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Defencemen headline class of '04
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Old 09 Jun 2004, 06:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Defencemen headline class of '04

Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy, three of the most prolific defensemen in NHL history, were selected for the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The the Class of 2004 also includes Cliff Fletcher, who will be inducted as a builder.

Bourque amassed 410 goals and 1,169 assists in 1,612 games during a 22-year career with the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. He won five Norris Trophies as the NHL's top defenseman, a total exceeded only by Bobby Orr (8) and Doug Harvey (7).

Bourque won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 1980 and appeared in the All-Star Game 19 times, trailing only the legendary Gordie Howe (23).

``It's the highest honour,'' Bourque said on a conference call. ``I got the call today and I got shivers all over.''

Coffey was a three-time Norris Trophy winner who is one spot behind Bourque on the NHL's all-time scoring list with 396 goals and 1,135 assists in 1,409 games over 21 seasons. A 14-time All-Star, he still holds the single-season record for defensemen with 48 goals in 1985-86.

While their statistics are similar, their careers were not. Bourque excelled at both ends of the rink, played for only two teams and did not win his first championship until the final year of his career.

One of the NHL's finest skaters, Coffey spearheaded the Edmonton Oilers' lethal attack in the 1980s. He played for nine teams, winning three championships with Edmonton and another with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

``When I got the call, I was a little emotional and taken back," said Coffey. ''I had a chance to watch former teammate Grant Fuhr get inducted last year and it's absolutely overwhelming."

Murphy, a former teammate of Coffey's in Pittsburgh, ranks second all-time among defensemen with 1,615 games played. He set an NHL record for rookie defenceman with 76 points in 1980-81.

Like Bourque, Murphy retired following the 2000-01 season. Like Coffey, he won four Stanley Cups during a career spent with six teams.

``To be added to this group of players is a tremendous honour and something that I'll cherish for the rest of my life,'' Murphy said.

Fletcher is currently the Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Phoenix Coyotes. He is most famous for his work in Calgary and Toronto.

Fletcher was the Calgary Flames general manager in the clubs first 19 years of existence. He oversaw the beginning of the Atlanta Flames franchise in 1972, and in 1980, he organized the transfer of the franchise to Calgary. In the Flames 11 seasons in Calgary with Fletcher at the helm, the club won two Presidents Trophies, two Campbell Conference titles and two Smythe Division titles. In 1989, the Flames reached the pinnacle when they captured the Stanley Cup.

Fletcher then brought the Toronto maple Leafs back to respectability in the early 1990's.

Fletcher also was the first general manager to sign and bring a player from the Soviet Union to play in the NHL with official consent when Sergei Priakin joined the Flames in 1988.

Several players were not nominated despite excellent credentials. Nine players who totaled at least 1,000 points were shunned by the 18-member selection committee. They are Bernie Nicholls, Dino Ciccarelli, Glenn Anderson, Dave Taylor, Bobby Smith, Brian Bellows, Dale Hunter, Steve Larmer and Brian Propp.

Perhaps the most glaring omissoins were Ciccarelli, who scored 608 NHL goals, and Anderson, who was a key cog in the Oilers' dynasty.

Well, there's always next year.

The Class of 2004 will be honored during Hall of Fame Weekend from November 5-7, with induction ceremonies set for November 8.

The Hall of Fame announced last month that columnist Jim Kelley will receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for distinguished hockey journalism and Carolina Hurricanes play-by-play man Chuck Kaiton will be given the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his work as a broadcaster.

Bourque and Coffey should be in there without a doubt. Murphy was an alright player, but I would have had Ciccarelli in the Hall ahead of him. All in all, it's a good group of guys going in this year.

Nice to see Fletcher getting inducted as well.
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Old 09 Jun 2004, 06:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Congrats to Ray and Paul. Ray is the #2nd best defenseman of all time, behind only Bobby Orr.

Personally, I didn't see too much in Murphy and I too would have put Dino in the hall too.
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