Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lamoriello, Modano, Olczyk elected to U.S Hockey Hall Of Fame

Yesterday, the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame announced its newest inductees. All deserving. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello will be joining Mike Modano and Ed Olczyk in Minnesota for the ceremony this Fall.

The architect of three Stanley Cups after a successful two decades spent as a coach and athletic director of Providence College, Lamoriello finally will be honored for his great achievments. He's one of the best executives in sports, who turned the Devils into winners. Without him, there probably isn't a legacy for the former Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies. Who knows if they would've survived.

“It's an honor, especially going in with these two players I had. Eddie Olczyk I had in a sports festival when he was 16. I was a young coach then. And Mike Modano was on the 1996 World Cup team," Lamoriello said. “That was a great series for American hockey."
Even after winning the first Cup in '95, New Jersey nearly lost their team to Nashville. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Instead, they've been the most successful franchise in the metro area since Lamoriello took over. That included their first ever playoff appearance under Jim Schoenfeld. One of the biggest memories before the infamous "doughnut incident" was John MacLean's overtime goal that beat Chicago goalie Darren Pang, sending them to the postseason. After pulling two upsets in the divisional rounds, they nearly made it a third before falling to Boston.

Lamoriello's most memorable move was trading down in the 1990 Entry Draft to select a goalie named Martin Brodeur. Calgary chose Trevor Kidd. He also made another deal that sent defenseman Tom Kurvers to Toronto for a No.1 pick that turned into Scott Niedermayer. Topping it all off, when star forward Brendan Shanahan signed with St. Louis, Lamoriello was intent on receiving defenseman Scott Stevens as compensation. Rather than accept Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind'Amour, he got his wish. The rest is history.

Joining Lamoriello are Modano and Olczyk. After being taken No.1 overall in '88, he went on to become the all-time leading American scorer playing in 21 seasons. He spent the first 20 starring for the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars where he still holds franchise records across the board. His 561 goals and 1,374 points pace American-born players. That includes leading the Stars to their only Cup in '99 and just falling short of repeating in a gut wrenching six-game series loss to the Devils. It was No.9 who extended it back to Dallas when he scored in triple overtime despite an injury.

Modano also has the most playoff points for U.S. born players with 145. An eight-time All-Star who was an integral part of the 1996 Team USA championship in the first World Cup Of Hockey, he should have a place in the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Hopefully, he'll get the call next year.

Olczyk had a distinguished NHL career finishing with 342 goals, 352 assists and 794 points over 1,031 contests. That included playing for his hometown Chicago Blackhawks who drafted him third overall in 1984. He had been a member of the USA Olympic team where as a 17-year old teenager he was part of the Diaper Line in Sarajevo.

After spending three seasons with Chicago, he played four with another Original Six Toronto. His best years were as Leaf where he had seasons of 42 goals and 75 points, 38 goals and 90 points, and 32 goals and 88 points. During '90-91, he was dealt to Winnipeg where he spent parts of three seasons as a Jet continuing to score.

Olczyk was acquired by the Rangers in '92-93 for Tie Domi and Kris King. Unfortunately, a bad thumb limited him to 37 games and just eight points (3-5-8). Instead, he became part of the Black Aces. A popular group of Blueshirts who made practice fun and kept spirit up when things got challenging. He'd spend one more year on Broadway before returning to Winnipeg for two years.

Eventually, he moved onto Pittsburgh and then returned for one last go round in his hometown with the Hawks. A popular figure who always had great insight, Olczyk made a smooth transition to the broadcast booth where he's called games for Pittsburgh and now Chicago. Most notably, he's the lead analyst on NBC Network alongside Doc Emrick and reporter Pierre McGuire.

He also coached Sidney Crosby and the Penguins during his rookie year. Even though it didn't work out, you have to think his influence helped Crosby's development. Olczyk's doing great as an announcer. One of the most personable guys in our business.

Congrats to all three new U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame members.

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