He was a lock, a no-brainer, and it was a foregone conclusion to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And as of Tuesday afternoon, it was made official: Martin Brodeur will head up the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2018.
Brodeur’s announcement is far from surprising, of course. He has long been considered the odds-on favorite to headline the coming Hall of Fame class from the moment he announced his retirement in January 2015, and his credentials are indisputable. Not only did Broduer, during his 22 seasons in the league, tear up and rewrite the franchise record book for the New Jersey Devils, he leapfrogged his idols and innumerable legends of the game as he became one of the most decorated goaltenders in NHL history.
“As a player you get to meet Hall of Fame members and now to have my name in the same sentence makes me speechless,” said Brodeur. “I was fortunate to play on great teams that allowed me to play with my own personality, which is so important to a goaltender.”
When he finally announced his retirement — which came as a member of the St. Louis Blues in what is an odd seven-game footnote on an illustrious career — Brodeur did so as the NHL’s winningest goaltender, sitting ahead of the likes of Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito with 691 wins. He also posted more shutouts than any of the aforementioned keepers, too, finishing his career with a remarkable 125 clean sheets, nearly two dozen more than former record-holder Sawchuk. Brodeur also holds league marks for games played by a goaltender (1,266) and playoff shutouts (24), and sits second in NHL history in playoff appearances (205) and victories (113).
Brodeur’s individual success was followed by a boatload of hardware, as well. Not only did he backstop the Devils to three Stanley Cup during his storied career, Brodeur also helped New Jersey win two additional Eastern Conference championships while racking up the personal accolades. In his first season, he won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie while finishing seventh in Vezina Trophy voting. He would go on to finish at least top-eight in Vezina voting in 14 of the next 15 campaigns, winning the top goaltending honor on four occasions while finishing second three times, and in third, fourth and fifth twice apiece. Brodeur also won five William M. Jennings Trophies and was voted to seven end-of-season all-star teams.
His NHL success only makes up a part of Brodeur’s overall resume, though, as an exceptional pro career allowed him to have international success to the tune of Olympic gold medals with Team Canada in 2002 and 2010, World Championship silver medals in 1996 and 2005 and a World Cup title in 2004.
As Brodeur prepares to enter the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot inductee, though, another legend of the game has earned induction after a long wait. Willie O’Ree, who became the NHL’s first black player when he made his debut on Jan. 18, 1958, as a member of the Boston Bruins, and his call to the Hall comes nearly 40 years after he played his last competitive game. He will be inducted in the builders' category.
O’Ree’s on-ice accolades far from match those of Brodeur, as his two stints with the Bruins spanned just 45 games over which time he scored four goals and 10 points, but his contributions to the game are arguably more immeasurable than any inductee past or present. Not only did O’Ree break down barriers and inspire future generations, he has since continued his efforts after coming aboard the NHL as the league’s Diversity Ambassador and Director of Youth Development to help continue to grow the game. Said Wayne Gretzky in a release following O’Ree induction: “Sometimes, goals, assists, points or shutouts measure a person’s place in the game. But desire, determination, work ethic and the drive not to let obstacles get in his way? That is why Willie has earned his induction into the Hall.”
Also getting the call Tuesday was Martin St-Louis, another first-ballot Hall of Famer. St-Louis took a non-traditional path to the Hall of Fame as a player, battling his way in after being passed over as a diminutive college free agent early in his career. It was a slow climb to greatness for St-Louis, who was let walk by the Calgary Flames as a free agent in 2000 only to sign on with the Tampa Bay Lightning and make his name as one of the game’s all-time greats.
Upon arriving with the Lightning, St-Louis almost instantly became an impact player and by his fourth season in Florida, the speedy winger completed a clean sweep of the 2003-04 individual awards by picking up the Hart Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award and Art Ross Trophy on the heels of a breakout 94-point season. He would also be one of the driving forces behind Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup victory that season — the franchise’s first and only to date — and, from that campaign onward, St-Louis would remain one of the league’s top scorers. In fact, from the 2003-04 season through to his final campaign in 2014-15, only Joe Thornton and Alex Ovechkin outscored St-Louis, who accumulated 868 points over an 852-game span en route to finishing his career with 391 goals and 1,033 points in 1,134 games.
The Hall of Fame will also induct two players from outside the NHL, where inductees Brodeur, O’Ree, St-Louis and Gary Bettman made their name, as superstar women’s player Jayna Hefford and Russian legend Alexander Yakushev will enter in the players' category.
Hefford was a fixture of both the CWHL and the original NWHL, scoring an incredible 352 goals and 636 points in 329 games over the course of her professional career. Hefford made her name not at the club level, though. Rather, she took the international hockey world by storm as a member of Team Canada, first debuting with the national team in 1996-97 and suiting up all the way through to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. During her time with the Canadian team, Hefford scored 53 goals and 113 points in 86 games across the Olympics and World Championships, and she remains one of the highest-scoring women in either competition.
Throughout her career, Hefford stocked her cupboard with a dozen World Championship medals, including seven golds and five silver, one Olympic silver and four consecutive Olympic golds from 2002 through to 2014. She was also twice named the best forward at the World Championship.
Yakushev, meanwhile, is best known in North America for his play in the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. As part of one of the highly influential Soviet team, Yakushev scored seven goals and 11 points in the eight-game tournament, and that was par for the course for the sharpshooting winger. Over his time in the Soviet League, primarily with Spartak Moscow, Yakushev scored 339 goals and 405 points, all the while scoring 145 goals in 201 games with the national team. He would later go on to coach Spartak and win a U20 silver medal as coach of the Russian team. Yakushev was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Hall of Fame induction weekend will begin Nov. 9 and run through Nov. 11 in Toronto, with the induction celebration taking place Nov. 12 at the Hockey Hall of Fame.