TORONTO -- Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend is officially under way.
The four player inductees -- Doug Gilmour
, Ed Belfour
, Joe Nieuwendyk
and Mark Howe
-- were honored Saturday night at Air Canada Centre prior to the Maple Leafs-Senators game.
The night started with a video tribute that showed several members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, including Gilmour and Nieuwendyk in their Maple Leaf blue. Gilmour got the first of what will be several ovations over the next three days.
After introducing 15 members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, including Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe
, the Class of 2011 got their due.
Since Gordie Howe
was the final of the 15 introduced, it was only natural that Mark Howe
was the first of the incoming Hall of Fame class to greet the crowd. He walked the line and ended with an embrace with his dad.
How cool is that?
Nieuwendyk was the next up and he received a standing ovation. Nieuwendyk spent the 2003-04 season in Toronto and became a fan favorite. He also received an ovation for winning the gold medal with Team Canada in 2002.
Belfour was up next, and keeping with his natural quirkiness (some call it individuality) he was not dressed the part. While everyone else was wearing a suit, Belfour was wearing a leather jacket and did not have on a tie.
Finally, the ultimate fan favorite here in Toronto, Gilmour got his introduction. The fans stood and applauded and cheered almost the entire time as the P.A. announcer read his biography.
Gilmour, Nieuwendyk, Belfour and Howe stood beside the Toronto Maple Leafs
logo on the carpet draped over top center ice as the Leafs and Senators came onto the ice and assembled on their respective blue lines.
Gilmour brought the puck out for the ceremonial faceoff and he dropped it between Dion Phaneuf
and Daniel Alfredsson
. Soon enough, the legends stepped off center stage, the blue carpets were rolled up, the anthem was performed by Beverley Mahood and the game got under way.
The Hall of Famers will be back here at Air Canada Centre for the annual Legend's Game, where they will be honored again and receive their Hall of Fame jackets.
Now it's time for a hockey game.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl