TORONTO (AP) -The Hockey Hall of Fame opened its doors to women for the first time on Monday.
Angela James of Canada and Cammi Granato of the United States received their Hall of Fame rings.
The Hall of Fame established separate induction criteria for women this year, paving the way for James and Granato.
"I think it's a historic night and I think it's great for hockey at all levels," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Both Angela and Cammi are inspirational, they're pioneers once again. What they've done in the game to this point has been terrific and I think they're great role models for other girls and women looking to devote themselves to this game."
But the breakthrough moment comes at a time when female players are still defending their game.
"It just comes with the territory because we're used to doing that, we're used to defending ourselves," Granato said Monday. "I had to defend myself from the time when I was in a rink when I was a little kid and people wondered 'Why is she playing?'
"We just have to keep repeating ourselves over and over. ... But this helps, I tell you, being here. Having this committee and this Hall accept us really helps."
On their Hall of Fame plaques, James is described as a "pioneer of the women's game" while Granato is labeled a "groundbreaker in the truest sense of the word."
The high point of Granato's career came while James was experiencing one of her most trying periods in the game. The Toronto native was left off the Canadian team when women's hockey made its debut at the 1998 Olympics, an event where Granato and the U.S. team won gold with a victory over Canada.
Ciccarelli also overcame long odds to claim his spot in the Hall, having never been drafted by an NHL team. Teams were scared off when he suffered a broken leg in his final year of junior hockey.
Eventually, he would sign with the Minnesota North Stars as a free agent and embark on a career that saw him score 608 goals in the NHL.
One of his great regrets is never winning a championship. He got a small taste of what it might be like on Sunday night while having dinner with a number of other Hall of Famers.
"They surprised our party and they brought the Stanley Cup over," Ciccarelli said. "We were taking a group picture with all the guys, and I still feel like I can't touch it because I didn't win it. But Glenn Anderson said, 'Dino, grab that thing and put it over your head.' We were all holding on.
"I said, 'Yeah, I'm not comfortable.' He said, 'Hey, you're in the Hall now - it doesn't matter.' So that kind of made me feel really special."
Note: Longtime Montreal-based sportswriter Marc De Foy received the Elmer Ferguson Award for hockey journalism. Former Washington Capitals play-by-play man Ron Weber accepted the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.