| November 15, 2021, 10:50 PM
November 15, 2021, 10:50 PM
TORONTO – The “Ig-gy! Ig-gy! Ig-gy!” chants began before his dress shoe had made an imprint on the red carpet.
The Jarome Iginla fans warmed a cold November night, be it teammate Mike Cammalleri calling him “a better friend than he is a player” or a diehard rocking a No. 12 Kamloops Blazers throwback sweater just looking for a photo op.
No, an honour delayed doesn’t lose its lustre.
So, while the 2021 Hockey Hall of Fame class was intended to be the 2020 Hall class, the six new inductees’ patience paid off Monday night inside Meridian Hall, just an Iginla slapshot away from the Hall itself.
“The words ‘welcome back’ have never meant so much,” Hall chair Lanny McDonald announced, after the pandemic postponed one of the brightest stars on the hockey calendar.
Although the location was changed and facemasks emblazoned with an HHOF logo were worn by the honourees between speeches, their overdue induction was still meaningful.
Iginla — the son of a Nigerian immigrant and an Edmonton native who grew to be a Flames legend — captured the surrealism of it all when he flashed his trademark smile and accepted his plaque from Mark Messier.
“He was one of my all-time favourites growing up. I need that picture later,” Iginla said. “This is so cool.”
The author of the Golden Assist reflected on Grant Fuhr and Willie O’Ree and Herb Carnegie, Black players who made his dream more attainable.
“Why are you playing hockey?” Iginla remembers a white kid saying to him.
Look at him now.
Kim St-Pierre, 42, became just the eighth woman and first goaltender to gain entry.
Canada’s three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion spoke of the power of shattering glass ceilings, competing against men, and looking up to fellow Quebec goalie Manon Rhéaume — who played pre-season games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and ’93.
A crowd of St-Pierre’s national teammates came out to support her induction, and Caroline Oulette received a special shutout: “Being friends with a goalie is not easy.”
St-Pierre credited the women who are making in-roads in the game and called for a single professional women’s league.
“We have the power to achieve anything,” St-Pierre stated.
The crowd rose to applaud.
Decked out in a shiny black three-piece tux, Marian Hossa revealed that he had invited Nick Lidstrom to fly from Sweden and present him his plaque, which will now stand near those of fellow Slovak legends Stan Mikita and Peter Stastny.
Hossa thought back to getting his hands on a VHS tape of Wayne Gretzky highlights as a young boy: “It inspired me to get on the ice and try impossible things.” And later trying to mold his approach as a pro to Mario Lemieux: “He let his play do all the talking.”
When legendary Chicago Blackhawks defenceman and current San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson received the call from McDonald, he replied: “I’m not even a Hall of Famer in my house. It’s my wife.”
Wilson continued that theme from the dais, looking at wife Kathy, surrounded by some of their six grandchildren (a seventh is on the way), and calling her the heartbeat of a swelling family.
“This weekend is more about you than anyone else,” Doug said.
Wilson — the 1982 Norris winner and most prolific blue-line scorer Chicago has produced – thought back to the people who helped him but could not be here: mentor Tony Esposito, first roommate Stan Mikita, and his father.
Growing up in Ottawa, Wilson’s parents encouraged him to play all sports and “find the one that you love.”
A love for the game was instilled in Kevin Lowe from a boyhood spent in Lachute, Que., where there were only four pursuits.
“Church, work, school and hockey — and not necessarily in that order,” Lowe explained.
Lowe, 62, too lamented the absence of his late father, Clifford, who once instructed his son that pucks would never hurt him: “They’re made of rubber.”
But a few ’80s Oilers — Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri (jetting in from Finland) – did roll out to support the six-time Cup champ.
A raspy Lowe earned one of the gala’s biggest laughs when he cracked that, sadly, his strained voice was due to a cold and not due to a throwback night of Boys on the Bus partying.
With Lidstrom and Mike Babcock in the theatre, Steve Yzerman presented Ken Holland with his builder plaque, praising the four-time championship architect GM’s “honesty and personal approach” to the job.
Holland kicked off his speech with the tale of his NHL debut, as a 25-year-old in net for the Hartford Whalers, 41 years ago this month.
When he gave up five goals to the Rangers in the second period, he thought to himself: “Ken, you’re never going to be in the National Hockey League again.” (Not quite true: Though banished to the minors, Holland the goalie did resurface two seasons later for three more NHL games — and a .811 save percentage – with the Detroit Red Wings.)
Fair to say, Team Canada’s 2010 GM and the man currently building around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl fared a little better on the other side of the glass.
Quipped Holland: “Hockey’s been very good to me after I stopped trying to play it.”