Gilmour, Howe head Hockey Hall of Fame class

The Hockey Hall of Fame committee has selected Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe and Joe Nieuwendyk for induction into its 2011 class.

The Hockey Hall of Fame committee on Tuesday selected Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe and Joe Nieuwendyk for induction into its 2011 class.

The committee of 18 went with a class made up entirely of former NHL players, with no admissions this year in the women's or builder categories.

The quartet of former players will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 11 in Toronto.

Belfour was the only player in his first year of eligibility to gain admittance. Howe waited the longest of the four, having been eligible since 1995.

A top flight goaltender for about 14 seasons, Belfour won the Vezina Trophy twice, in addition to the Calder and William Jennings honours.

"It is hard to put into words what this means to me," Belfour said in a statement issued by the Stars. "I would like to thank all of my teammates and people along the way who helped me achieve my hockey dreams."

Belfour posted 76 shutouts — tying him with Tony Esposito for ninth on the all-time list — and won a Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999. He also played in two other finals, with Chicago in 1992 and the Stars in 2000.

Gilmour scored 450 goals and 964 assists in a career that lasted two decades.

Gilmour was nominated for the Hart Trophy in 1993 when he tallied a career high 127 points for the Toronto Maple Leafs and won the Selke Trophy for top defensive forward in that same season. 

A prolific scorer in junior hockey for the Cornwall Royals, Gilmour transitioned into a role of checking forward during his first pro stop in St. Louis, who drafted him in 1982. He continually increased his offensive production, and by 1987 was a key two-way forward for his country at the Canada Cup.

The Kingston, Ont., native was dealt to Calgary and won his only Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989. He had a reputation for coming up big when it mattered most, with 60 goals and 128 assists in 181 playoffs games.

After leaving the Leafs, he went on to play for New Jersey, Buffalo, Chicago and Montreal. A return to Toronto in 2003 lasted less than a game due to a devastating knee injury.

Nieuwendyk finished with 564 goals, putting him in the top 20 in that category when he retired in 2005. He added 562 assists in a career that lasted 1,257 regular season games.

Nieuwendyk won the Calder Trophy in 1988 with Calgary and scored 192 goals in his first four seasons, ranking among the best ever over that span to start a career. The Oshawa, Ont., native scored 50 goals in each of his first two NHL campaigns, and finished with over 30 goals in eight seasons.

"I am humbled and honored to be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame," Nieuwendyk said. "This is a tremendous honor."

Another father-son combo

Nieuwendyk led Dallas to the Stanley Cup in the 1999 playoffs, recording 21 points in 23 games to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy.

A teammate at different points of his career with both Gilmour and Belfour, he also won a Cup later with the New Jersey Devils.

Howe played 22 seasons in pro hockey, beginning with six in the World Hockey Association, where he played alongside his legendary father Gordie as well as older brother Marty.

"I was elated to have this dream come true," Howe said Tuesday. "To actually have my name in the Hall of Fame with my dad will mean so much to my family."

Gordie Howe, now 83, was inducted in 1972. The Howes will join Bobby and Brett Hull as just the second father-and-son combo in the Hockey Hall of Fame

Howe starred as a forward with the Toronto Marlboros and as a 16-year-old played on the 1972 U.S. team that won silver at the Olympics. He eventually transitioned to defence and would be a three-time Norris Trophy finalist as top NHL defenceman.

He scored 197 goals and added 545 assists in 929 NHL games with Hartford, Philadelphia and Detroit. Howe joined the ranks of great players never to win a Cup, reaching the final three times.

Factoring in his WHA points, he finished with 1,246 points in 1,355 pro regular season games.

The committee opted not to induct anyone in the builder category, whose candidates include the likes of Pat Burns and Fred Shero. There was widespread criticism last year when the ailing Burns, the only three-time winner for coach of the year, was passed over. He died in November after a lengthy cancer battle, just days after the 2010 class was inducted.

After an inaugural women's class in 2010 that consisted of Angela James and Cammi Granato, retired players such as Geraldine Heaney will have to wait at least one more year.

With files from The Canadian Press