Impact: Good lord, where do you start? How about here: The sight of a pristine red Detroit sweater with "Yzerman 19" on the back is known to bring grown men to tears.That pretty much says it all, even if it's vaguely echoic of something I wrote in my last post.
Remember way back in 2002 when the Wings won with their who's-who of future Hall of Famers? Well, adding Yzerman, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille this year puts five members of that team into the HoF, if you count Scotty Bowman. Not bad, eh?
While I never developed a particularly deep affection for Robitaille as a Wings player, he always seemed like a stand-up guy. By the time he made it to Detroit, he was well past his prime, so my expectations were always set unfairly high for him, but unlike Marian Hossa, he chose wisely when seeking to win the Cup. (Please insert your own Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade joke here.)
Brett Hull, on the other hand, never ceased to amuse me with his various antics. Not everybody approved of his outspokenness and candor at times, but I always thought, even before he came to the Wings, that he was exactly the type of personality that the league needed. Plus, I don't think I could ever tire of watching the TV announcers marvel over the bend in his stick as they showed replays of shots in slo-mo. Not to mention that his self-titled "Two Kids and an Old Goat" line was my first introduction to Pavel Datsyuk, the only player to ever surpass Hull in terms of amusing me.
Every year it seems like the HoF inductions are more and more interesting to me on a personal level. When I visited the hall when I was younger, it always seemed somehow abstract and foreign to me (and I'm not even going to discuss how awful that "be a goalie" game was). It was like a shrine to a past generation, full of the names of players of whom I had heard or seen pictures, but I was never quite able to connect with them. Now, as each induction class brings in more players that I have seen first-hand, I feel like there is more meaning for me personally.
It's easy to discuss Gordie Howe and his legacy and impact on the game, but it's an entirely different thing to have watched him play game in and game out over the course of his career. It's not to say that I don't value Mr. Hockey as a player and ambassador of the game, but it's difficult to fully appreciate his greatness from a few grainy highlight reel clips and a biography or two.
On the other hand, seeing guys like The Captain, Hull, Robitaille, and Leech (although to a lesser extent) get named to the Hall feels much more concrete. It allows me to put their accomplishments into context and draw on my own memories. I can reminisce about spectacular plays or championships, and it almost becomes personal to me, as if those are shared memories that I can draw on because they were a part of my life. I have no doubt in my mind that someday in the future, I'm going to be leading my kids around the HoF recounting the defining moments in the careers of guys like Yzerman, Lidstrom, Shanny, and so many others until said children develop a nervous disorder manifested by beginning to convulse at the mere mention of the word, "hockey," or the phrase, "I remember this one time..."
In other news, it's sounding more and more likely that Mike Babcock is going to be Team Canada's coach at the upcoming Olympics. (Speaking of the Olympics, I'm pretty sure the entire Wings roster is going to be suiting up in Vancouver.) This should be fantastically fun to watch. Mostly, I can't wait until the Canada/Sweden game during which, in an ironic twist of fate, Babs is forced to watch Henrik Zetterberg render Sidney Crosby useless (again), but from the opposite viewpoint. Seriously, congrats to Babcock, though. If I was Canadian, he's the guy I'd want behind the bench. Actually, I think he should volunteer to coach Team USA just to prove, once and for all, that he's not anti-American. Someone should run that idea by him. I only want credit if he doesn't laugh in your face.