My Experience of the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction by Neil Becker

During the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend I had the privilege of attending the Legends Classic hockey game where I un-expectantly had a strong yearning for the past. Entering Gate five at the Air Canada Center that Sunday afternoon a sudden wave of nostalga ran through me as I saw small kids and teenagers with programs looking at the various pictures on the wall while excitedly anticipating the legends game. Many times that afternoon I had flashbacks to my youth in the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s when I would go with my dad to Maple Leaf Gardens and admire the black and white pictures of the old Maple Leaf players while excitedly talking about how the Leafs will do that evening. While I was excited about the game I did have a lingering saddness that those days of being a kid and going to the Leaf games were over. My dad is still alive but won’t go to another Leafs game due to his disgust over the rising salaries and poor product the Leafs ice year after year. Still growing up he gave me the biggest gift in the world and that was introducing me to my true love which is hockey. Entering the arena and walking to my seat I was about to once again be reminded of a dozen or more long ago thrilling games as if they were just played yesterday. Seconds after getting to the seats my senses became immediately seduced by the bright lights, loud rock and roll music and of course all the player and Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters. Being the exciteable type I couldn’t help but to shout out all the names of the players who I saw skating on the ice. Once again I thought of my dad when I spotted future hall of famer Phil Housley skating around the ice. Even at the age of 46 Housley, who scored 338 goals and 1,232 points in his career still looked in shape to play professional hockey. While watching him I couldn’t help but to remember the time in 1983 when on a family trip out west in Whistler we ran into Housley who at the time was playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Housley who played for the Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs proved to be a true humble gentleman that invited me and my family to team practice. A treasured memory that I wish I could re-live over and over again. The second player I saw warming up for the game who I first saw while at a game in the early 1980’s with my dad. While I don’t remember how he did that night I do remember being told that Coffey is ann upcoming defenceman whose strength is his skating. Sure enough years later my dad proved to be right as this four time Stanley Cup champion who scored 1,531 points was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004. Coffey, who also looked like he could still played for the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins. As a teenager when I went to the games with my dad we would watch in admiration what was known at the time as the ‘Hound’ line. One of the forwards from that group was a raw scorer named Gary Leeman who also happened to be playing that Sunday afternoon. Even though he looked a little older and sported a mustache Leeman who entertained us on many nights at the Gardens still showed some awe inspiring skills with the puck. My favourite memory of Leeman which came rushing back was when in the 1989/90 season he scored 51 goals and 95 points. Unfortauntely Leeman who would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1992/93 will best be remembered in Toronto for being part of the trade that sent him to the Flames for Doug Gilmour. Leeman would go on to also play for the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues. More memories of the 1980’s came my way when I spotted Al Iafrate warming up. My favourite memories of the guy known as ‘Wild Thing’ was his end to end rushes he used to take along with his spirited battles with the opposition in front of his own net. The one particular memory that came to mind was an event that happened in the mid 1980’s at joe Louis Arena when he got into a spirited punch up with the late Wings enforcer Bob Probert. Watching him skate around the ice with Leeman I suddenly remembered a rumour that I heard back then involing Iafrate and his former wife. I remember that Iafrate took some time off from the team and the story was that she was having an affair with Leeman. To this day I still have no idea if it was true or not. Iafrate who was known for his hard slapshot went on to score 152 goals and 463 points while playing for the Leafs, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks. Also on the ice preparing for the game was former Calgary Flames and Flyers bruiser Joel Otto. As a teenager I used to love watching with my dad the battle of Alberta which would pit the Flames against the Oilers. We used to marvel at the numerous head to head battles the 6’4″ 220 pound Otto had with Oilers power forward mark Messier. Along with those two we used to also marvel at the way another Oilers forward in Glenn Anderson used to go to the net with wreckless abandon. All those memories came flowing back as I also saw Anderson skating on the ice. Also getting ready to play was a steady but not flashy defenceman in Dave Ellett who during his career played for the Winnipeg Jets, Maple Leafs, Devils, Bruins and the St. Louis Blues. In the 80’s I loved the teams out west and that included the Jets. The one memory that came rushing back upon seeing Ellett was the overtime goal he scored against Bill Ranford and the Oilers to give the Jets a 3-1 lead in their 1990 playoff series that they would go on to lose. Lots of memories came back when I noticed that a still competitive Billy Smith was tending goal for the legends. I noticed during warmup drills that he was trying hard to stop everything despite it being an exhibition game. While watching him i couldn’t help but to remember his ultra-competitiveness in what was a thrilling Stanley Cup final series against the Oilers in both 1983 and ’84. What I remember the most was how Smith slashed Gretzky in the ’83 finals. Besides for seeing the stars of yesterday and reliving some great memories I also got to watch a once in a lifetime event as Dino Ciccarelli who scored 608 goals and 1,200 points in his career with the Minnesota North Stars, Washington Capitals, Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers was fitted with his Hockey Hall of Fame blazer. He was joined by Angela James, Cammi Granato, along with Jim Devellano who all went into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. Meanwhile the late Daryl “Doc” Seamon who was also elected was represented by his family who accepted his hall of fame blazer. while watching this event another memory came flashing to my mind and that was when in 1989 Ciccarelli hit Leafs defenceman Luke Richarson over the head with his stick. I was at that game and still remembered that after the incident Cicarrelli was charged by the law.

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