ZURICH – The IIHF Hall of Fame Selection Committee has added seven new names to its pantheon of greats, and the newest members represent the pinnacle of the international game through a wide variety of contributions. In honour of the golden era of Czech hockey, goaltender Dominik Hasek and longtime captain Robert Reichel will be inducted. Joining them is Scott Niedermayer, the Triple Gold Club Canadian defenceman who has won at every level possible.
To celebrate 25 years of women’s hockey come two inductees, Fran Rider, as a Builder, the woman most responsible for the very creation of women’s hockey at the international level, and Swede Maria Rooth, the catalyst to the “Mirakel” in Turin in 2006.
Introducing a new trophy named after great Swiss star of the 1930s, Richard “Bibi” Torriani, the IIHF will honour Italian Lucio Topatigh, whose 20-year career with the Azzurri was exceptional in its own right.
Joining these inductees into the Hall of Fame is Monique Scheier-Schneider of Luxembourg, who will be the 2015 recipient of the Paul Loicq Award. The new class will be honoured next May in Prague during the medal weekend of the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
“We are extremely proud of our newest class of inductees,” said IIHF President and Committee Chairman Rene Fasel. “These men and women have contributed to shaping our game through successful careers made possible by their determination to succeed and their dedication over a long period of time. They played at the highest level, and, in the case of Fran Rider, created the highest level. They represent the very essence as to why we have a Hall of Fame.”
Hasek, who was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, needs no introduction to hockey fans. His play with the Czech Republic and in the NHL for more than 20 years was spectacular for its originality, and he backstopped his national team to an historic Olympic gold in Nagano in 1998. Reichel was his teammate that year and captained the Czechs eight times at three levels of IIHF competition.
Niedermayer was a smooth-skating defenceman in the line that goes from Bobby Orr to Paul Coffey and on to the 14th member of the Triple Gold Club. His ability to win everywhere he played was unparalleled, starting with the Memorial Cup at the junior level and including gold medals at the U20, World Championship, Olympics, and World Cup of Hockey.
The year 2015 will mark 25 years of women’s hockey under the IIHF umbrella, and even before the inaugural event in 1990 in Ottawa no person worked harder to develop the game than Fran Rider, who established the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association in 1975 and is still the guiding force behind what was then the only organization in the world dedicated solely to women’s hockey. She went on to create the first unofficial Women’s Worlds in 1987 and kept pushing for the growth of the women’s game right up to the inclusion of the sport at the 1998 Olympics.
Rooth had a lengthy career with Damkronor, but unquestionably her finest moment came in 2006 when she was the hero in defeating the United States in the semi-finals, leading to the first ever gold-medal game in women’s hockey involving a European team.
In Topatigh, the IIHF honours a longtime star with the Italian national team. As Fasel explained: “We wanted to create a trophy which honours players for a great international career irrespective of where they played. Nowadays, with NHL players and international players often being the same, we feel that there are so many top players to honour. Still, we wanted to ensure we recognized players who didn’t necessarily win Olympic and World Championship medals but who still had remarkable careers. As a result, we created the Torriani Award, and Lucio Topatigh is a very worthy first recipient.”
Monique Scheier-Schneider’s place in the international game has always been greater than the size of her country. In 2008, the longtime Luxembourg executive became only the third woman elected to the IIHF Council, and she has been involved in hockey in her homeland for nearly four decades.
Click here for a complete list of all honoured members since the IIHF Hall of Fame was introduced in 1997. It now boasts 200 greats from 23 countries.
2015 IIHF Hall of Fame Inductees
Dominik Hasek (CZE)
Born: Pardubice, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), 29 January 1965
Unorthodox, unpredictable, and unbelievable, Dominik Hasek rightly earned the nickname Dominator because of his ability to almost single-handedly win a game for his team. As a goalie, his style was unique – no one before him played in his manner, and no one after could possibly imitate the form he demonstrated in the crease. His superiority was evident no matter where he played, whether for his country, his NHL team, or his Czech club team at the start and end of his career.
Hasek started to play in the Czechoslovak top league at the age of 16, and two years later he was selected by Chicago 199th overall at the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. His low selection didn’t represent his reputation; it was more a reflection of his not being allowed to leave his country to play in the West. Internationally, though, Hasek was developing a reputation as a fine young goaltender. He took the Czechs to two silver medals in U20 play and also won a silver at the World Championship at age 18.
Fans in Canada got to see him firsthand at the Canada Cup in 1984 and ’87, as well as the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. By 1990, the political landscape at home had changed, and Hasek was allowed to leave for the NHL to pursue his dream of playing against the best at the club level. Hasek played in the IHL and as backup to Ed Belfour in Chicago, but after two years it was clear the Blackhawks were happy with “Eddie the Eagle” and traded Hasek to Buffalo.
It didn’t take long for Hasek to perfect a style for which he would become famous. Eschewing a fancy facemask and instead playing with a simple helmet and cage, he created a web in his net that was spun with flying legs and gloves, sprawling pads and desperate lunges along and above the ice. He fooled players time and again because they simply had no idea how he would make a save. To shoot would mean playing into his quick arms and legs, and to deke was like getting tangled in a web impossible to penetrate. His unconventional style was inimitable, and he won five of his six Vezina Trophies in the 1990s with the Sabres.
It was his two years between 1996 and 1998 that Hasek made history. He was named winner of both the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award as the league’s best player, the only goalie to win the Hart twice. Because of his success with the Sabres, he didn’t play for the Czechs at all between 1991 and 1998, but when he returned for the Nagano Olympics he delivered an historic performance. He stopped all five Canadian skaters in a semi-final penalty-shot shootout and then recorded a shutout against Russia in a 1-0 win for gold, the first ever for the country. The team’s celebration two days later in Prague’s Wenceslas Square is one of the greatest events in Czech history.
Having won internationally for some 15 years, Hasek was still missing a Stanley Cup, but when he was traded to Detroit he found himself on a contending team. He led the Red Wings to the Cup in 2002 and 2008, ensuring his place in hockey lore on both sides of the ocean. Along with Canadians Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, Hasek came closer than any goalie to joining the Triple Gold Club, his World Championship silver just short of the required achievements.
Scott Niedermayer (CAN)
Born: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 31 August 1973
Quite likely the finest defenceman of the modern era, Scott Niedermayer was a winner at every level. He was a tremendously graceful skater, a tenacious team leader, and a champion wherever he played. Internationally, he is a member of the Triple Gold Club, and the only TGC member to win the Stanley Cup with two teams (New Jersey and Anaheim).
Even before he established himself in the NHL with the Devils he had won both national and international championships. In the case of the former, he led Kamloops to the Memorial Cup in 1991-92, and in the case of the latter he won gold with Canada at the 1991 IIHF World Junior Championship. It was during the ’91-’92 season that he played his first four NHL games, and by the start of the next season he was in the NHL to stay.
In 18 NHL seasons his teams made the playoffs all but twice, so his appearance in a Team Canada sweater was limited less frequently to the highest levels of competition. Although he was on the runner-up team at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, Niedermayer led Canada to gold at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake. Two years later, he won two more championships.
First, he teamed with his brother Rob to lead Canada to gold at the 2004 IIHF World Championship, making him the 14th member of the Triple Gold Club. Later that fall he starred with Canada to win the second edition of the World Cup. This gave him every possible championship a Canadian player could win, and he finished his career with perhaps his most cherished victory, a gold at the 2010 Olympics in British Columbia, his home province, while wearing the “C” on his sweater.
Niedermayer’s NHL career was equally impressive. He skated in nearly 1,300 regular-season games and 202 more in the playoffs and was named Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2006 after leading Anaheim to a surprising Stanley Cup victory. But more than his victories, it was his poise and skating which set him apart. Following in the tradition of Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey, Niedermayer skated with power and seeming ease, moving the puck up ice like a fourth forward but defending like the best defensive defenceman. He was never a passenger on his many team victories but instead a dominant player and leader, and his play easily transferred from the smaller ice of the NHL to the big ice of international competition.
Robert Reichel (CZE)
Born: Litvinov, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), 25 June 1971
One of the greatest leaders in Czech hockey history, Robert Reichel wore the “C” for his country on eight occasions at three different levels of the highest IIHF competition. The first time came in 1990 at his third U20 tournament, where the Czechoslovaks won their second straight bronze. He then made his way to the Calgary Flames, the NHL team that had drafted him the previous year. Reichel improved in each of his first three years in the league, culminating with consecutive seasons of 40 goals and going to 88 points and then 93 in 1993-94, his best statistical year in the NHL.
But his own development and success with the Flames did not result in much team success in the playoffs, freeing Reichel to return home to play for his country on several occasions. His first goal medal came in 1996 when he again was team captain. The Czechs won the World Championship by defeating Canada, 4-2, in Vienna, and this was the start of a reign that made the Czechs almost unbeatable for the next half a decade.
The team played a stifling defensive game but had little success at the 1996 World Cup. A year later, they won bronze at the World Championship, and in 1998, in Nagano, Reichel helped the team to its first ever Olympic gold. Playing Canada in the semi-finals, the game went to a penalty-shot shootout, tied 1-1. While goalie Dominik Hasek stopped all five Canadian shooters, Canada’s goalie Patrick Roy stopped all Czech shooters except the first – Reichel – who snapped a shot off the far post that found the back of the net.
Reichel captained two more champion teams, the 2000 and 2001 World Championship entries which took gold. He also wore the “C” at the 2003 Worlds and the 2004 World Cup.
Despite a successful NHL career that spanned eleven seasons and 830 games, Reichel was that special kind of player who raised his level of play when it mattered most – wearing his national team sweater. While he may well never be considered among the best NHL players, his inclusion among the IIHF’s best has been a certainty since the day he retired in 2010.
Maria Rooth (SWE)
Born: Angelholm, Sweden, 2 November 1979
Perhaps the most skilled and accomplished European female hockey player of all time, Maria Rooth has been active in the game for nearly two decades, at home and in North America, at the national and international levels. She started skating at age five and as she got older she didn’t find any other interests to take her off the ice. Indeed, her love of the game grew more intense, and her ambitions grew loftier.
Rooth first played for Damkronorna at the 1997 Women’s Worlds at age 17, and a year later she participated in the first ever Olympics in which women’s hockey was a medal sport. The following year she moved to Boston and continued to play hockey after being recruited by Shannon Miller, former national team coach of Canada, who was now head coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Miller was a pioneer in recruiting Europeans for NCAA hockey, and Rooth could not have been a finer choice. The Bulldogs won three successive championships (2001-03), and Rooth captained the team for the last two.
Entering the 2002 Olympics, Sweden was a distant fourth in the minds of many hockey experts, but the Swedes knocked off Finland to win their first medal in women’s hockey, an Olympic bronze. Rooth returned home to play for the next several years, but her defining moment was unquestionably the semi-finals of the 2006 Olympics.
Playing the United States in a game the U.S. was heavily favoured to win, the Swedes fell behind 2-0. But Rooth scored twice and the Swedes played perfect hockey in overtime, sending the game to a penalty-shot shootout. Rooth scored the winning goal, and the Swedish “Mirakel” saw the U.S. relegated to the bronze-medal game while Damkronorna qualified for the gold-medal game.
Canada won that game, 4-1, but Rooth and her teammates had already made history in women’s hockey. This marked the first time a gold medal game was not competed by the two North American teams. Rooth won one more bronze, at the 2007 Women’s Worlds, and retired in 2010. She has been running her own hockey school for girls in Sweden for the last ten years, and in 2005 the Bulldogs retired her number 27, the first ever sweater so honoured in NCAA women’s hockey.
In 2010, Miller hired Rooth as an assistant coach, and the once-teenage star was now an NCAA coach with the Bulldogs, albeit for only one season. Rooth, feeling her place was in Sweden, returned home in the summer of 2011. Her influence on the next generation of Swedish girls is beyond doubt, and her career, from NCAA to Olympics to mentoring, is without compare in Europe. In all, Rooth represented Sweden in 265 games.
Fran Rider (CAN)
Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 5 June 1951
The first person to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame as a Builder for contributions specifically to women’s hockey, Fran Rider is the very apotheosis of passion and determination, both for the length of her tenure as well as the breadth and scope of her remarkable career. Indeed, no woman has exerted a greater force or had a greater influence on the development of women’s hockey than Rider.
Without Rider, women’s hockey would not be a medal event at the Olympics. There would not have been IIHF support for a fully-sanctioned Women’s World Championship starting in 1990. There would not have been an unofficial tournament in 1987, and there wouldn’t have been enormous growth and development of the women’s game in Canada and around the world that led to that historic 1987 event.
Rider established the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association in 1975 and became its first executive director. Some four decades later, the OWHA remains one of the few organizations in the world devoted only to women’s hockey, and Rider is still the face of the organization. In 1982, Rider created the first national championship for women’s hockey in Canada. Three years later, she recruited the U.S. state of Massachusetts as well as the Netherlands and West Germany with ambitions to give the women’s game international exposure.
Out of this success came the first full world championship two years later. Rider continued to make connections and develop relationships in Europe, notably in Sweden and Switzerland and later Czechoslovakia. The opening game in 1987 featured Canada and the United States. The stands were full; the media attention was impressive; the IIHF took notice. “I didn’t see problems,” Rider said. “I saw opportunities.”
Those opportunities turned into support from Hockey Canada and the IIHF, and in 1990 the first official tournament was played in Ottawa. TSN covered the final game, another Canada-United States matchup, which started the great rivalry that continues to this day. Finances limited the IIHF commitment to a bi-annual tournament at first, and any lingering doubts of the game’s rising stock were put to rest in 1992 when Finland and Sweden played a thrilling bronze-medal game that went to a shootout. None other than Pirjo Hagman, a Finnish representative of the IOC, was watching that game, and from there everyone involved pushed for inclusion in the Olympics, the clear and obvious goal which Rider had envisioned as a natural and final extension.
Rider was at the forefront of that push. The OWHA worked within Canada to develop the women’s game, but its role internationally was a fight for the greater good. When the Americans stunned Canada in the final women’s game in Nagano to win the first ever Olympic gold, it was women’s hockey that was the bigger winner.
Rider started playing hockey in 1967 in Brampton, Ontario. Her love of the game took her to starting the OWHA while she was still a young woman, and her undying resolve got women’s hockey from ground zero to the Olympics. Indeed, 1998 wasn’t the start point for women’s hockey; it was the finish line for a marathon that had been started by Rider 23 years earlier.
Richard “Bibi” Torriani Award
(for outstanding careers by players from non-top hockey nations)
Lucio Topatigh (ITA)
Born: Gallio, Italy, 19 October 1965
Although Lucio Topatigh was not destined to play on a top team that could win medals with regularity in international play, he was blessed with a long-time commitment to and love for the game that made his career to Italian hockey like Gordie Howe’s was to the NHL. Indeed, Topatigh played some 23 seasons in Serie A and more than 1,000 games, incomparable and unmatched numbers. On the international scene, he played some 18 IIHF tournaments, 14 in the top level and four in World Championship B Pool.
His dedication to his national team is unique, making him the ideal candidate to be given the inaugural Richard “Bibi” Torriaini Award for contributions to his national team at IIHF competition. Topatigh first wore the Azzurri colours in 1983 at the European U18 Championship B Pool, at age 17. Three years later he made his senior debut, again in the B Pool, and he played for the Azzurri for the last time at his own Olympics in Turin 2006 at age 40.
That last appearance on home ice at the Olympics was made possible by coach Mickey Goulet. Although Topatigh hadn’t played for the national team for four years, and was working as a baker while playing league hockey with Asiago, Goulet knew how special the tournament would be for the player and how, in turn, Topatigh’s enthusiasm would rub off on his teammates.
Known as “Il falco di Gallio” (the Hawk of Gallio), Topatigh was a rugged right winger and a top scorer in both the Serie A and among his teammates internationally. And although Italy never won a medal at the top level of international hockey, it managed to stay in the top pool for eleven straight years during the prime of Topatigh’s career (1992-2002). He played on ten of those teams before finishing his career in the domestic league.
In all, he played his last nine seasons of pro with Asiago, retiring in 2008. He won the Italian Championship four times, all with Bolzano, in 1988, 1990, 1997, and 1998. By the time he retired for good at age 43, his place as perhaps the finest Italian hockey player of all time was solidified.
Paul Loicq Award
(for outstanding contributions to international hockey)
Monique Scheier-Schneider (LUX)
Born: Schifflange, Luxembourg, 15 October 1954
Monique Scheier-Schneider may come from the relatively small hockey country of Luxembourg, but her involvement in the game has been long and impressive, spanning some four decades at all levels of the game. She worked as an off-ice official for IHC Beaufort starting in 1974, and while she handled those duties for 12 years she also became the secretary for the Hiversport Huskies’ minor-hockey program.
Starting in 1992, Scheier-Schreider became the General Secretary of the Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation, a post she continues to hold today, some 22 years later. Additionally, she has worked as team manager for the junior and senior national teams, and in 2008 she became only the third woman to be elected to the IIHF Council.
She has also been the president of the nation’s major hockey club, Tornado Luxembourg, which plays in the French minor-league system, since 2002. Her influence on the game is clear within her family. Scheier-Schneider’s brother, Alain, is vice president of the Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation, while two of her sons and three nephews play for the national team.
Photos: HHOF-IIHF Images, Europhoto, Matthew Manor, Pekka Mononen, Jana Chytilova, Ben Welland