Monday night in Toronto, five new members were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and not since 2004 had such a deep and talented collection of blueliners been enshrined together.
That year featured three of the best from the ‘80s and ‘90s – Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy – but this year’s group is even better. In fact, it might be the best group of defensemen ever to go into the Hall together.
Here’s a look at the group, starting with the lone forward of the bunch.
Teams: Detroit, Anaheim, Columbus, Washington
Stats: 483G – 696A – 1,179 PTS (1,248 GP)
Accolades: Stanley Cup Champion (1997, 1998, 2002), Hart Trophy Winner (1994), Selke Trophy Winner (1994, 1996)
Fedorov was one of the five best players in the NHL for five or six seasons to start his career, a run that included a career-high 120 points in 1994 when he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He was the offensive force that prompted Steve Yzerman to change up his game and the blueprint for who Pavel Datsyuk has become in his career.
Add in all his international success – World Junior gold, two Olympic medals and three golds at the World Championships – and Fedorov is a slam dunk selection for enshrinement.
Teams: Buffalo, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Calgary, New Jersey, Washington, Chicago, Toronto
Stats: 338G – 894A – 1,232 PTS (1,495 GP)
Housley may not have ever won the Stanley Cup or an individual award, but for more than two decades, the American blueliner was one of the top offensive defensemen in the league. Two decades. For real. It wasn’t until the 1997-98 season in Washington where Housley first averaged less than a point every other game.
He’s in the Top 50 in NHL all-time scoring, the fourth highest scoring defenseman in league history and every bit deserving of his place in the pantheon of hockey’s greats.
Stats: 264G – 878A – 1,142 PTS (1,564 GP)
Accolades: Stanley Cup Champion (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008), Norris Trophy Winner (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011), Conn Smythe Trophy Winner (2002)
There might not have been a better defenseman to ever set foot on the ice than Lidstrom. He could do it all and did over the course of 20 seasons, all of them as a member of the Red Wings. Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy six times in seven years (there was no season in 2004-05) and then again in 2011. Not bad for a guy who made the All-Rookie Team in 1991-92.
He was a 12-time All-Star, a 10-time First Team All-Star and won gold at both the World Championship and the Olympics. This is a well-earned honour for one of the best to ever lace’m up.
Teams: Hartford, St. Louis, Edmonton, Anaheim, Philadelphia
Stats: 157G – 541A – 698 PTS (1,167 GP)
Accolades: Stanley Cup Champion (2007), Norris Trophy Winner (2000), Hart Trophy Winner (2000)
The stats aren’t there for Pronger compared to Housley and Lidstrom, but the big man brought something to the game that those two didn’t – sandpaper. Drafted second-overall in 1993, Pronger was a rare combination player on the back end – a guy that could give you offensive production while being shut-down player in his own end and rugged enough to be a secondary sheriff on the ice.
A member of the Triple Gold Club and technically still an active player – he was traded in the offseason, even though he hasn’t played in three years – Pronger’s lengthy and accomplished career probably made the Ottawa Senators regret picking Alexandre Daigle No. 1 year-after-year-after-year.
Team: U.S. Women’s National Team
Accolades: Patty Kazmaier Award Winner (2004)
Ruggerio is one of the best players in U.S. Women’s hockey history – a four-time Olympic medalist (gold, two silver, bronze) and a 10-time medalist (four gold, six silver) at the World Championships, scoring the game-winning goal to earn the U.S. their first win over their rivals from Canada at the World Championship in 2005.
When you’re a fixture on your country’s national team for more than a decade – and that country is one of the powerhouses in the sport – you should be enshrined amongst the best to ever play the game.