Why Hasek, Forsberg, Modano and Blake are Hall of Famers
Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano and Rob Blake are the latest players to receive the highest honor in hockey, joining other legends of the game in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
All four players had an undeniable impact on the sport, breaking records and influencing future generations of hockey players along the way. Here's why they are the class of 2014:
There's a reason Dominik Hasek's name pops up in any conversation about the best NHL goaltender of all time.
Six Vezina Trophies, two Hart Trophies, two Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal is an impressive list of accomplishments, but what's even more impressive is the unorthodox style Hasek employed while filling his trophy case.
Patrick Roy gets credit for setting the standard around which all modern butterfly goaltenders base their style, but Hasek's constant stream of desperation saves were impossible to imitate and endlessly entertaining. Just when it looked like he was down and out, Hasek would flop onto his back or kick out a pad to prevent what was a sure goal a moment earlier.
Hasek's greatest accomplishment was arguably his performance in the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs. He carried a Buffalo Sabres team all the way to the final even though their leading playoff scorers were defensemen Jason Woolley and Alexei Zhitnik. Buffalo lost to the Dallas Stars in six games on a controversial clinching goal, but the Sabres wouldn't have stood a chance without Hasek between the pipes.
Forsberg took the NHL by storm when he debuted in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He had 166 points and a Stanley Cup championship after 129 regular-season games, most of which were filled with highlight-reel moves.
Forsberg was the rare player during the dead puck era who found space to make a play no matter where he was on the ice. The puck seemed glued to Forsberg's stick as he slipped past opponents and positioned himself to unload his accurate wrist shot or move in for one of the many dekes in his arsenal.
Forsberg averaged over a point per game in his career, which was cut short by injuries when he was just 33 years old. He attempted to come back with the Colorado Avalanche but made a total of 11 appearances between 2007 and 2011 before retiring permanently.
Aside from Wayne Gretzky, few players had a bigger impact growing the NHL in the south than Mike Modano.
Modano is second among American NHL players in career points with 1,374. He played nearly his entire career with the Dallas Stars, helping them reach consecutive Stanley Cup finals and win a championship in 1999.
Modano's marketability among Americans made him the ideal face of Dallas, which at the time was a very risky venture for the league. The Stars moved from hockey-mad Minnesota to a city that sees 1.5 inches of snow per year, and needed something to pique the interest of locals. That's where Modano's power forward prowess came in handy.
Modano never led the league in scoring, or won an individual trophy for his play. Instead, he was a model of leadership and consistency, and his fingerprints are all over the generation of hockey talent now emerging from Texas.
Blake scored a career-high 23 goals when he won the Norris Trophy in the 1997-98 season. He sits 18th all-time in points for defensemen with 777, and used his booming slap shot to score 136 power-play goals in a career that touches four decades.
But goals and points alone aren't what made Blake a perennial Norris candidate. He was one of the hardest-hitting blue-liners in the NHL, regularly winning corner battles and manhandling opponents who dared enter his team's zone with the puck.
Blake's rough style earned him plenty of trips to the penalty box, but he didn't develop a reputation as a dirty player, and he eventually joined the NHL department of player safety.
This year's Hall of Fame class also includes coach Pat Burns and referee Bill McCreary as part of the builders category.
The addition of Burns, who passed away from cancer in 2010, is long overdue. Burns won 501 of 1,019 regular season games over fourteen NHL seasons as the coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils.
A three-time Jack Adams Trophy winner (1989, 1993, 1998), he also won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003, and earned the reputation as one of the toughest competitors and once of the nicest men to ever stand behind an NHL bench.
McCreary officiated 1,737 regular season games, 297 playoff games and one All-Star game. He worked every Stanley Cup Final between 1994 and 2007 (as well as 2009), and in 2010 officiated his record-breaking 44th Final game, surpassing the mark previously held by Bill Chadwick.
He also officiated the final game played in Maple Leaf Gardens on February 13, 1999, and Wayne Gretzky's last game on April 18, 1999. On the international stage, McCreary worked the 1991 Canada Cup, and the 1998, 2002 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games, including the gold medal games between the United States and Canada in Salt Lake City and Vancouver.
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