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Four greats entering U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

by John McGourty /

Former NHL center Bobby Carpenter totaled 320 goals and 408 assists in 1,178 games for five teams in 19 seasons.
Four American hockey greats, all with ties to the NHL, will be inducted Friday night into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D.

Bobby Carpenter, Aaron Broten, John Vanbiesbrouck, teammates on the American squad in the 1987 Canada Cup and World Championships, will be inducted along with the late John MacInnes, who coached three NCAA championship teams at Michigan Tech after playing in the Detroit Red Wings' minor-league system.

"Being inducted with Neal there will be nice and my parents will be pretty happy," Aaron Broten said. "My hockey memories are kind of blurred, but I'm honored to go in with John and Bobby, whom I played against for most of my career and played with on U.S. national teams. They're both upstanding individuals. John MacInnes was still coaching Michigan Tech when I was at Minnesota.

"The most fun I had in hockey was in the NHL, playing for New Jersey. It was unique and rewarding. We were building an organization and had gained respectability by the time I got traded. They won the Stanley Cup a few years later."

"We didn't have many skilled players, but Aaron was one of them," said Bob Lorimer, who joined the Devils after winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders. "Aaron was one of the bright lights, a very skilled player who was underrated. People think of him as a scorer, but he was also very good defensively. (General Manager) Max McNab was a proponent of having the right type of people on the team. That was the foundation. We didn't have the horses, but we had good character people, like Aaron, and character is what joins us to the current Devils."

"I went through the same thing in Los Angeles, just before (Wayne) Gretzky came there," Carpenter said. "We were part of turning around a franchise. I came to New Jersey after Aaron left, just as we were becoming ready to contend for the Stanley Cup.

"For me to be considered one of the pieces needed to put the team over the top was great. To be picked for the Hall of Fame, is an honor in itself. It'll be great for Aaron and Neal to be honored together. Aaron helped lay the groundwork for Neal and me to win a Stanley Cup and get those accolades. The younger brother did the work for the older brother!

"I remember John staying after practice regularly in 1987 when we all played together," Carpenter said. "He just wanted us to get the work we needed. He was really energetic and excited to be there."

"I like Bobby's use of the word 'energetic,'" said Vanbiesbrouck, now an NHL broadcaster. "We often don't realize the signals we give off. I was challenged there to the best of my ability. I was with the best American players and I was taking it all in. But I realized I was here for a reason. I needed to bring something to the table. What I remember most was thinking that I needed to make things simple.

"Both Bobby and Aaron were determined players. Bobby had that confidence, youthful confidence, that he could flat-out beat you. He had a quick trigger on his shot. Aaron was a sleek and steady skater who would try shots others wouldn't, like he'd shoot down the goal line if he thought you weren't paying attention. Both came into the NHL as offensive stars, but they became complete, two-way players.

"I've had a chance to reflect about with whom I'm being inducted, who went in in the past and who'll go in the future. Weighing all the factors, I'm really appreciative of being honored with these great American hockey legends, considering their talents and achievements."

Carpenter became the first player to go from high school directly to an NHL team when he left St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., to join the Washington Capitals in 1981. He also played for the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils and his hometown Boston Bruins. Carpenter's 53 goals in 1984-85 broke Joe Mullen's 41-goal mark for most goals scored by an American in an NHL season.

In 19 seasons, Carpenter had 320 goals and 408 assists in 1,178 games. Over the course of his career, Carpenter transitioned from a one-dimensional scorer to a strong two-way player who was reliable in difficult defensive assignments.

Broten was one of the greatest high-school players in Minnesota history, leading Roseau to three state championships from 1977-79. In two seasons at the University of Minnesota, under Herb Brooks, Broten had 72 goals and 106 assists. His 47 goals and 59 assists in 1980-81 remain the school record and helped lead the Golden Gophers to the 1981 NCAA title. His 2.07 points-per-game is third-best in the school's history.

Broten had 186 goals and 329 assists in 748 NHL games over 13 seasons. He played for the Colorado Rockies, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets. He was the Devils' second-leading scorer in 1987-88 when he had 26 goals and tied for the team lead with 57 assists. Broten had five goals and 11 assists in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games that year as the Devils, in the playoffs for the first time, fell in the conference finals to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

Vanbiesbrouck's 374 NHL victories tops all American goalies and that's a list that includes Mike Richter, Frankie Brimsek, Mike Karakas and Sam LoPresti. His 20 seasons in NHL nets are also an American record. Vanbiesbrouck compiled a 374-346-119 record with a 2.98 goals-against average while playing with the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and Devils.

The Detroit native won the 1986 Vezina Trophy and was runner-up in 1994. He played in three NHL All-Star Games and, as the No. 1 pick in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft, Vanbiesbrouck led the 1996 Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche. Vanbiesbrouck was the Devils' backup goalie in 2001 when New Jersey lost in seven games to the Avalanche.

Former netminder John Vanbiesbrouck finished his NHL career with a record of 374-346-119, and has the most wins of all American goaltenders in the NHL.

Two-time NCAA Coach of the Year MacInnes won the NCAA championship in 1962 with a team that included future NHL star Lou Angotti, who would go on to coach the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins.

"My father was impressed when John came to our house in Toronto to recruit me," Angotti recalled. "He took a personal interest in everyone, including how their schooling was going. He was on top of everybody and everything and communicated with the professors to make sure players met their obligations. He was an excellent coach and while he wasn't a loud guy, he got his point across. He gave you a chance to express yourself on the ice. He knew how to get the best out of everyone and to blend everyone. He had a lot to do with our success."

Former Clarkson and Boston College coach Len Ceglarski was on the losing end of the 1962 NCAA championship and later won the American Hockey Coaches Association's John MacInnes Award. He coached against MacInnes many times.

"That championship game was a great one ... until the second period," Ceglarski said of the 7-1 Clarkson loss. "We got some revenge when we won the 1970 semifinal against Tech before losing to Cornell. Tech was always fun to watch, a good, clean team. I just remember the demeanor of his kids, well disciplined and not many penalties. They didn't lose much but when they did, they were gracious."

Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Fern Flaman, who played with the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, later coached Northeastern University, opposed MacInnes's teams a few times and also won the MacInnes Award.

"John was a really nice guy and well respected," Flaman said. "I was in his company at many coaches' meetings and his ideas were always well received. We had an interlocking schedule where Hockey East teams met the Midwest teams. We did pretty well but I remember it was cold as heck up there in Houghton, Mich."

Lorimer played on MacInnes' 1975 NCAA champions, in the middle of a three-year run in which Tech met Herb Brooks' Minnesota team. The Golden Gophers won in 1974 and 1976, but Lorimer was glad to win in his senior year.

"Going to Tech changed my life," he said. "I tried out for the St. Catherines' junior team and didn't make it, so I went to Tech. John was tremendous because of the family atmosphere he created. His players returned for summer vacations in Houghton for years.

"We enjoyed what John built up there. But it was remote. It was my first plane ride, 12 hours on a milk run from Toronto, stopping in every small town. I thought I'd landed on the moon, with the abandoned mines and dumping grounds. But I loved it there and my life was changed by going there.

"We had tremendous teams in my era because John was an excellent recruiter and John treated us like men. Everything was first class from hotels to charters. He fought for the hockey team to have the best. Years later, you don't remember the Xs and Os. You remember how he treated people and the respect he had. Before we went on the ice, we had a moment of silence. You could pray or just focus on the task ahead. I'd never experienced that before."

"John was also involved in building the youth-hockey program in Ann Arbor, Michigan," said U.S. Hall of Famer John Mayasich, still considered by many the best-ever American hockey player. "He was always involved in USA Hockey clinics and selection committees. He won three NCAA championships and produced a lot of All Americans. Remember, Michigan Tech is an engineering school with high academic standards. He did very well considering he could only recruit academically oriented players. John was a great guy and great family man."

Lou Vairo, coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey team and now director of special projects for USA Hockey, is the featured speaker and Jim Rich of Fox 9 TV in Minneapolis is the master of ceremonies.

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which annually honors the best player in Division I men's hockey, will be on display. Both North Dakota's Ryan Duncan, the reigning honoree, and Neal Broten, the first winner, will be in attendance.

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