Their accents and homelands differed, but the six men inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday expressed a common affection for the family and friends who helped them reach the pinnacle of their sport.
"Hockey is one language spoken passionately all over the world," Commissioner
Three Canadians — former Kings defenseman Rob Blake, the late coach Pat Burns and longtime referee Bill McCreary — were honored alongside two-time world and Olympic champion Peter Forsberg of Sweden, 1998 Olympic gold medalist Dominik Hasek of the Czech Republic and all-time American-born goals leader
Every speech expressed heartfelt gratitude for the support that buoyed them along the way. Blake, now the Kings' assistant general manager, spoke of being shaped by growing up on a farm and the pride his family took in its labor.
"Thank you for showing me hard work and preparation and what it can lead to," he told his parents, Robert and Sandra, who were in the audience. Blake also singled out longtime friends Nelson Emerson, Glen Murray and Mattias Norstrom, who joined him in Toronto for the occasion.
Hasek remembered his grandfather shooting tennis balls at him in his kitchen, and his mother and grandmother loading a baby carriage with his goaltending gear and pushing it to the rink in the dark so he could practice. His father made some of his first equipment when he was 6 years old.
"From that day on I never wanted to do anything else," said Hasek, whose unorthodox style helped him win the Vezina Trophy six times as the
Jason Burns said his father wasn't bitter about being passed over for the Hall of Fame during his lifetime and instructed him, "you'd better look good and have a good speech ready" when Jason someday represented him. Jason Burns looked good and spoke movingly, but it was an irreparable shame that Pat Burns' election was delayed this long.
Forsberg, a two-time
McCreary teared up while thanking his late mother, "the best single parent and hockey mum a boy could ever have." Modano thanked his mother, Karen, saying she "made the best ice and smoothest ice in town and was never afraid to grab a garbage can when we needed a goalie." He said he had now lived his dream and hoped his infant twins, Jake and Kate, squirming in the front row, will achieve their dreams, too.
Their choice of words varied but their sentiments were the same, creating a worthy celebration of the game's best.
Good bet for NHL?
Bettman last week told CNN's
"I think there needs some attention to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people, should it be viewed in the competitive team-oriented sense that it is now, or does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the stadiums and the arenas," he said. "Do you want people at football and basketball games rooting for the spread or rooting for their favorite team?"
They're probably rooting for the spread already. But it's an interesting debate, especially since the NHL apparently is flirting with the idea of placing a team in Las Vegas in the next few years.
Gordie Howe is struggling after suffering a minor stroke last week that set back his recovery from a massive stroke, his son Mark said last weekend.
"He's having a pretty hard time of it right now," Mark Howe told the Detroit Free Press. "We're praying we can get him some relief from his pain."
Mark said his father, 86, has had back pain and increased symptoms of
Bravo also to Hall of Fame media honorees