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Brophy, Cullen, Nemeth, Taylor bound for ECHL HOF

Friday, 01.16.2009 / 11:00 AM / ECHL Report

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Next week, four men who shined in the ECHL will be enshrined into that league's Hall of Fame.

A ceremony will take place during All-Star festivities in Reading, Pa. Here’s a closer look at the ECHL's second annual class:

JOHN BROPHY

A hockey legend, plain and simple.

The former coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs won a record three ECHL championships with the Hampton Roads Admirals in 1991, 1992 and 1998. The 75-year-old retired as the ECHL leader for regular-season games (882), regular-season wins (480) and years coached (13). He holds the ECHL records for postseason games (94), postseason wins (55), postseason appearances (11) and championships (3). The "Coach of the Year" award is named in his honor.

On being inducted -- "I am very excited because I was one of first two or three people when the league was formed. There were only six teams. Now, there are teams all over the country, and it's great to see that. It's turned into a great development league for the NHL. I'm very happy to be able to say that I was part of it."

On his time in Hampton Roads -- "First of all, I worked for the finest guy you could ever meet in your life as an owner in Blake Cullen. We won a lot of games. Winning makes everything right. That was a happy time in my life, as far as hockey's concerned."

Favorite ECHL memory -- "I don't know if there's a favorite. I guess the first championship (in Hampton Roads) would be a favorite because that was the first one. Two other ones followed. We were always on top of the league. We put a lot of players in the NHL. Goaltenders alone, we had (Olaf) Kolzig and (Byron) Dafoe and (Patrick) Lalime. They all started there."

On sharing the ceremony with Blake Cullen and Rod Taylor -- "Those are the guys that made it happen, and I was just part of four or five guys. Taylor was certainly a great, great player and a great guy. Blake Cullen, as an owner, was sensational."

On the growth of the ECHL -- "We had a shootout then, and everybody thinks it started in the NHL. It started in our league. That's where it started. All the NHL people used to say, 'Can you imagine losing an NHL game by a shootout?' Well, it's pretty popular right now."

On whether he'll get emotional at the ceremony -- "I'm not an emotional person. I was lucky enough in my hockey career to have three of the greatest owners that you could ever believe. One was John Bassett in the WHA, the other was Harold Ballard in Toronto and, of course, Blake Cullen. Blake knew how to handle people and he knew how to make them work and perform in an environment that you could work in."

BLAKE CULLEN

Founder and owner of the Hampton Roads Admirals for the team’s first seven seasons in the ECHL. The Admirals advanced to the playoffs every year and won back-to-back Riley Cup championships in their second and third seasons. Hampton Roads drew more than 1.8 million fans during Cullen's tenure and led the ECHL in attendance in 1989-90 and 1992-93.

On being inducted -- "To see where the league was back in 1989, we were probably the first team to apply for expansion in the league. To see how far it's come, this is a great honor. I was really taken back by it."

On his time in Hampton Roads -- "We always said there were only two things that mattered: filling the seats and winning games, and not necessarily in that order. I was fortunate enough to have John Brophy and a lot of great players like Olie Kolzig, Byron Dafoe and Andrew Brunette. We had lot of good players and we had the best coach and most unique man I've ever been around in John Brophy. It was really very special. The fans took us to heart. The whole thing was kind of a wild, special time."

On sharing the ceremony with John Brophy and Rod Taylor -- "I'm really looking forward to it. I remember being in a meeting years ago with some people who tried to convince us that we had to change the logo on our uniform. They said it was very plain and that we needed to have an animal with an attitude. I said, 'I've got John Brophy.' That went over pretty big."

On the growth of the ECHL -- "I thought the merger with the West Coast Hockey League made perfect sense. You want those guys in the same room with you, making the same rules on salary caps and so forth. I understand Johnstown doesn't go out and play Alaska too often, but to get them all on the same page makes great sense. It's phenomenal. Just about all of them have NHL affiliations, which is something we strived for."

On whether he'll get emotional at the ceremony
-- "I'm sure I will, but it's kind of hard to get emotional when Brophy's around. It's very touching and I'm really flattered by it, to be quite honest with you."

TOM NEMETH

Three-time ECHL Defenseman of the Year holds the league records for assists and points by a defenseman in a season with 82 assists and 98 points in 1993-94. He is third all-time among defensemen with 345 assists and 463 points and he led all defensemen in 2000-01 with 20 goals, 48 assists and 68 points. Nemeth, 38, played in the ECHL All-Star Game in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 2001, tying him for the third-most appearances. He played for Dayton (1992-94 and 1996-2003), South Carolina (1994-95) and Toledo (2003-04).

On being inducted
-- "I'm extremely excited. I was shocked at first, but very excited when I got the call."
"I am very excited because I was one of first two or three people when the league was formed. There were only six teams. Now, there are teams all over the country, and it's great to see that. It's turned into a great development league for the NHL. I'm very happy to be able to say that I was part of it." -- John Brophy
Favorite ECHL memory -- "Pretty much everything, really. I enjoyed playing hockey. When I started in the OHL, we never heard of the ECHL. I was under contract with the Minnesota North Stars at the time, and I was sent to Dayton in the ECHL and I never even heard of it. But the people were fantastic and it gave me an opportunity to basically do what I wanted to do. It was awesome."
 
On missing playing the game -- "Every day. Every single day, I miss it. You ask any hockey player … look at Claude Lemieux. It's hard to get out. It's a lifestyle and it's a fun thing to do. You ask any hockey player, and they'll tell you they miss it. I'm no exception."

On the growth of the ECHL -- "It's unbelievable. From where I started and the league started to where it is now, it's unbelievable. Alaska, Florida, all over the place. It seems the franchises are stronger now from when I started, which is a great thing for the league. The other part is the recognition and the respect that the players in the league are getting nowadays. There's an unprecedented amount of players going from the ECHL to the NHL now."

On sharing the ceremony with three Hampton Roads icons -- "I'm going to feel like the odd man out because I never played for the Hampton Roads Admirals. But John Brophy, what a character he is. I played against him a little bit, but I know him a little more from being the Toronto Maple Leafs coach. Everyone knows Rod Taylor. I loved playing against him."

On whether he'll get emotional at the ceremony -- "Yeah. It's not the NHL Hall of Fame, but I know I did my best and I tried doing it the right way. The bittersweet part is my father's not here to enjoy it. I know how much he would enjoy it and how proud he would be. You look at all the people who have supported your career; the one for me that was there the whole time was my dad. I know he put a lot of effort to getting me to where I was. That'll definitely be bittersweet."

ROD TAYLOR

The ECHL's career leader with 368 goals, he also holds the record for most 30-goal seasons (8) and most consecutive 30-goal seasons (6). Taylor, 42, played all but 19 of his professional games in the ECHL. He retired as the all-time leader in points (689) and games (678) and remains second in scoring and fourth in games played. He helped Hampton Roads win the Riley Cup as a rookie in 1992 -- scoring a league record-tying 16 goals in 14 games -- and the Kelly Cup in 1998. He also played for Richmond (2000-02), Roanoke (2001-02), Peoria (2002-03), South Carolina (2002-03) and Toledo (2002-03).

On being inducted -- "It's pretty awesome. I was kind of surprised, but it's pretty neat."

Favorite ECHL memory -- "Winning some Cups and things of that nature, I guess. I just had fun doing it."

On missing playing the game -- "I definitely miss playing. Every time the alarm goes off to get my (butt) to work, it certainly helps me miss playing."

On being inducted alongside John Brophy and Blake Cullen -- "Broph was obviously a big part. He taught me a lot about playing and how to look at different things. Mr. Cullen was an owner I looked up to. When I put my skates on, I played for him. I took a lot of pride in that because he did take care of us. When he sold the team, it was a sad day for me. I kept waiting for him to buy another team so I could go play for him again. That's how much I enjoyed working for him -- if you want to call it work."

On whether he'll get emotional at the ceremony -- "Probably. My mom passed away about two years ago, and she's not here for this. That would probably the biggest emotional part for me. But my dad and my family will be there to share this with me."

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.



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