Tonight will be very special for former New York Rangers defensemen Brian Leetch, as he will be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Denver. Leetch, along with Mike Richter, Brett Hull and Cammi Granato, will be given one of hockey’s greatest honors. All four inductees were also honored last night prior to the Colorado Avalanche’s home-opener versus Boston, which was one of 4 games on opening night of the North American portion of the NHL schedule. PuckAgency sends its congratulations to Brian, who will go down as one of the best defensemen in NHL history.
Hall class of 2008 in a class all its own
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 10/08/2008 06:12:44 PM MDT
At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, a young Cammi Granato watched with great interest as she attended the opening ceremony at McMahon Stadium.
I was there, too, sitting in the stands. Mainly, I remember that I rarely have been that cold in my entire life as pigeons flew, Gordon Lightfoot and k.d. lang sang, children danced and 12-year-old figure skater Robyn Perry lit the Olympic flame.
Somewhere in those seats, as winger Tony Granato, defenseman Brian Leetch, goalie Mike Richter and their U.S. hockey teammates were back at the Olympic Village preparing for a game that night against Austria, Cammi Granato turned to her mother, Natalie.
“I was saying to my mom . . . ‘I want to be an Olympian, and I want to represent the USA, and how can I do it?’ ” Cammi recalled. “There was no women’s hockey, and I’m a 15-year-old kid thinking I can conquer the world.”
She said that she next asked her mother, “Can I play for the men’s team?”
The answer: She didn’t have to.
Cammi Granato played in the women’s program at Providence College, a Dominican- run university that was ahead of its time, then was ecstatic when women’s hockey was added to the Olympic program for the 1998 Games in Japan, where she won the first of her two gold medals.
“The biggest change for hockey I noticed was when we returned from Nagano in ’98, because all of a sudden our sport had credibility,” Cammi said. “If we carried a hockey bag into the arena, people didn’t look at us funny, and there was now a respect to our sport. It’s been growing steadily since then.”
It wasn’t scripted, but the weird intersection of circumstances will be obvious Friday night when Cammi Granato, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Brett Hull are inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena.
The four-person class also will be introduced and saluted at the Avalanche’s regular-season opener tonight against Boston at the Pepsi Center.
The Hall of Fame Museum is in Eveleth, Minn., but USA Hockey — based in Colorado Springs — last year took over the Hall of Fame voting and induction dinner. The U.S. Hall membership has a pronounced NHL flavor, and that’s still true with the induction class this year, especially considering that Cammi Granato’s brother was a longtime NHL player and now is a coach; and her husband, Ray Ferraro, played 19 seasons in the league.
Leetch, one of the prototypes for the modern hybrid defenseman, and Richter were longtime teammates with the New York Rangers, including on the 1994 Stanley Cup champions. Adding to the degrees of separation, Tony Granato was Richter’s roommate at the University of Wisconsin and also spent the outset of his NHL career with the Rangers.
“Having my teammate for so many years, Mike Richter, go in at the same time is going to be a lot of fun. It always was a pleasure to play in front of him in net for both teams,” Leetch said.
“And certainly Cammi, I’ve been following her, because of my relationship with her brother, since she was at Providence College in the ’90s. To have her go in at the same time and to be able to watch her kind of lead the way with women’s hockey in the U.S. and follow that up with the gold at Nagano and continue being such an ambassador, it’s a great honor, and I look forward to a fun (induction) weekend.”
Richter, born and raised in Pennsylvania, had 301 wins in his Rangers career, which ended prematurely because of concussion problems.
“It’s flattering to be put in this position to go in, but particularly with this class,” Richter said.
Hull, born in Canada, essentially is an adopted member of the USA Hockey program, but legitimately so because his father, Bobby, played so long with the Blackhawks and Brett was an unproven young player the USA program first invited him to play for the Americans at the 1986 World Championships, after his sophomore season at Minnesota- Duluth.
“Just having them show the faith in me, that they wanted me part of the program, was all I needed,” said Hull, now the co-general manager of the Dallas Stars. “I’ve never forgotten that, and I never will.”
After that, Hull was a regular on U.S. national teams with Richter and Leetch, including at the Olympics, and on the championship team in the 1996 World Cup.
It’s a class with a lot of it.