TORONTO -- When Pierre Turgeon is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, he’ll be forever enshrined alongside some of his childhood heroes like Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur and Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

Of course, being honored and remembered in the same breath as some of the most famous names in sports, entertainment and even politics is nothing new for the 54-year-old.

Down in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, about 300 miles south of the Hall in downtown Toronto, you’ll find the World of Little League Museum. Inside the building, which celebrates the history and essence of everything Little League baseball, is the Hall of Excellence, where the creme de la creme of the sport are immortalized.

There are only two criteria to be part of this esteemed group, according to the museum:

1. You “must have played in a chartered local Little League."
2. You “must have become a recognized role model as an adult.”

Actors Kevin Costner and Tom Selleck are among the 63 people enshrined there. So are Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush; ex-NFL coaches Tom Coughlin and Tony Dungy; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Baseball Hall of Fame members Mariano Rivera, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Jim Palmer; NCAA basketball analyst Dick Vitale; Basketball Hall of Fame member Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; NASCAR’s Kyle Petty; golfer Hale Irwin; and musician Bruce Springsteen.

“And of all those famous people, there is only one person who is in the Little League hall of fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame. And that’s my pal Pierre Turgeon,” said Stephane Matteau, Turgeon’s childhood friend and one of the heroes of the 1994 New York Rangers Stanley Cup championship team. “(Current Rangers general manager) Chris Drury is the only other NHL player to be in the Little League Hall, but he’s not in the Hockey Hall.

“Pierre is the only one to be in both. How special is that?”

Ask Turgeon that same question, and one word pops into the former forward’s mind.

“Surreal,” he said.

He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts.

“I mean, you grow up in Quebec and idolize the Lafleurs, the Beliveaus, the Richards,” he said. “And then, not only do you live out a dream by playing for the Montreal Canadiens, the team you grew up cheering for, but you are actually the captain of the team when they closed down the Montreal Forum in 1996 and you are rubbing shoulders with Lafleur, Beliveau, the Rocket and so many other Canadiens greats. It’s definitely a highlight, if not the highlight, of my life.

“And now to be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame where so many greats are honored, well, like I said, surreal.”

The dream didn’t end there.

In 2007, he became the first Canadian and first NHLer to be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence after representing his country at the 1982 Little League World Series on a team from his hometown of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. Playing with his pal Matteau, Turgeon used his pitching and hitting to lead Canada to the semifinals, where it lost 10-7 to Taiwan.

“When I was 11 years old I was already 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, so I was bigger than most kids,” Turgeon said.

Better, too.

“He could really pitch, really throw that fastball,” Matteau said. “And I think he went 9-for-12 at the plate.

“It was our miracle summer.”

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Turgeon agreed.

“When you come from a town like we do -- I think the population was 17,000 at the time -- where the length of winter keeps you from playing baseball as much as a lot of the American kids down south could and you don’t have the extended season like them, it’s pretty amazing,” he said. “And to be that young and play in front of 25,000 people, it was incredible.

“When they told me I was going in the Hall there, I mean, I was shocked. Think about the names. Kevin Costner. President Bush. People who impacted the world in so many ways. And here I am, the kid from Rouyn, seven hours north of Montreal, becoming the first hockey player to go in. I was shocked.”

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In 2017, the members of that Rouyn-Noranda team went back to Williamsport for a reunion 35 years after its historic run. Though it brought back great memories, Turgeon didn’t second-guess his decision of which sport to pursue for a living.

“I enjoyed playing baseball,” he said. “But hockey is my passion. Always was. That was my dream.”

Judging by the fact he’s been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was the right choice.

* * * *

Turgeon’s numbers speak for themselves.

In 19 NHL seasons, he had 1,327 points (515 goals, 812 assists) in 1,294 games for the Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. He 34th on the NHL points list and had the most of any nonactive player who wasn’t elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Until now.

“When I finally heard he was going in, I said: ‘What took so long?’” Matteau said. “It was something like 16 years before it happened.

“He wouldn’t talk about it anymore for the longest time. He just got on with his life.”

Turgeon was doing exactly that late last June when he was with his family in Las Vegas celebrating his sister-in-law’s birthday. The thought that he might get a call from the Hall was the furthest thing from his mind.

“I saw a call from a 416 area code come in,” Turgeon said. “I knew it was a Toronto number, but I didn’t think anything of it.”

Then came a second.

And a third.

And a fourth.

“By the fifth one, I figured I should answer and see what it is,” he said.

It was Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald delivering the news he thought he’d probably never receive.

“When I heard I was in, there was a huge fist pump,” he said.

Turgeon honored with Hockey Hall of Fame induction

There were hugs all around, whoops of joy, all the things you’d expect at such a life-defining moment.

Then his thoughts turned to older brother Sylvain. On Pierre’s list of idols, his sibling easily was at the top of the list.

Sylvain Turgeon, four years Pierre’s elder, was selected No. 2 overall by the Hartford Whalers in the 1983 NHL Draft and would have 495 points (269 goals, 226 assists) in 669 games with the Whalers, Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators. When Pierre was selected No. 1 by the Sabres in the 1987 NHL Draft, he and Sylvain became the only brothers in NHL history to have been picked first and second in their respective draft years, which is still a record.

“He showed me the way,” Pierre said. “He showed that it could be done. He gave me the confidence that I could play in that league too.”

Then-Islanders goalie Glenn Healy discovered that firsthand in 1991, when Turgeon was traded to New York from Buffalo as part of a multiplayer deal that sent forward Pat Lafontaine to the Sabres.

“We just dealt away our best player and I’m wondering, what the heck did we just do?” Healy said.

Then he faced Turgeon in practice. That’s all it took to win Healy over.

“No matter what I did, this guy was so talented, he’d just keep scoring and scoring and scoring,” Healy said. “At one point I was ready to move the net out of the way when he was coming in on me. It was like, ‘There, try scoring now.’

“The thing is, you couldn’t find a better teammate or a nicer guy. You could ask dozens of his former teammates and they’d all say the same thing.

“And man, could he play.”


Unfortunately, that largely wasn’t the case when the Islanders upset Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Turgeon was sidelined until Game 7 with a separated shoulder, the result of a hit from behind by Dale Hunter in the first round against the Washington Capitals that resulted in a 21-game suspension.

“It’s one of the worst cheap shots in NHL history in my opinion, but Pierre won’t talk about it,” Matteau said. “Does it bother him? Of course.

“But it’s not Pierre’s way to live in the past. He’s got too much class. He prefers to move forward with his life.

“And right now, he’s moving forward right into the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

* * * *

If there is one blemish on his resume, it’s that he never won the Stanley Cup.

“Not only that,” Matteau said. “He never made a [Stanley Cup] Final. Can you believe that. Nineteen years and never made a Final.”

That didn’t mean he didn’t appreciate his friends being able to do it.

Matteau tells the story of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final between his Rangers and the Devils. His goal in the second overtime of Game 7 is one of the most legendary in Rangers history, giving them a 2-1 win that put them in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks.

“Maybe he never made the Final himself,” Matteau said. “But he was so happy I did.

“His wife Elisabeth told me that when I scored, he was back at home yelling and screaming as if he’d scored himself. She came in and told him to be quiet because the kids were sleeping. He said he couldn't because I had just scored.

“He was so happy for me. That’s the type of person he is. That’s the type of friend he is.”

Pierre Turgeon selected to Hockey Hall of Fame

This weekend his friends and family will reciprocate by being in Toronto for his induction weekend -- dozens of them, including Matteau, ex-teammates, and other former NHLers from his hometown, such as Eric Desjardins, Andre Racicot and Jacques Cloutier.

Of note: Rouyn-Noranda is also the hometown of well-known players like Dave Keon and Dale Tallon.

“To have come from there and made it this far, it’s been quite a journey,” Turgeon said.

“It’s finally starting to sink in. And I’m going to savor every second of it.”

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