It's pretty tough to think of an honour in the world of hockey bigger than winning the Stanley Cup. Olympic gold maybe? Perhaps the World Cup of Hockey will get there one day? But we're pretty sure that we know a peak even higher than The Cup.
The Hockey Hall Of Fame.
Because while you can win Stanley by being a decent player on a very good team, only the best-of-the-best have the chance to enter the Hall.
Since tonight is the induction ceremony, we thought we'd take a quick look at the six people who after this evening will officially be in the company of the greatest to ever affect the game.
Martin Brodeur, goalie
Is Brodeur the greatest hockey goalie of all time? Let's go down the list of achievements of this 21-year New Jersey Devil.
- Most NHL wins by a goalie: 691
- Most NHL shutouts by a goalie: 125
- Eight seasons with over 40 wins, 12 straight seasons with at least 30 wins
- Three Stanley Cups
- Four Vezina Trophies (NHL's best goalie)
- One Calder Trophy (NHL's rookie of the year)
- Two Olympic golds
If he's not, we can't imagine how good the best goalie would have to be!
Martin St. Louis, forward
At only 5 foot 8 inches, St. Louis was at first undrafted by any NHL team. Everyone knew that he was skilled, but they worried that he was too small to compete in what was then a physical sport, dominated by heavy hitters. In 2000, the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to take a chance on him. It paid off. Really paid off.
St. Louis would end his career with over 1,000 points, two Art Ross trophies as the NHL's leading scorer, two MVP awards, and a Stanley Cup. Today, players like Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau follow in Martin's footsteps as undersized players whose talents shine through.
Jayna Hefford, forward
Hefford was one of the greatest players in the history of Canada's women's national team. She won seven world championship gold medals, four straight Olympic golds, and has more all-star nods and awards than you can shake a stick at.
Speaking of awards, the MVP trophy for the CWHL? It's literally called the Jayna Hefford Trophy.
Aleksander Yakushev, forward
This tall Russian—known as "The Big Yak"—never played in the NHL. His prime days—the 1970s—were before a time when European and Russian stars were common in North America. But if he had been in the league, there's no doubt that he would've been one of the best. How do we know?
Because when he played against North America players he was next to unstoppable. During the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia, he had seven goals and four assists over eight games. He played for the Russian team an incredible 144 times, winning seven World championships, two Olympics golds. He joins fellow 70s Russian stars Valeri Kharlamov and Vladislav Tretiak in the Hall.
Willie O'Ree, forward and executive
O'Ree is one of the few Hockey Hall Of Famers who won't dazzle you with his number. His story is about what he had to overcome. In 1958, he made his debut with the Boston Bruins as the first black player in the NHL. He only played in 43 NHL games, and endured vicious racism in every arena he played in. But O'Ree refused to turn his back on the sport or the league.
In 1998, the league hired him as its Director of Youth Development. He used this platform to introduce anti-racism programs that helped to improve attitudes and equality for the decades that followed.
Gary Bettman, executive
Bettman is still the NHL's commissioner, but his effect on the sport's biggest league has been obvious. He increased the number of teams from 24 to 31, and massively increased revenue for players and teams league-wide. He also added new traditions that are loved by players and fans alike. These include letting every player on the Stanley Cup-winning team a day with The Cup over the summer, and increasing the number of outdoor games, including the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.