Her next stop was known the moment she announced her retirement, and after she steps on stage Monday to give her speech, Hayley Wickenheiser will receive her formal induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and take her rightful place in hockey history alongside some of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
Wickenheiser, who some argued should have had her waiting period waived to allow for her immediate enshrinement, will headline the 2019 Hall of Fame class as the only first-ballot entrant among the group, and that she’s earned her spot in her first year of eligibility is only fitting. Throughout her incredibly decorated career, Wickenheiser helped put women’s hockey on the map in Canada. Her impact on and off the ice is almost unquantifiable.
If one were to attempt to measure her contributions to the game, however, there’d be no better place to start than with her gaudy stat lines. Upon her retirement, she was the Canadian national team’s all-time leading scorer with a remarkable 168 goals and 379 points in 276 career games. Included among those performances are five Olympics, at which Wickenheiser notched 18 goals and 51 points, both of which are the highest marks of any women’s player in tournament history. And just as she’s the all-time points leader in Olympic history, she, too, holds the mark for most points at the World Championship. Her 86 points are three more than fellow Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, and Wickenheiser’s 37 goals are tied for fourth-most by any player at the worlds.
By virtue of her production, Wickenheiser’s trophy case is overflowing. Twice she was named Olympic MVP and twice she landed on the tournament all-star team, but those honors pale in comparison to the four Olympic golds and one Olympic silver. Adding to her long list of hardware are another seven World Championship golds and six World Championship silvers. But it’s not only at the international level that Wickenheiser was a champion. She captured the Clarkson Cup with the Calgary Inferno in 2015-16, notching one goal and three points in three playoff games after a three-goal, 16-point regular season. That was her fourth women’s league crown, having previously won three WWHL titles with the Calgary Oval X-Treme.
As much as it's her resume that makes Wickenheiser a legend of the game, though, it’s the fire, passion and determination with which she played that changed the game. There were no shifts off for Wickenheiser, and she used her abundance of talent to break barriers for women throughout the sport. In 2002-03, she became the first woman to suit up in Finland’s third league, and she wasn’t at all out of place. In 12 regular season games, Wickenheiser scored one goal and four points before registering two points in two post-season games. In Salamat’s quest for promotion, though, Wickenheiser truly stood out. She scored one goal and five points in nine games, and when the third-tier team earned a bump up to the second division, Wickenheiser went along for the ride.
In the time since her retirement, she has embarked on a few new journeys. Ahead of the 2018-19 season, she stepped into the role of assistant director of player development with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and she did so while in the midst of working her way through medical school. As luck would have it, too, that’s where she was when she received the call from the Hall of Fame to inform her of her selection. As luck would have it, she was in the midst of an exam and couldn't pick up the phone. But the funny thing is that it didn't really matter. After all, it’s a call everyone knew was coming, a formality to put the cherry on top of a legendary career.
Wickenheiser is the only first-ballot Hall of Famer, which allowed the selection committee the opportunity to go back and induct some of those who’ve slipped between the cracks. And it could be argued that next to Wickenheiser, no member of the class is as deserving as Zubov, who was one of the best offensive defensemen of his generation and among the most consistently effective rearguards during his time in the NHL.
Spending 16 seasons in the NHL, during which he played 1,068 games and another 164 playoff contests, Zubov eclipsed the 50-point plateau in eight seasons and failed to reach the 40-point plateau in only three of his big-league campaigns. The catch, however, is that in none of the seasons that he failed to reach 40 points did he play more than 50 games. His production is among the best of the 1,000-game defensemen in NHL history, too. With .72 points per game, Zubov ranks 12th among 113 defensemen to reach the millennium mark and his 771 career points are the 20th most among all blueliners in NHL history.
Likely holding Zubov back all these years was a lack of individual hardware. Though he had the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the New York Rangers and 1999 with the Dallas Stars, not once did he win the Norris Trophy. However, Zubov was a one-time finalist and received votes for the award in all but four of his NHL campaigns, including enough to finish top-10 in voting on seven occasions. He may have been overshadowed, but he was undoubtedly one of the best of his era.
If Zubov’s seven-year wait seemed lengthy, Carbonneau’s 17-year deferment must have felt like a lifetime. At long last, however, one of the greatest two-way forwards of a generation received the call from the Hall.
A star offensive player during his junior days, Carbonneau’s career was built on being the do-everything-right-type player with whom teams so often need to win. That’s not only witnessed by his consistent production – he scored 15-plus goals in 10 of his 18 full seasons and 35-plus points in 11 different campaigns – but by his defensive prowess, a skill that was often recognized by award-voters come end of season.
From his sophomore season on through to his 10th season in the league, Carbonneau received Selke Trophy attention, including an eight-season run in which he finished no lower than fifth in voting. His three Selke wins are tied for second-most in NHL history, one fewer than co-leaders Bob Gainey and Patrice Bergeron, and Carbonneau only very narrowly missed out on two others. (He received 28.2 percent of the vote to winner Dave Poulin’s 37.8 percent in 1986-87, and Carbonneau lost by a hair – 0.9 percent of the vote – in 1989-90 to Rick Meagher.) Carbonneau’s two-way play translated to wins for his clubs, too, and often when it mattered most. Three times during his now-Hall of Famer career, Carbonneau’s teams hoisted the Stanley Cup. Fittingly, too, Carbonneau will go into the Hall alongside Zubov, with whom he was teammates on the 1999 Stars Cup-winning club.
We can’t say it better than friend and former colleague David Conte. Nedomansky will be enshrined 34 years after he first became eligible.
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