U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies this week in Minnesota
Islanders Senior Vice President Mike Milbury was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on Saturday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Milbury, along with former University of Minnesota hockey legends Gary Gambucci and Milton "Curly" Brink, made up the Hall's Class of 2006.
The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame "celebrates American Hockey by honoring and recognizing outstanding hockey contributors and capturing the true spirit and excitement of the Sport." Former inductees include Phil Housley (2004), Pat LaFontaine (2003), Joe Mullen (1998), Ken Morrow (1995) and Herb Brooks (1990).
The weekend's festivities kicked-off with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game played on Friday between the University of Minnesota and the University of Maine. It was a rematch of the 2002 NCAA Championship game, where Minnesota claimed the title by the score of 4-3, in overtime. This game saw Maine take down Minnesota by the score of 3-1 at the Xcel Energy Center. The induction ceremonies were held Saturday afternoon.
For more information, visit the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame's website at www.ushockeyhall.com.
Reaction from the Islanders locker room today about the news of Mike Milbury's induction into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame:
Jason Blake: "All of my success at the NHL level up to this day, I owe to Mike Milbury. So as a fellow American hockey player, I'm very happy that he's getting such an incredible honor. When I was struggling in Los Angeles, it was Mike who brought me to long Island and believed in me. I honestly don't know where I'd be if it wasn't for Mike. He has done so much for me and my family. Yes, he was a pain in the neck to me a few times, but it was always to get the best out of me. Mike and his family will always hold a special place in my heart."
Rick DiPietro: "It's about time. Mike played when there were, what, only 16 teams? And so few Americans. He was a bit of a trailblazer for a lot of us. And personally, Mike is the man who made me an Islander and has always been so supportive, so for that I will be eternally grateful to him. He is very worthy of this honor."
Bruno Gervais: "Mike is very well-known where I come from in Quebec. The Canadiens and Bruins had so many battles and Mike was such a big part of it. It's a compliment to him that he has such great respect in the game as a player, coach and manager. Mike will always be a friend of mine. He and his staff took me when others teams didn't see what the Islanders saw. I've heard that he has often gone to bat for me. I'm very happy for Mike and very proud. I hope he and his family have a great time this weekend."
Trent Hunter: "When I wasn't getting a chance, Mike and his staff made a deal for me and developed me into an NHL player. So he's always going to be a special person in my life. When you realize he's been in the NHL for 30 years and had such a great college career, I have to believe this was a pretty easy choice for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Congratulations, Mike."
MIKE MILBURY: AMERICAN HOCKEY LEGEND
Courtesy: United States Hockey Hall of Fame
Through his intense dedication to the game and his teams, Massachusetts-born and raised Mike Milbury has forged a remarkable 35-year hockey career as a player, coach and general manager.
Milbury was recruited out of Walpole High School to play football and hockey at Colgate University, where he earned a degree in urban sociology. Considered early in his college hockey career to be a long shot for the pros, the 6-1 defenseman worked hard at every aspect of his game. In his last two years at Colgate, he became a highly reliable defenseman in his own end while also averaging a point a game (6 goals and 45 assists for 51 points in 51 games).
His steady improvement at Colgate earned Milbury a tryout with his beloved hometown Boston Bruins. Catching the eyes of a tough head coach named Don Cherry with his fierce commitment to team play, Milbury was signed to a contract with the Bruins on Nov. 5, 1974.
A two-year apprenticeship in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Bruins, followed by a roster spot on Team USA in the inaugural Canada Cup, led to a permanent job on the blue line of the Bruins. Milbury's inclusion in the Bruins' lineup in 1976 came at a time when there were less than a dozen American players in the National Hockey League.
Over the next eleven seasons, Milbury played 754 NHL regular season games and additional 111 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The rugged, often combative stay-at-home defenseman amassed 1,552 minutes in penalties, second only to Terry O'Reilly's club record 2,095. He had 49 goals and 189 assists in the regular season, 4 goals, 24 assists and 219 penalty minutes over his playoff career. Milbury ranks 12th all-time in games played for the Bruins.
Following his playing career, Milbury became head coach of the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Maine on July 16, 1987. In his first season, the Mariners captured the division title and Milbury was named AHL Coach of the Year and The Hockey News' Minor Pro Coach of the Year.
Following two seasons with the Mariners, Milbury was promoted to head coach and assistant general manager of the Bruins on May 16, 1989. In his two seasons at the helm, Milbury led his team to consecutive 100-point seasons and division titles. In 1989-90, he was named Coach of the Year by The Hockey News and The Sporting News after leading his team to the President's Trophy and a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. The following season, the Bruins advanced to the conference final. His coaching record in Boston ranks him as the organization's most successful coach in the last quarter-century.
Milbury continued his more than two decades as a member of the Bruins' organization as assistant GM to his mentor, legendary team architect Harry Sinden. During his long career with the Bruins at all levels, his teams reached the Stanley Cup Final twice and never failed to qualify for the playoffs.
After a year as a studio commentator for ESPN, Milbury was named head coach of the New York Islanders on July 5, 1995. Five months later, he became just the third general manager in Islanders history.
Following the 1995-96 and the 1996-97 NHL seasons, the Brighton, Massachusetts native proudly served as general manager of Team USA at the World Championships. His 1995-96 team won the Bronze Medal, marking the first time in 34 years that the U.S. had earned a medal at the Worlds.
Enduring years of ownership instability, Milbury was rewarded for his perseverance when Charles B. Wang not only purchased the Islanders but made a personal commitment to seeing the franchise thrive on Long Island. As a result, the Milbury-engineered Islanders of 2001-02 achieved the third greatest turnaround in NHL history. The Islanders qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs three consecutive seasons from 2001 2004, becoming just one of six teams to do so during that span.
Over the course of his eleven years with the Islanders, Milbury mentored successful U.S.-born coaches Peter Laviolette and Greg Cronin. He also drafted or acquired standout American players such as Rick DiPietro, Jason Blake, Shawn Bates, Mark Parrish and Tim Connolly.
Seeking a new challenge to his career, Milbury stepped down as general manager at the end of the 2005-06 season to become Senior Vice President of Wang's sports properties, including the Islanders, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) and Islanders Iceworks the team's practice facility. He will be a guiding force in the transformation of the Nassau Coliseum property into a central destination on Long Island for sports, entertainment and business development.
Milbury is also the Executive Director of Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey "Project Hope," a not-for-profit organization that brings the sport of ice hockey to underprivileged children in China. This summer, Milbury appointed Angela Ruggiero, a three-time member of the United States Women's Hockey Team, to manage this unprecedented program.
Mike and his wife, Ginger, live in Garden City, New York. He has four sons, Owen, Luke, Jake and Jack Patrick, and two daughters, Alison and Caitlin.
Photos 2 and 3 Courtesy of Boston Bruins