Monday, November 23, 2009
Entering the Hall 2009
Recently, four hockey players and a manager were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. They spent the weekend in front of microphones, cameras, and prodding journalists. Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, and Brian Leetch were the players. Lou Lamoreillo was the manager. It will be difficult to find a more deserving group.
The day of induction begins with the presentation of the Hall of Fame Rings. That takes place in the Great Hall, where all of the induction pictures are located. Players receive their rings and spend an hour chatting with media. Also on hand are a few friends and associates of the inductees.
It was my pleasure to chat with former Belleville Bull Darren Pang. Pang followed his National Hockey League career with an extensive ride in broadcasting. He has been everywhere, talking about hockey. He currently works in St. Louis, covering the Blues.
Pang grew up in Ottawa, and spent several minor hockey seasons with Steve Yzerman. Bulls’ fans first got to see Pang when he played for the Gloucester Rangers. That was the Bulls second season in the Tier II Junior Division. They had advanced through the Provincial Playoffs, then cruised through a series against Onaping Falls and Thunder Bay.
The Bulls faced Gloucester for the Ontario Championship, and a berth in the Centennial Cup Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In game seven, the Bulls “battled back from two goal deficits four times” to win 10-8 in overtime. In his book 25 years With the Belleville Bulls, Aaron Bell quoted coach Mavety after the victory: “I just can’t believe it. What can you say about a game like that?”
Mavety chose Pang to be his goalie in the Bulls first year at the OHL level. Pang shared the netminding duties with Ken Porteous. The Meaford, Ontario native carried the load for the Bulls that year, starting 47 games, winning fifteen. He started 12 games for the Bulls the following season, then was traded to the Ottawa 67’s.
Pang starred for the 67’s in the 83-84 season, was the top goalie in the Memorial Cup, winning the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy. Undrafted, he signed with the Chicago Black Hawks and played 81 games over three seasons with the Hawks.
Darren Pang was at the Hockey Hall of Fame because he is Steve Yzerman’s best friend. They began playing together in Nepean, and he remembers those days vividly. He told me that he believed that Yzerman was a “natural born leader”. As a young player, Yzerman was a true student of the game. “If you didn’t do it the right way, he let you know about it. He was so determined. He would tell his teammates, if they were having difficulty to “put your head down and you will get through it.’”
Pang and Yzerman played Midget together in Nepean. He remembers Yzerman winning the Bobby Orr Trophy at the Loblaws Cup as a youngster. Even as a fourteen year old, he caught the eye of the scouts. Pang remembers giving up an “awful goal” and having Yzerman skate back to him, tap his pads and state: “We’ll get it back”. And he did, in short order. Pang said that Steve was “always understated, always serious”. “He was a great defensive player on our Nepean team.”
Yzerman spent his entire career as a Red Wing, and is currently employed by the Wings as Vice-President, Hockey. He is also the General Manager of Team Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
When I asked Yzerman for a piece of advice for young hockey players, he smiled and replied, “Keep your head up.” He added, “If you drop the puck to one of your teammates behind you, you had better be aware that it won’t be stolen”.
When asked about his Cup-winning days in Detroit, he replied, “We had a lot of fun. (Fellow Inductee) Brett Hull was a real spark in the dressing room”.
Understandably, Yzerman was in his office in Detroit when he received the call that he had been selected to the Hall of Fame. He has a lot on his plate right now with the approaching Olympics. He will be second guessed to Kingdom Come for the choices he ultimately approves for the team; however, he will make them, and stand by them in his always understated, serious fashion. A most welcome member to the Hall.