THIS DATE IN HISTORY: June 23
1999: The Hockey Hall of Fame waives the usual three-year waiting period and announces that Wayne Gretzky will be part of the Class of 1999. He joins referee Andy van Hellemond and longtime NHL referee and hockey executive Ian "Scotty" Morrison, who's honored in the Builders category.
The announcement comes a little more than two months after Gretzky stuns the hockey world by announcing he will retire after the 1998-99 season, his third with the New York Rangers. He hangs up his skates owning dozens of NHL records, including career marks in goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857). He also holds the single-season records in all three categories.
1975: The Los Angeles Kings sign free agent forward Marcel Dionne after obtaining him and defenseman Bart Crashley in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings receive forward Dan Maloney and defenseman Terry Harper from Los Angeles as compensation. Dionne plays nearly 12 seasons with the Kings and breaks the 100-point mark in seven of them. He wins the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer in 1979-80.
Video: Marcel Dionne was "offensive genius"
2001: Ilya Kovalchuk becomes the first player born in Russia to be taken with the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft when he's selected by the Atlanta Thrashers. Kovalchuk scores 29 goals as a rookie in 2001-02 and later has two 52-goal seasons with the Thrashers. The Ottawa Senators take center Jason Spezza with the No. 2 pick, which they acquire from the New York Islanders as part of a trade for center Alexei Yashin.
Exactly 17 years later, Kovalchuk returns to the NHL after five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League when he signs a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings.
2017: Nico Hischier is selected No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils, becoming the first player born in Switzerland to be taken with the first selection in the NHL Draft. The center from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finishes his rookie season with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists), helping the Devils qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012. Nolan Patrick, a forward rated ahead of Hischier as the top North American skater available in the draft, goes No. 2 to the Philadelphia Flyers.