TORONTO – They spent the entire weekend attached at the hip.
And when it finally became time for Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne to officially gain entrance to the Hockey Hall of Fame, they did so as something deeper than friends and former teammates.
“We will always be brothers,” Kariya said during his acceptance speech on Monday night. “In this life and the next.”
“For me, by far the best player I ever played [with],” Selanne said of Kariya. “I have learned so much from you. You and I always joked that half my [time] I played hockey and half I tried to make you into a normal person.
“Everything you have done for me I’m so proud. Thank you so much.”
As always, it was a class of disparate personalities with a variety of credentials. The unlikely buddy duo of Selanne and Kariya. Dave Andreychuk and Mark Recchi, who each spent 23 years as NHL players. Two-time Olympic gold medallist Danielle Goyette, the fifth female to be inducted.
University hockey coach Clare Drake and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs in the builder’s category.
One constant that ran through their speeches was the theme of family. Goyette lamented that her parents died shortly before women’s hockey made its Olympic debut at the Nagano Games in 1998. Jacobs talked about how his father built up the family business by working with struggling sports franchises.
Andreychuk joked that he spent more money on tickets than he earned while spending his first 15 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs – both a short drive from his hometown of Hamilton. He also paid tribute to parents that supported their kids through work at the steel plant.
“My father was 30 years at the steel mill and retired at 52,” said Andreychuk. “He’s followed me around ever since.”
Recchi said that the first time he ever saw his father tear up was after getting the call from the Hall back in June. He called his mother the “rock” of the family and gave each of his six children an individual mention.
Growing up in Kamloops, B.C., he never envisioned having this kind of career in pro hcokey
“Wow, did it go quick,” said Recchi. “It was an amazing ride and an amazing run.”
Kariya and Selanne grew close during a six-year run with the Anaheim Ducks and another season spent together in Colorado.
They paid tribute to their parents as well as each other. Selanne also thanked his twin brother, Paavo, a former goalie who stood in for a lot of shots while he honed the skills that would help him score 684 NHL goals.
“I apologize that I stole your confidence to stop playing, but I needed that confidence,” said Selanne. “Thank you.”