When they give you the membership rings at the Hockey Hall of Fame, they do so a few feet away from the Stanley Cup.
Shift the spotlight a little and the four players and general manager on hand Monday were literally standing in the shadow of the Cup.
And so it just another day for the Class of 2009. The Cup and the honorees were in reach of each other once again.
Start with Steve Yzerman’s three Stanley Cups, the championships won by Luc Robitaille with the Detroit Red Wings and the two won by Brett Hull.
Then add the Cup captured by Brian Leetch with the New York Rangers in 1994 and the three times the New Jersey Devils, masterminded by Lou Lamoriello, and you have Cups in one class.
For Hull, a fat forward deemed expendable by Cliff Fletcher in Calgary, how he got to the Hall of Fame is something of a mystery.
“I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I have no idea how it happened,” said Hull, now an executive vice-president with the Dallas Stars.
“I got to play with wonderful players. I just made sure when I played I was having fun. I figured if I was going to have fun the game was going to go my way for me.”
Along the way, Hull combined with his father Bobby to become the only father-son duo to each score 600 career goals and 1000 points. Thanks to a devastating shot and the ability to attract scant attention in the offensive zone, Hull managed three 70 goal seasons and an 86 goal campaign in 1991.
For Leetch, it was never about even playing in the NHL, at least initially.
“My goal growing up after watching the 1980 Olympic team was I wanted to be an Olympic player,” he said. “I didn’t know any NHL players. Playing with USA Hockey showed me there were opportunities to continue on.”
Leetch played 18 seasons, won two Norris Trophies and stood out as one of the smoothest-skating defencemen in NHL history. A Maple Leaf for only 15 games in 2004, Leetch had 15 points but saw his second season with the club washed away by the lockout.
The ninth choice, 171st overall in the 1984 draft, Luc Robitaille was considered too slow for the NHL,
Robitaille would reward the Kings with 557 goals and finish as the highest scoring leftwinger in NHL history with 668 goals and 1,394 points.
He said the road to the Hall was built on “wanting to play in the NHL, dedication and not listening to people. I wanted to play. I worked hard every day but it was never a job. I was willing to try to improve every day.”
Yzerman, the general manager of the Canadian men’s Olympic team, transformed himself from a glittery offensive player to the backbone of the Wings championship years. He would trail only Gordie Howe as the greatest player in that storied franchise. Yzerman was the Wings captain for 20 of his 22 years.
“For our organization, we were able to build to win Stanley Cups because we had tremendous players, coaches and an ownership group that insisted on winning,” Yzerman said.
Lamoriello said the key has been the fostering and dissemination of key values, teamwork, industry, sacrifice.
“I think it all comes down to the people we’ve had in our organization. We’ve been very fortunate that the culture has been passed down from the veterans to the younger player and they just fall in line.”