Olympic memories abounded when the United States Hockey Hall of Fame committee officially announced their Hall of Fame Class for 2009 Tuesday.
This year's inductees include the gold-medal winning 1998 women's Olympic team, former U.S. Olympic medalists John LeClair
, Tony Amonte
and Tom Barrasso
and inventor Frank Zamboni, who'll be inducted posthumously.
LeClair, Amonte and Barrasso recalled their time as teammates playing and winning the silver medal at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Cammi Granato remembered how special it was to be a part of the '98 women's Olympic hockey team in Nagano, Japan. Even Richard Zamboni, who joined the four others to speak on behalf of his late father, remembered how proud his dad was when his ice-resurfacing machine was utilized at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif.
Barrasso compared playing for Team USA at the 2002 Olympics with winning back-to-back Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins
in 1991 and '92.
"I was fortunate enough to be on two Stanley Cup teams, but I'd put just being at the Olympics in 2002 on a similar level -- that's how honored I was to be a part of that club," Barrasso said. "I'm proud of the fact we've been able to grow the game of hockey in the U.S. and produce these players. The guys making up that '02 team are not just great American hockey players, but some of the greatest players to have played and that's a real testament to what USA Hockey has been able to put together in the last 30 years."
LeClair and Amonte were not only teammates on the '02 Olympic team, but for the squad that won the 1996 World Cup. LeClair finished second in scoring among all players in the '96 World Cup, helping the Americans to a memorable performance with 6 goals and 10 points in seven games. The St. Albans, Vt., native was also part of the "Divine Line" at the '02 Winter Olympics, skating alongside Brett Hull
and Mike Modano
-- the highest-scoring trio (9 goals, 21 points in 6 games) in the tournament.
"We had a lot of friendly battles with the Canadians and it went back and forth, but that World Cup was one of the most intense tournaments I've ever played in," LeClair said. "It was pretty amazing how the whole thing played out and the results for us were terrific. We really gained a lot of respect with that victory. Before that series with Team Canada, everyone looked at USA Hockey as being good but not that good."
Amonte of Hingham, Mass., scored the game-winner for Team USA in the decisive third game against Canada at the '96 World Cup. The goal marked the highlight of his 15-season career.
"I was fortunate to work on a line with John (LeClair) and it was a thrill you never expect growing up," Amonte said. "The success of that World Cup really boosted my confidence as a player. It didn't look good for us after losing to Canada in the opener (4-3 in overtime) and they had the champagne on ice for the second game. But we won that second game (5-2) and the third was the pinnacle of my career -- being a part of that victory and the atmosphere."
Following his gold-medal winning performance, Amonte would produce three 40-goal seasons over his next four with the Blackhawks.
The 1998 U.S. women's ice hockey team, coached by Ben Smith
, won the sport's inaugural Olympic gold medal by going undefeated and twice beating the favored Canadians. The women's team will join the 1960 and 1980 men's Olympic teams as the only groups to be enshrined into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
"We hadn't won a world championship previously and were completely dominated by Canada, more psychologically speaking than anything else. So how were we going to beat them on the biggest stage ever? As one of the leaders of the team, that's what I had to figure out and we worked really hard at that. When you get that recipe, it often leads to something great and you could feel that building within our team."
-- Cammi Granato, captain of the 1998 U.S. Women's Ice Hockey Team
Granato, captain of that '98 U.S. Team, was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year. Behind her 4 goals and 4 assists in six games, the Americans earned the gold while outscoring the opposition, 36-8. The United States would defeat Canada, 3-1, in the gold-medal game on Feb. 17, 1998.
"I've never been on a team where everyone realized their role and sort of gave up their pride and said, 'OK, I'm not on the power play, but can handle it and I'll do my job the best I can,' and that's difficult to find," Granato said of her '98 Olympic teammates. "We hadn't won a world championship previously and were completely dominated by Canada, more psychologically speaking than anything else. So how were we going to beat them on the biggest stage ever? As one of the leaders of the team, that's what I had to figure out and we worked really hard at that. When you get that recipe, it often leads to something great and you could feel that building within our team."
Here's a closer look at the three former NHL players named to the Class of '09.
John LeClair --
LeClair became the first American-born NHL player to post three consecutive 50-goal seasons -- all with the Philadelphia Flyers
. He played for the Flyers for 10 seasons, totaling 333 goals, and finished his 17-season NHL career with 406 goals in 967 games. He represented the United States in the 1998 and '02 Olympics, '96 World Cup and the '88 and '89 World Junior Championships. He was drafted 33rd by the Canadiens in 1987 and would win a Stanley Cup in Montreal in 1993. LeClair spent his final two seasons in Pittsburgh.
"John was a power left wing," Amonte said. "We entered the NHL around the same time and to see it all come together for him was great, especially those Philly days. He's a guy who wanted to win and having a chance to play with him in Philadelphia and on Team USA was great."
Tony Amonte --
The six-time NHL All-Star played for Team USA in the 1998 and '02 Olympics, the '96 World Cup, the '91 and '93 World Championships, the '90 Goodwill Games and the '89 and '90 World Junior Championships. Drafted 68th in 1988 by the New York Rangers
, Amonte placed third in the balloting for the Calder Trophy in 1991-92 after scoring 35 goals and 69 points. Following three seasons with the Rangers, Amonte was traded to Chicago where he scored at least 30 goals five times. He also had a string of playing in all 82 regular-season games five-straight seasons (1997-98 through 2001-02) with the Blackhawks. Amonte played for five teams -- the Rangers, Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes
, Flyers and Calgary Flames
-- before retiring in 2008 with 416 goals and 900 points in 1,174 NHL games.
"Only when you're playing against a guy can really see how hard it is to go up against him," LeClair said. "Tony had the heart and drive like nobody I've ever seen. He never quit on any shift and he's a guy you could never give up against."
Tom Barrasso --
Boston native, originally drafted fifth by the Buffalo Sabres
out of Acton-Boxborough High School in the 1983 Entry Draft, was the first American-born goalie to reach 300 wins. Barrasso made his NHL debut with the Sabres straight out of high school, going 26-12-3 with a 2.84 goals-against average to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie and the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goalie. He represented the United States at the 1984 and '87 Canada Cups, the '86 IIHF World Championship and the '02 Olympics. Barrasso retired in 2003 after a 19-year NHL career, during which he played for the Buffalo Sabres
, Pittsburgh Penguins
, Ottawa Senators
, Carolina Hurricanes
, Toronto Maple Leafs
and St. Louis Blues
. He ranks first in NHL playoff victories (61) and is second in regular-season triumphs (369-277-86) in 777 career games.
"I trained with the 1983 U.S. Olympic team right out of high school (in August of '83) and that was an experience that prepared me for NHL training camp and propelled me to the success I had my rookie year," Barrasso said. "I don't have the slightest idea how I was able to have that success not having played at that level previously, but I'm most proud of the fact I came right out of high school was able to play with grown men. It was an amazing experience and the stories I have are ones I'll cherish forever."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com