The U.S Hockey Hall of Fame will be making room for five more members as they announced their 2019 induction class on Wednesday afternoon. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Tim Thomas, Brian Gionta, Krissy Wendell and Neal Henderson will be inducted during a ceremony in Washington D.C. on Dec. 12.
Bettman has Left His Mark on the Game
Love him or hate him, it is hard to argue that Bettman has certainly influenced the game of hockey since he took office on Feb. 1, 1993. The NHL will welcome its 32nd team to the league in 2021; it had 24 teams on Bettman’s first day on the job.
The NHL owners have seen a huge increase in revenue during Bettman’s tenure, but they have had no problem with work stoppages in order to achieve this. Attendance has grown by over seven million fans per season since 1993.
Other major changes the league has seen under his watch include the implementation of a hard salary cap, participation in the Olympic games and a major television contract in the United States with NBC and Sportsnet in Canada.
Thomas’ Induction is a No Brainer
Thomas has gone down as one of the best American-born goaltenders to ever play in the NHL. He finished his storied career with a 2.52 goals-against average (GAA) and .920 save percentage (save %) in 426 career games with the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars.
The majority of his success came while playing in Boston. He won the Vezina Trophy for being the league’s best netminder in 2009 and again during the magical season in 2011. Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy for leading the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup by finishing the postseason with a 16-9 record, 1.98 GAA and .940 save % to go along with four shutouts.
Thomas was also part of the 2010 United States Olympic team that took home the silver medal. He also played for Team USA six different times at the IIHF World Championships.
Gionta’s Career was One for the Record Books
Gionta was originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He went on to score 291 goals and 595 points in 1,026 career games with the Devils, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and Bruins. He is the 43rd leading American-born scoring in league history.
He was major part of the Devils 2003 Stanley Cup win and set the franchise single-season record with 48 goals in the 2005-06 season. He served as captain for both the Canadiens and Sabres.
Other career accomplishments include winning a national championship with Boston College in 2001 and playing for Team USA at the 2010 and 2018 Winter Olympic games.
Wendell Set the Standard for American Players
Speaking of Olympians, Wendell made her mark on the women’s game as far back as her high school days. She averaged 4.21 goals per game in three seasons for the girls’ team at Park Center High School in Minnesota. She played one season with the boys’ team and scored an incredible 335 points in 62 games.
Her high-scoring ways followed her to the University of Minnesota where she had 237 points in 101 games. She helped the Golden Gophers win back-to-back national champions in 2004 and 2005. She took home the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for being the best female NCAA player in 2005 after putting up 104 points in just 40 games.
Wendell represented the United States twice at the Olympics; winning a silver medal in 2002 and a bronze medal in 2006. She also played at the IIHF World Championships six times, winning it all in 2005.
Henderson’s Achievements Worthy of Such an Honor
Henderson is the least-known person of the 2019 Hall of Class, but he is far from the least important. He started an inner-city community hockey program in Washington D.C. way back in 1978. Today, the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club is the oldest minority hockey program in North America.
Each year, the program is open to around 50 players 18-years-old and younger. While there is no charge to play for Fort Dupont, all players must adhere to very strict academic standards in order to hit the ice. Not only has Henderson grown the game within the inner-city, but he has also positively affected the lives of hundreds of young players over the last 40 years.
“It’s truly a remarkable Class,” president of USA Hockey Jim Smith said. “Each of the five inductees have their own unique and immeasurable contribution to our great game. They’re extremely deserving of the highest hockey honor in our country and we look forward to formally enshrining them into the Hall in December.”
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.