Chelios, Niedermayer, Shanahan top Hockey Hall of Fame inductees
Class of 2013 also includes Geraldine Heaney, Fred Shero
The Hockey Hall of Fame announced the inductees for the class of 2013 on Tuesday, with four players and a former head coach set to be enshrined in the fall.
Defencemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Chelios got the nod in their first time on the ballot, while Brendan Shanahan, women's player Geraldine Heaney, and Stanley Cup-winning head coach Fred Shero, who passed away in 1990, will also be honoured with spots in the Hall of Fame in Toronto.
"I was part of one era, I think Chris has probably been part of a few," Niedermayer joked. "The one thing that I do remember playing against Chris was he was one of the toughest guys to play against, even as a defenceman. He was always giving me a hard time on the ice, making life miserable. Hopefully in November it's not the same when we get to Toronto."
There were several first-year eligible players that will need to wait at least another year for the call to the Hall, including Rob Blake, Paul Kariya, Rod Brind’Amour and Keith Tkachuk.
Also still waiting are holdovers Eric Lindros, Theo Fleury, Jeremy Roenick, and coach Pat Burns.
Niedermayer won at every level of hockey in his career, with a world junior championship, world championship, two Olympic gold medals and four Stanley Cups.
That's just part of the reason why former teammate Scott Stevens thinks he was a shoo-in.
"It was just a matter of when [Niedermayer] was eligible," said Stevens, currently an assistant coach with the Devils. "From the day he retired, there was no question in anyone's mind in hockey that he would be a first-ballot and be in the Hockey Hall of Fame."
The defenceman from Cranbrook, B.C., also won the Norris Trophy in 2004 and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2007.
Niedermayer's seamless play also didn't go unnoticed by fellow inductee Chelios.
"I think the biggest reason why I was mad at [Niedermayer] was because he made it look so easy," Chelios said. "As far as his skills and his leadership and [how] he went about his business, I find him very comparable to Stevie Yzerman, the way he conducted himself on the ice. I have all the respect in the world for Scott playing against him."
Chelios won the Norris Trophy three times in his career, along with three Stanley Cup wins and an Olympic silver medal. The Chicago native played in 1,651 career games over his career over 23 full seasons in the NHL (and parts of three more), collecting 185 goals and 948 points.
It's something the 51-year-old is grateful for and it was a career he never thought he would have.
"There was probably no reason in the world where I should've played in the NHL because of where I grew up being in the restaurant business, no hockey players, really, [were] at least playing organized hockey from my neighbourhood," Chelios said. "Right place at the right time, I guess. It's a crazy journey, that's for sure."
The Blackhawks organization released a statement thanking the veteran blue-liner for his contributions to the team during his tenure in Chicago.
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization, we want to congratulate Chris Chelios and his family for this incredible achievement," the team said in the statement. "Chris defined toughness, perseverance and commitment. We are grateful and proud that he spent so many years of his incredible playing career as a member of the Blackhawks."
Shanahan has crossed paths in his career with both Chelios and Niedermayer over the years, as he was teammates with both, and he has an appreciation for what both players brought to the table.
"Scott was definitely a guy — and Chris — hard to play against so when you got play with them, it was a thrill," he said. "I can say that I spent years playing with Cheli and there's not another guy that comes to mind that you consider going into a tough situation with that you want to have looking out for you and on your side."
Shanahan is now more known for his role as the NHL's head disciplinarian, but during his playing days he was better known primarily as a rugged, high-scoring winger.
The forward from Mimico, Ont., scored 656 goals and had 698 assists in 22 seasons and won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.
Heaney won gold with the 2002 Canadian women's hockey team and is regarded as one of the best female hockey players in the history of the game. Already a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame, she's thrilled at her latest accomplishment.
"As a child growing up, you watch it on TV and it was a male game when I played," Heaney said. "Going down to the Hall of Fame many times, you would never see any females, so you really didn't think, 'Could this ever happen?' I'm so glad that it has."
Shero, known by his nickname "The Fog," won back-to-back Stanley Cups behind the bench with the Broad Street Bully-era Philadelphia Flyers in 1974 and 1975, and was elected to the Hall of Fame 23 years after his death.
With files from The Canadian Press