As a child in Finland, Teemu Selanne dreamed of playing for his country's national team. Reaching the NHL was a fantasy. "NHL felt like too far. I didn't believe I'm going to ever make it," he said.
Dave Andreychuk was told he was too slow to succeed in the NHL. Mark Recchi and Paul Kariya, each 5-foot-10, were told they were too small to thrive as professionals. Danielle Goyette had great talent but there was little support for female hockey players when she grew up in Quebec.
Ignoring the odds and the doubters, all five enjoyed outstanding careers that led to their induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday in Toronto. Former Canadian college coach Clare Drake and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs were inducted as builders.
Andreychuk became the NHL's career leader with 274 power-play goals, Recchi scored 1,533 points and won the Stanley Cup with three teams, and Goyette won eight world championship gold medals as well as two Olympic gold medals and a silver medal. Selanne became the 11th-most prolific goalscorer in NHL history and Kariya one of its most breathtaking stars, averaging a point a game over a 989-game career cut short by concussions.
Kariya and Selanne stole the show, as they did while teammates with the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Kariya thanked those who helped him at every step, including the midget-level coach who helped him visualize "being Wayne Gretzky." He saved special recognition for Steve Rucchin, his center for nine seasons. "Thank you for doing all the things I couldn't do on the ice, like forechecking, backchecking, going into the corners or playing defense, just to name a few," Kariya said, as Rucchin smiled.
Kariya also thanked Selanne, his former linemate and roommate. "I simply would not be standing here tonight if I didn't get the chance to play with you. We will always be brothers, in this life and the next," Kariya said.
Selanne, a six-time Olympian and three-time NHL goalscoring leader, apologized to his twin brother Paavo, who was the goaltender in their childhood games. "I stole your confidence. You stopped playing. But I really needed the confidence," Selanne said.
He also thanked Rucchin as well as the doctor who repaired his knee in 2004 and "gave me a chance to have a happy ending." He didn't forget Kariya, whose serious nature was tempered by Selanne's everyday joy. "I learned so much from you," Selanne said. "I'm always joking that half my salary I played hockey and half I tried to make you close to be normal person. … Thank you."
Canadian writer Cam Cole won the Elmer Ferguson memorial award for excellence in hockey journalism. The family of the late Dave Strader accepted his Foster Hewitt memorial award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.