HHOF inductees praise veterans

Steve Yzerman, Brian Leetch, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaile and Lou Lamiorello make up the 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class.

Steve Yzerman, Brian Leetch, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille, credit a veteran presence as important to their National Hockey League careers.

Between the five inductees they have 11 Stanley Cups, two Calder Trophies, two Norris Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, two Lester B. Pearson Trophies, one Hart Trophy, one Masterson Trophy and one Selke Trophy.

But the "older guys" deserve the credit.

Yzerman, the four-time Stanley Cup winner and long-time captain of the Detroit Red Wings, had doubts early in his career.

"I never felt that comfortable. I didn't know if I would make the team, wasn't really sure what was going to happen.

"They just kept putting me on the ice and I ended up remaining there the entire season," Yzerman told Hockey Night in Canada 's Ron MacLean.

Robitaille was also uncertain when he first made the NHL.

"I think for me it was the fear to be sent back home, so I had to produce right away"

Veteran influence

Leetch, the smooth-skating puck mover, won the Conn Smythe Trophy en route to the New York Rangers' 1993-94 Stanley Cup victory.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner praised friend and teammate Mark Messier.

"He led by example and with encouragement. It was never lectures and 'This is how you do things,' it was encouraging you to do certain things and leading by example."

Leetch also credited the veteran presence as important to his transition.

"I was given an opportunity right away. I had a team that was ready, knew I was going to come and needed a player like myself, a defenceman to get involved in the play.

"James Patrick, Mark Hardy immediately helped me out. Chris Nilan was there, kind of put me in a headlock and said 'Kid, you're coming with me.'"

Brett Hull had similar experiences.

"It's the older guys that bring you along and my guy was John Tonelli. When I got there, he kind of took me under his wing, he said, 'When I go in the corner, don't go in there.'

"But off the ice the same thing, just a bunch of classy veteran players that made you feel like you were part of the team, even though you felt kind of like an intruder." Hull told MacLean.

Robitaille was in agreement with his fellow inductees.

"These [older] guys really protected us, made sure we were surrounded well and that made all the difference in the world.

"I had nothing to worry about, just to play the game," he said. 

Robitaille, drafted 171st in the 1984 entry draft, began his career with a bang. The shifty winger scored 40-plus goals in each of his first eight NHL seasons.

"There was a lot of players... through the 80s and early 90s who didn't get to celebrate the Stanley Cup with us but were part of the process and taught us how to win," Yzerman added. 

One of those influential veterans, Lou Lamoriello, humbly deflected praise. 

"When you're around the type of players we had, the players in our organization…how can you not have success and this is really a reflection of our organization," Lamoriello said to Hockey Night in Canada 's Elliotte Friedman.

A member of the Devils organization since 1987, Lamoriello captured Stanley Cups with the New Jersey in 1995, 2000, and 2003. He is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame's builder's category.