Three of the greatest U.S.-born players to ever lace on skates, an icon in the sports and entertainment business and one of the most recognized broadcasters in the history of the game headline this year's list of inductees into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
The honorees, announced Monday during a media teleconference by USA Hockey, include defensemen Chris Chelios and Gary Suter, forward Keith Tkachuk, Philadelphia Flyers founder and owner Ed Snider and broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick. The 39th U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner and ceremony will be held in Chicago on a date to be determined.
Chelios and Suter combined for 43 seasons along NHL blue lines. Chelios played a record-tying 26 seasons -- six with the Montreal Canadiens, nine with the Chicago Blackhawks and 10 with the Detroit Red Wings before closing his career with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009-10 at the age of 48. He retired as the oldest U.S.-born hockey player ever and the second oldest in NHL history behind former Detroit legend Gordie Howe (52). Chelios currently works as the executive advisor to Detroit GM Ken Holland.
"I wanted to leave the game when I felt like there was nothing left in the tank," Chelios told reporters at his retirement announcement Aug. 31, 2010. "I think I pretty much accomplished that. I have no regrets."
A three-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time Norris Trophy winner, Chelios scored 185 goals and 948 points and accrued 2,891 penalty minutes in 1,651 regular-season games. His 266 games played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the most in NHL history. The Chicago native also is one of only two players to skate in four Olympics (1984, 1998, 2002, 2006) and represented the U.S. in three Canada Cups (1984, 1987, 1991), the World Cup of Hockey (1996, 2004) and the World Junior Championship (1982).
Chelios credited the 1980 U.S. Olympic team's gold medal win in Lake Placid for influencing his hockey career.
"Once I saw they pulled that off, I wanted to be in their skates," Chelios said during a conference call introducing this year's Hall class. "It means a lot to us and that's what motivated me. It was a great incentive; those were great guys."
Tkachuk also directly credited the "Miracle on Ice" team for his career.
"I want to say thank you to the 1980 Olympic team, because without you I probably wouldn't have played hockey," he said.
Tkachuk played 19 seasons in the League with four teams, totaling 1,200 regular-season games and 538 goals. He's one of only four U.S.-born players to notch 500-plus goals, joining Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick and Joe Mullen. The five-time All-Star also had 525 assists, 1,063 points and 2,219 penalty minutes. During the 1996-97 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, he became the first U.S.-born player to lead the NHL in goals (52) and was the fourth player in NHL history to record at least 50 goals and 200 penalty minutes in a single season.
Television analyst Ed Olczyk, who played with Tkachuk for three seasons in Winnipeg, said he'll never forget the determination with which his former teammate played the game.
"He came in raw (in 1991-92) and just evolved into a great player," Olczyk said. "He was the prototypical power forward. He could score. He could hit. He wasn't afraid to run you into the ditch. He was a great pro. He's one of the greatest American-born players to play the game."
Tkachuk, who played collegiately at Boston University, twice represented the U.S. at the World Junior Championship in 1991 and '92, collecting 9 goals and 16 points in 14 games. The Melrose, Mass., native joins Chelios as the only players to skate in four Olympics for the U.S. (1992, 1998, 2002, 2006), and he also played in two World Championships (1996, 2004).
Suter burst upon the NHL scene in 1985-86 after two seasons at the University of Wisconsin. The native of Madison, Wis., earned the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie after producing 18 goals and 68 points in 80 games with the Flames during the 1985-86 season. The four-time All-Star also helped lead the Flames to a Stanley Cup in 1989. Throughout his 17-year NHL career, Suter played in 1,145 games and finished with 845 points. He also teamed with Chelios and Tkachuk in Team USA's silver medal-winning effort at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He spent four-plus seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and four seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
He said his time with the Blackhawks was one of the highlights of his career because he got to play with Chelios for the first time. Suter said when he went on his first recruiting visit to Wisconsin, Chelios was a freshman who showed him the sights on and off campus.
"I had been in Calgary for nine years and I'm from Wisconsin, so it was like getting traded back home, just two hours away, where all my friends and family could come see me play," Suter said. "I was really excited about that, plus I was teamed up with Chris Chelios and before that I had just played with him on U.S. teams."
His impressive international career included the 1998 Olympics, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, two Canada Cups, two World Championships and one World Junior Championship. Suter's brother, Bob, was a member of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team that won gold at the 1980 Olympics, and his nephew, Ryan, is a star defenseman for the Nashville Predators.
Snider, elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, enters the U.S. Hall of Fame in the builder's category. He was the driving force behind NHL hockey coming to Philadelphia in 1967 and the construction of the Spectrum and the Flyers' current home, the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers were the first of the original expansion teams to claim the Stanley Cup, in 1974, and the team would win another the following season. In 1980, Snider was presented the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to hockey in the United States, and five years later he was elected to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. He also has been recognized by the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Flyers Hall of Fame.
Snider also is the creator of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, which offers underprivileged children in the Philadelphia area an opportunity to learn the game at local rinks. In 1999, the Philadelphia Daily News selected him as Philadelphia's greatest "mover and shaker" of the millennium. The current chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the Flyers' parent company, was born in Washington, D.C.
"Having brought hockey to Philadelphia, I've had the thrill of seeing our city go from not even knowing what a puck was to 2 million people at each of our Stanley Cup parades," Snider said. "Philadelphia is a top-notch hockey town and the people of Philadelphia and the whole region now know everything about hockey."
Emrick, a native of LaFontaine, Ind., was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. He spent more than two decades with MSG and the New Jersey Devils before announcing he'd work exclusively for NBC Sports and Versus on July 21.
Nicknamed "Doc," which he acquired after receiving a doctorate in radio/television/film from Bowling Green State University in 1976, Emrick received the Lester Patrick Award in 2004, and in 2008 earned the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his contributions to hockey broadcasting. He's called 13 Stanley Cup Finals as the lead national announcer on NBC, Versus, Fox and ESPN, and 23 Game 7s in Stanley Cup Playoff action. He won a national Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality - Play by Play in 2011, and has won many regional awards, including seven local Emmy awards.
He also has broadcast hockey at five Olympics. Showing his skill and versatility, he branched out to broadcast women's ice hockey at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, and even did water polo at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Emrick has become the voice of hockey in the United States, and for those in or out of the game, it's a welcoming tone.
"I love watching the sport of hockey on TV," Tkachuk said, "and he makes it better with his knowledge and insight."
During his time as Devils announcer (1983-86, 1993-2011), the team won three Stanley Cups. Due to his national network obligations he called 59 games last season with the Devils, and felt the time was now to reduce his workload.
"At one point in March I did eight games in 10 days, all in different cities, and they were all spread out enough that I had to fly to each one of them," Emrick told Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. "By the eighth game, I probably wasn't doing the job I was doing on the first of the eight."
Emrick -- who celebrated his 65th birthday Monday -- is the first media member inducted into the Hall, but he has the same status as the other four members of the Class of 2011.
"Mike Emrick is the first media member inducted into the Hall of Fame," USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean said, "but we don't have separated categories. He's a full-fledged member of the institution."
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