Each year the International Ice Hockey Federation inducts players into their Hall of Fame and this year three former Detroit Red Wings will be inducted.
The Red Wings being inducted this year are: Nicklas Lidstrom (Sweden), Steve Yzerman (Canada), and Ruslan Salei (Belarus). Joining them will be, Vyacheslav Bykov and Andrei Khomutov of Russia and builder Murray Costello of Canada.
Lidstrom and Yzerman spent their whole careers in Detroit, while Salei only spent one season, but once a player puts on the winged wheel they will be forever and always be Detroit Red Wings.
Unfortunately, Rulsan Salei is no longer with us due to the plane crash that killed the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, but he will always be in the mind and hearts of hockey fans and his spirit will live on in the IIHF Hall of Fame.
Congratulations to all three Detroit Red Wings for being recognized for their performances in World Championship hockey.
Here are the bios from the IIHF’s Hall of Fame induction page.
Nicklas Lidström (SWE)
Born: Krylbo, Sweden, 28 April 1970
Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a perfect athlete, but Nicklas Lidström perhaps comes closer than any hockey player to earning such praise. His play on defence for Sweden in IIHF competition and the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL over a period of more than 20 years was staggeringly error-free.
A defenceman who was by no means small, Lidström wasn’t physical so much as he was smart, quick, and disciplined. He rarely was out of position, rarely gave the puck up as the last man back, and rarely committed the kinds of errors that led to goals. After being drafted by Detroit in the 3rd round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Lidström played for Västerås in the Swedish Elite League for two more years before leaving for the NHL. He became an impact player immediately, and the Red Wings never missed the playoffs during his entire career – 20 straight years – a record of success matched only by Larry Robinson.
Because of this NHL success, Lidström played in only three World Championships during his career, winning a medal each time: gold in 1991, bronze in 1994, and silver in 2004. The majority of his international play came in NHL-IIHF events. He played in the first four Olympics involving NHL players, his career reaching its zenith in 2006 when he scored the winning goal early in the third period of the gold-medal game against Finland.
Additionally, Lidström played in the three most recent NHL best-on-best tournaments, namely the 1991 Canada Cup and 1996 and 2004 World Cups of Hockey. His place among the pantheon of greats is further embellished by his incredible NHL accomplishments. He took over the Detroit captaincy from Steve Yzerman in 2006 and two years later became the first European captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. The win was the fourth Cup of Lidström’s career. In 2002, he was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, again the first European so honoured.
Lidström was also named winner of the Norris Trophy seven times, putting him in the same rarefied company as Bobby Orr (eight) and Doug Harvey (also seven). As important as all the numbers and awards, Lidström played hockey in a way any fan would admire.
He never fought to play tough, was resilient over two decades, and was positionally as strong as any player in league history. No European has played more games than Lidström – both regular season and playoffs – and his contributions to Tre Kronor and to the NHL make it clear he was one of the most gentlemanly and skilled players ever to skate on a sheet of ice.
Ruslan Salei (BLR)
Born: Minsk, Soviet Union (Belarus), 2 November 1974
Died: Yaroslavl, Russia, 7 September 2011
A defenceman who succeeded at the highest level because of determination and ambition more than natural-born talent, Ruslan Salei was a hero in his native Belarus both for representing his country in IIHF tournaments as well as his lengthy NHL career.
In fact, while virtually every European player gets to the NHL by being drafted first and coming to North America after, Salei was so determined to make it that he wasn’t daunted or intimidated by not being drafted into the NHL when he was 18 and 19 years old.
In 1995, at age 20, he signed a contract to play in the IHL with the Las Vegas Thunder. There were no signs whatsoever that he would make it to the NHL or that any team was interested in his talents, but he got to Las Vegas and played impressively. He was also tough, accumulating 123 penalty minutes and proving his abilities to adapt to the North American game. After just one season Anaheim selected him a lofty 9th overall at the 1996 draft, and the next year saw continued and impressive development.
Salei started in the IHL, moved up to the AHL, and ended up playing with the Mighty Ducks for the last half of the 1996/97 season. His days of minor pro hockey were virtually over, but his international career was only just beginning. Salei played for Belarus at the 1994 and 1995 World Championships when the new nation was in C Pool. They won in ‘95 to move up to B Pool, won again without Salei in 1997 to move up to A Pool, and have been in the top pool continuously ever since (with two exceptions). As a natural leader, Salei has also captained the national team on many occasions.
Belarus has never been one of the top-medal-winning nations, but it has maintained its competitiveness nonetheless. Without doubt the team’s finest result was a 4th-place finish in 2002 at the Salt Lake Olympics, a result that was achieved thanks to a 4-3 win over Sweden in the quarter-finals, the nation’s biggest victory of all time. Salei was one of the best players on ice that game, a defining moment in his career and his country’s hockey history.
Salei played nine seasons with the Ducks, establishing himself as an all-‘round defenceman. Big and tough, he wasn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates. But, he also showed offensive abilities as well, and in 2003 the team went to the Stanley Cup finals before losing to New Jersey in game seven. It was Salei who scored the overtime winner in Game 3, putting Anaheim back in the series after trailing, 2-0.
After signing as a free agent with Florida in 2006, Salei later played for Colorado and Detroit before leaving the NHL in the summer of 2011. He signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL but perished in the plane crash that killed the entire team. A short time later, he became a first player inducted into the newly-created Belarusian Hockey Hall of Fame, and his number 24 was retired by the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association for international competition.
Steve Yzerman (CAN)
Born: Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, 9 May 1965
Few players in the history of hockey played with the sportsmanship, determination, and remarkable skill as Steve Yzerman. And fewer men still had such extraordinary success at both the international level and the NHL. In Yzerman’s case, that meant Team Canada and the Detroit Red Wings, the team for whom he played his entire 23-year pro career.
Yzerman was only 17 when he played his first IIHF tournament, the 1983 U20 event in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). A few months later he was drafted by the Red Wings, made the team at his first training camp that fall, and never looked back. After a sensational rookie season he made Canada’s roster for the 1984 Canada Cup, won by the host country.
These were lean years for the Red Wings, and Yzerman played in three World Championships in the next six years. Yzerman led the tournament in both assists (10) and points (19) in 1990, but, incredibly, this was his last World Championship. The Red Wings made the Stanley Cup playoffs each of the next 15 years, more or less eliminating him from WM participation.
It was in 1986 that he was named captain of the Red Wings, at age 21, and Yzerman went on to become the longest-serving captain in NHL history, wearing the “C” for Detroit every year until he retired in 2006.
Perhaps the crowning glory of his international career came in 2002 at the Salt Lake Olympics. Despite a serious knee injury, Yzerman was a key member of Canada’s roster as the nation won gold for the first time since 1952. That summer he underwent knee reconstruction and missed most of the next NHL season, earning the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2003 for his remarkable determination in coming back from the serious procedure.
In the NHL, Yzerman was a scoring machine. He had six consecutive seasons of at least 100 points, and in five of those he also eclipsed the 50-goal plateau. He led the Wings to the Stanley Cup in 1997 and again in 1998 and won for a third time in 2002. His 1,755 career points ranks him sixth all time. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2009 and later guided Canada to a second Olympic gold with NHL players, this time in 2010 in Vancouver as the team’s executive director.
Yzerman’s leadership, combined with more tangible qualities like a great shot and amazing faceoff abilities, made him successful at every level he played.