The NHL's all-time winningest goalie headlines the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class, announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Martin Brodeur, who racked up NHL records in wins (691), shutouts (125), games played by a goaltender (1,266), saves (28,928) and minutes played (74,438) while winning three Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils, was a pioneer of goalie puckhandling, acting almost a third defenseman to jumpstart the the breakout. He was so adept with the puck on his stick, in fact, that he racked up three goals over his career and is tied for second among netminders in scoring with 47 points. On his resume, Brodeur has the 1994 Calder Trophy, four Vezina Trophies and five Jennings Trophies to his credit as well as a pair of Olympic gold medals.
He finished his career with the St. Louis Blues in 2014-15 and now acts as the team's assistant general manager.
His No. 30 was retired by the Devils in 2016, a year before the team erected a statue of their all-time great goalie outside the Prudential Center in Newark.
“You play your whole career and you don’t expect to get this phone call, but when it does, it definitely does feel pretty good,” said Brodeur.
Brodeur will be joined by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Russian star Alexander Yakushev and wingers Martin St. Louis, Jayna Hefford and Willie O'Ree as the six newest additions to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday morning.
Bettman, the NHL's commissioner since 1993, has overseen the league's growth from 24 to 31 teams so far, and expanded its annual revenue by 90 percent. He's expanding the league to markets in Europe and Asia and overseen the introduction of a salary cap, as well as a decade of high-visibility outdoor games.
"This is not something I was focused on and I'm speechless and grateful to be included with this group," Bettman said. "I'm particularly honored to be part of a class that includes Willie O'Ree."
Perhaps the most notable inclusion is that of O'Ree, the first player to break the NHL's color barrier in 1958. He played 45 games in the NHL over two seasons with the Boston Bruins, tallying 14 points despite being 95 percent blind in his right eye. Since retiring as a player in 1979, O'Ree has served as the NHL director of youth development and ambassador for diversity. During that time, O'Ree created the league's Hockey is for Everyone initiative, which created 36 programs aimed at bringing hockey to disadvantaged communities. He becomes the third African-American player to get enshrinement, following Oilers great Grant Fuhr and former Canadian national women's team captain Angela James. He will go into the Hall as under the Builders category with Bettman.
"I was laughing and I was crying and I was at a loss for words," O'Ree said of being elected. "It's just been a great year this year."
"This honor is long overdue as Willie has been a tremendous figure in our game both on and off the ice for over 60 years," Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said. "We are lucky to have been able to call Willie a Bruin when he made his debut in 1958 and we could not be happier for him to finally receive the recognition he so greatly deserves."
O'Ree is joined by two fellow wingers, St. Louis and Hefford. After going undrafted in 1997 following a standout career at the University of Vermont, St. Louis went on to become a Stanley Cup Champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning and finished as the team's all-time leader in assists (588) and points (953). Added to his point totals with the Flames and Rangers, St. Louis is just the sixth NHL player to score over 1,000 points despite not being drafted.
"Obviously everything he's done on the ice is incredible," longtime Lightning teammat Vincent Lecavalier said. "But Marty was probably the hardest-working guy, dedicated to the game, great teammate, great leader and obviously a huge part in us winning the Stanley Cup. He's done so much for me personally as a player and as a friend. He's just done so much for the game of hockey."
Hefford represented Canada in five Winter Olympics and scored the gold medal-winning goal in the 2002 Olympics. She added three more Olympic gold medals in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Hefford was a star for the National Women's Hockey League's Brampton Thunder, the precursor to the CWHL, where she won MVP for her 2007-08 season. The CWHL currently awards the Jayna Hefford Trophy to the league's most outstanding player, with the first going to Marie-Philip Poulin in 2016.
Yakushev won Olympic gold with Russia and the former Soviet Union in 1972 and 1976. He also led his country to seven IIHF World Championships.
The class of 2018 will be recognized at an induction celebration in November at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.