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What they’re saying about tonight’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductees

Nov 14, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT

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Tonight, the four newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame — Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Ed Belfour — will be enshrined in a red-carpet affair tonight in Toronto. Here’s a smattering of quotes and opinions about the quartet from around the interweb…

This is as good a group as we’ve ever had going into the Hall of Fame.
– Bill Hay, HHOF Chairman.

Joe Nieuwendyk is one of the best draft stories ever. Cliff Fletcher has admitted that, in 1985, he wanted to take a goalie with the Flames’ second-round pick. With three teams selecting in front of the Flames, all of the keepers on his wish list were still available. New Jersey took Sean Burke 24th and Vancouver grabbed Troy Gamble 25th. That left one goalie (Kay Whitmore) who Fletcher liked, and, of course, Hartford took him 26th. With no one at that position remaining on their list, the Flames took Nieuwendyk. I love that.
– Elliotte Friedman, CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Howe was nothing less than one of the greatest defensemen of his generation, and it was he, perhaps more than anyone else, who made the Flyers of the 1980s a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Howe’s play on the Philadelphia blue line looked an awful lot like Nicklas Lidstrom’s does on the Detroit blue line: near flawless through the use of positioning rather than body checking, virtually penalty-free, and with an effective attacking component that made him doubly good.
– Jeff Z. Klein, New York Times.

Here is the moment that tells you almost everything you need to know about Belfour, who will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night in Toronto. In his first week at the Future Pro Goalie School in Strathroy, Ontario, [Belfour enrolled in 2004 after a playoff loss to Philly] Belfour was watching the other young netminders get ready for a 45-minute off-ice run on a nearby track. He asked [school operator Steve] McKichan if he could join them.

McKichan looked at Belfour, a man with a Stanley Cup ring, more money than he could ever spend, a place in the Hall of Fame waiting for him and wondered, “Seriously, dude?” Sure, McKichan said, go ahead.

Off they went. With about a lap and a half to go, some kid from Boston was leading the group and Belfour started a charge. In a mad dash, Belfour crossed the finish line ahead of the teenager.

“Eddie walked over to me and puked on my shoes,” McKichan recalled. “He looked up at me and said, ‘That kid will never beat me.’ And then he walked back into the arena. … He could barely talk. That, to me, is Ed Belfour.”
– Scott Burnside, ESPN.com.

Regardless of the outcomes, the lasting impression of Gilmour come playoffs was of Superman on skates, something the late Pat Burns once confirmed when he told reporters that Gilmour skipped an optional skate because he had to “go back to his planet and rest.”

The post-season stories emerging from the dressing room read like warrior’s tales with an exhausted Gilmour, reduced to 150 pounds, replenishing lost fluids intravenously and receiving injections to dull the pain in his feet.

Dogged. Determined. That was Dougie.
– Rob Sinclair, CBC.

Hay is right about this being a really good HHOF class. It’s not like 1983 (Ken Dryden, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita) or 1979 (Bobby Orr, Henri Richard) — this group will be defined by its depth rather than individual superstars. Gilmour and Belfour were the hyper-competitive warriors, Nieuwendyk the consummate winner and Howe the under-appreciated star and son of hockey royalty.

That said, 2012 is primed to be an equally impressive class. Those that become eligible next year include Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, Gary Roberts, Claude Lemieux…joining the likes of Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Dave Andreychuk and Adam Oates as guys that were overlooked in 2011.

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