Lundqvist, Barrasso, Ouellette, Turgeon, Vernon get Hockey Hall of Fame nods

Henrik-Lundqvist-New-York-Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist, pictured in action for the Rangers. (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

TORONTO – Henrik Lundqvist will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame with two of his idols.

And Caroline Ouellette is set to take her place alongside a pair of podium-topping teammates.

Lundqvist, Ouellette, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon and Pierre Turgeon headline the hall’s goaltender-heavy class of 2023 in the player category announced Wednesday following a vote by the 18-member selection committee.

Former NHL head coach Ken Hitchcock and the late Pierre Lacroix, who was both an agent and executive, will go in as builders at the induction ceremony Nov. 13 in Toronto. 

Lundqvist, a star netminder for the New York Rangers, got the nod in his first year of eligibility, while Ouellette, who won four Olympic gold medals with Canada’s women’s team, will enter after being passed over last year. 

Lundqvist said on a conference call with reporters and fellow inductees he had posters of Barrasso and Vernon — two fellow goalies — in his childhood bedroom growing up in Sweden.

“Really cool,” Lundqvist said. “There’s so many players that inspire you when you start playing the game.”

Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie in 2012, and ranks sixth in league history in wins (459), ninth in games played (887) and 17th in shutouts (64). 

The Swede’s 459 victories are the most by a European netminder. Lundqvist won 61 more in the playoffs before halting his career in 2020 because of a heart condition. 

A seventh-round draft pick in 2000, he backstopped the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup final, and led New York to the Eastern Conference final in both 2012 and 2015. 

“You look at the goalies that are playing well,” added the 41-year-old Lundqvist, who also won Olympic gold in 2006. “How they play the game and how they compete.

“That’s how you get inspired.”

Ouellette is one of just three women’s hockey players — along with Hall of Famers and former Canadian teammates Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford — to win four or more Olympic gold medals. 

Unable to join Wednesday’s conference call, the 44-year-old forward from Montreal helped Canada top the Olympic podium in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Ouellette also won six world championships with the national team. 

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Eligible since 2006, Barrasso captured both the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and the Vezina during a magical 1983-84 season coming out of high school. 

A two-time Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992, his 369 career victories rank third all-time among American-born goaltenders. 

“I was definitely not waiting by the phone,” Barrasso, 58, said with a chuckle. “In fact, they had a hard time getting a hold of me even after they had made the decision. 

“You’re competitive and you hold yourself in certain regard as to how you think your career was. This is obviously the ultimate honour.”

Vernon won the Cup with his hometown Calgary Flames in 1989 and the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP along with that second title. 

“The game has meant a lot to me throughout my life,” he said. “I’m just flabbergasted.” 

Vernon, who has been eligible since 2005, added he thought Hall of Fame chair and former teammate Lanny McDonald was calling to set up a golf game when his phone rang Wednesday.

“It is an emotional time for me,” said the 60-year-old. “Might be a long time coming, but it’s still worth it.”

Turgeon, who retired in 2007, put up 515 goals and 812 assists for 1,327 points over his 19 NHL seasons. The 53-year-old also won the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of play, in 1993.

“It has been a great journey and a privilege,” said the former centre from Rouyn, Que. “It’s crazy. I played hockey for a living … I still go out there twice a week because I love the game so much.” 

Hitchcock, 71, ranks fourth on the NHL’s all-time coaching wins list with 849. 

“My career started in minor hockey coaching kids and to reach this stage is almost overwhelming to me,” said Hitchcock, who won the Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. “When the call came today … I was in complete shock and not really ready for it. 

“This is an unbelievable honour for a guy who started out just coaching kids.” 

He would go onto stand behind an NHL bench for 22 seasons.

“What I’m proudest of is that I survived,” Hitchcock said. “In this business, if you get fired and you do a good job and you have good relationships with people, there’s a really good chance you’ll get hired again.”

Lacroix, who died in December 2020 at age 72, started his career as a player agent before taking over as general manager of the Quebec Nordiques in 1994. 

He moved with the franchise when it relocated to Colorado, and won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001 thanks to some bold moves that included acquiring Patrick Roy from the Montreal Canadiens.

“We’re so excited,” said Lacroix’s son, Eric. “It’s a little bittersweet since he’s been gone for a couple years now. 

“We’re looking forward to an unbelievable few days in Toronto.”

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