great coach Pat Burns," McCreary said. "I have many fantastic memories from my 29 years in the National Hockey League with these people and I looked forward to our week in Toronto together."
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