TORONTO - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's New Year's Eve dinner welcome to the first 33 members of the 100 Greatest NHL Players over the League's first 50 years, from 1917-67 (five of the 10 living players on the list were in attendance, all others were represented by family members):
It's great that you're willing to share New Year's Eve with us. We couldn't be more thrilled about it. As I look out on the room and I think about the hundred phone calls that I made, it is truly our honor to have you here with us and to let us celebrate the great careers of the players here tonight and family members who are representing players who played in the first 50 years of our game.
We are a sport that prides itself on its history, its traditions, its roots, but most importantly, the people who are part of the game. There are no better people, not just in sports, than hockey people, and for me it has always been an honor to represent this game and, in fact, the history and tradition.
All of you, believe me, have meant so much to this game. We wouldn't be where we are today as a League without the foundation that all of you or your relatives have laid for us. For that we are grateful.
A number of you have said to me tonight as we were chatting coming in to dinner, "I was so excited when you called me, I couldn't believe I was getting the call." I have a little secret to tell you: I was more excited about those calls than anybody I called, I really was. It was such an honor, it was such a thrill, it was so great to have those conversations.
Up until that point, whenever I was asked what's the best thing about being Commissioner of the NHL, I would say, "Presenting the Stanley Cup." I've got to tell you: This once-in-a-hundred-year thing? It's very, very special. To honor the 100 greatest players in the history of the NHL -- we're the second-oldest league of any league in North America, 100 years old -- is such a big deal. But as I said, we don't get here without you. It's our honor to have you here. It's our honor to be able to honor all of you because you have given us so much.
We hope that this weekend, and all that we do throughout 2017, our centennial year, makes you feel not only reflective about all the good that was accomplished in the game during your time, or the time of your family members, but that we truly respect and value and honor everything that you've contributed.