|Cammi Granato headlined a list of legends entering the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday by becoming the first woman in the history of the Hall to be inducted.
The announcement Tuesday that four of the most gifted American hockey players would be enshrined into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame offered unprecedented historic significance.
Not only did honorees Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Brett Hull and former Kings announcer Cammi Granato each earn silver medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City for their respective teams, but the latter is the first female in the 36-year history of the Hall to be honored among 134 members.
"This is a wonderful and much deserved honor for Cammi," said Kings radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson, who worked with Granato in the broadcast booth. "Her accomplishments as an athlete are well documented and her efforts throughout the years to grow women's hockey have been monumental. Her dedication to her sport and her outstanding qualities as a player are second to none. All of us with the Kings organization salute Cammi on this tremendous honor." | All-Time King Broadcasters
Induction ceremonies are Oct. 10 at the University of Denver's Magness Arena.
Granato, who was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame last May, was honored to learn she would be the first woman in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
"It's great to be honored alongside these three other inductees because I watched and idolized them when they played," said Granato, who last year received the NHL's Lester Patrick Award, along with Leetch, in recognition of her outstanding service to hockey in the United States. "I watched all three in college and I remember Mike and Brian playing with my brother (Tony Granato) on the 1988 Olympic Team in Calgary. It's also very special to be the first woman inducted."
Granato's career, particularly at the international level, has played a key role in the growth of women's hockey. She began playing as a 5-year-old, skating in the back yard of her Downers Grove, Ill., home with her sister and three brothers, including future NHL star and current Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato. Unable to play in a league with girls her age, she joined a boy's team and earned a scholarship to Providence College.
"I remember watching the `88 Olympics in Calgary and telling my mom that, one day, I wanted to be an Olympian and play women's hockey," Granato said. "At the time, playing college hockey and getting a scholarship were most important, but the possibility of someday playing in the Olympics was something I really hoped for. Fortunately, three years before my senior year at Providence (1992-93), I discovered my dream of playing for the national team."
A member of the national team beginning in 1990, Granato is the program's all-time scoring leader with 343 points (186 goals) in 205 games. She achieved international fame by captaining the U.S. team to a gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan – the first year women's ice hockey was recognized as an Olympic sport. The gold-medal game, a 3-1 victory against Canada, brought great exposure to the sport and inspired a surge in girl's hockey participation. Four years later, she again captained the United States to a silver medal.
Leetch, Richter and Hull all played major roles on that impressive American squad that garnered gold in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Leetch, the captain of the team, had seven assists; Richter was named tournament MVP after posting a 2.43 goals-against average and Hull registered a tournament-best seven goals and 11 points.
"That was an awfully special moment," Leetch said. "The excitement and energy, looking around at each other when we were all in the prime of our careers. Watching Mike stand on his head and Hully prove he was not only an exceptional goal-scorer, but great passer."
"It was just the most talented team I've ever been around," Richter said. "It was just awesome to be a part of that group and winning that gold with such a close-knit bunch made it that much more special."
"That `96 World Cup team was one of my greatest moments," Hull said. "I remember standing on the blue line with Chris Chelios and thinking, `What am I supposed to do?' It was a great feeling to be a part of that championship team."
Leetch, the only American-born Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP, competed in the Olympic Winter Games three times (1988, `98, `02).
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Leetch earned the Conn Smythe following the Rangers' unforgettable 1994 Stanley Cup march. He was the team's top scorer that postseason (34 points in 23 games) and his 11 goals were second only to Mark Messier (12).
Leetch, who won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in 1988-89, is also a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the League's best defenseman (1992, '97), a six-time Rangers MVP and an 11-time NHL All-Star.
After being drafted by the Rangers in the first round (No. 9) of the 1986 Entry Draft, Leetch enrolled at Boston College and played one season, collecting 47 points (38 assists) in 37 games to lead the Eagles to the Hockey East Championship.
"Through USA Hockey, I learned how to properly represent the team you were playing for," Leetch said. "I'll always remember our battles against Team Canada and knowing how hard we had to work while wearing the USA jersey. It wasn't only about playing your best, but learning how to grow up and embrace the opportunity."
Richter offered a different perspective.
"The evolution of USA Hockey has been great to watch," he said. "The expectations within the locker room have changed but the one constant is the fact so long as you have confidence as a group, you could achieve anything. I really enjoyed the coaches and players and I always took things very seriously because I wanted to develop and help our team win every tournament."
Born in Abington, Penn., Richter played collegiate hockey for two years at the University of Wisconsin before joining the 1988 U.S. Olympic team and turning pro. He was drafted by the Rangers with the 28th selection in 1985.
A three-time United States Olympian (1988, 1998, 2002), Richter is also the most decorated goalie in New York Rangers history. In 15 seasons with the team, Richter recorded 301 wins, 24 shutouts, a 2.89 GAA and .904 save percentage.
He was a three-time NHL All-Star, a two-time team MVP and was a big reason the Rangers earned their first Stanley Cup in 54 years during the 1993-94 season. In 68 regular-season games that season, Richter posted a 42-12-6 record with a 2.57 GAA and .910 save percentage. In 23 playoff games in '94, he went 16-7 with a 2.07 GAA,.921 save percentage and four shutouts.
Preparation was Richter's forte.
"I think maybe it's because I never felt I was prepared enough," Richter said. "Growing up in Philadelphia, I realized real quick that those kids across Canada and Boston had more rinks and played in more games so they had more access to scouts. But USA Hockey was extremely helpful in that regard, providing me a good training regimen the entire year. I was honing everything, from my equipment to the way I approached the game. I learned real quick that preparation ultimately determined how well I played."
Hull, a nine-time NHL All-Star, earned a scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round (No. 117) of 1984 draft, two years after college. The son of a Canadian father (Hall of Famer Bobby Hull) and American mother, Hull holds dual U.S./Canadian citizenship and would also have been eligible to play for Team Canada, but opted for the United States.
"USA Hockey always showed faith in me so the decision to play for the United States was never a difficult one," Hull said. "They saw potential, gave me an opportunity to play and find out who Brett Hull was as a player. Once given that chance, I discovered who I was and played the game the only way I knew how. I still remember the booing directed at me (at the `96 World Cup of Hockey) when we defeated Team Canada, but they only started booing when they realized we were a threat to win and that was a great feeling."
"Through USA Hockey, I learned how to properly represent the team you were playing for. I'll always remember our battles against Team Canada and knowing how hard we had to work while wearing the USA jersey. It wasn't only about playing your best, but learning how to grow up and embrace the opportunity." - Brian Leetch on USA Hockey
On the international stage, Hull helped the United States to an Olympic silver medal at his second Games in 2002 and topped the tournament in scoring as Team USA captured the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, the first of his two World Cup appearances.
The current co-general manager for the Dallas Stars recorded 1,391 points in 1,269 career games during his 20-year NHL career that included stints with five teams (Calgary, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix). His 741 career goals place him third all-time in NHL history.
In his first full season with the Blues (1988-89), he scored 41 goals and captured the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. The following year marked the first of three consecutive 70-plus goal seasons, included a career-high 86 in 1990-91 to earn him the Lester B. Pearson Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy as League MVP.
Following his 11 seasons in St. Louis, Hull signed with the Stars in 1998, scoring 95 goals and 196 points in 218 games, winning a Stanley Cup in 1999. In 2001, he joined the Red Wings as a free agent and played a key role in the Wings' 2002 Stanley Cup run, scoring 10 goals and 18 points in 23 playoff games.
"I always tell our players to look at things realistically knowing one day all the good things will come to an end," said Hull, who turned 44 Saturday. "I tell our kids to grasp each moment and not take anything for granted. I know what I did and I cherished every moment in the NHL and on Team USA. I'll never look back and not miss playing because when I look back on those memories, it puts a smile on my face."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer