On Thursday via the organization’s website the International Ice Hockey Federation announced the class of seven individuals who will be inducted into their Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Prague next May. Among those inducted are recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek and fellow Hall of Famer and Norris Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer.
However, among these greats who will be honoured this spring is also a gentleman that Toronto Maple Leafs fans might remember as the guy who took a slapshot on a penalty shot in game six of the team’s 2003 series against the Philadelphia Flyers, Robert Reichel.
Making the Case for Reichel
For those who might only remember Reichel for his time with the Maple Leafs, this painful attempt at glory may have tarnished any other feelings towards the Czech centre. So he may seem like an odd name to see enshrined as one of the greats to represent his country in international competition. However there are a couple names hockey fans unaware of the IIHF’s inductions, might find surprising to find have been given such an honour.
However, before we get into the others lets take a look at what makes the fourth-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 1989, deserving of a spot in the Hall. Reichel played in two Olympic Games for the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia, he played in three World Junior Hockey Championships, two World Cups, seven World Championships, and a Canada Cup.
He put up a very impressive international resume during his three World Juniors Championships. He amassed a whopping 21 goals and 40 points in 21 games winning bronze medals in 1989 and 1990. He captained eight Czech teams over the years, but his shining moment came in 1998 at the Nagano, Japan Olympics, the first tournament where NHL players were given permission to participate in the games.
In the semi-finals against the Canadians, Reichel scored the decided shootout goal (note he did not take a slapshot on this occasion) against former Vezina Trophy winner Patrick Roy to lift his team into the gold medal game, which they would also go on to win.
Meanwhile Reichel did adamantly during his 13-year NHL career where he put up 252 goals and 630 points in 830 games.
Another interesting name to find on the list, although during his time in the NHL he was never terrible, but never incredible is Latvian goaltender Arturs Irbe.
Making the Case for Irbe
During his 13 year tenure in the NHL, Irbe played in 568 games compiling a record of 218-236-79 registering 33 shutouts along the way while putting up a career .899 save percentage and a 2.83 goals against average.
While dawning Latvia’s maroon and white, the current goaltending coach of the Buffalo Sabres, played in two winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and in Turin, Italy. Though he only played in four games combined and put up a less than impressive 5.19 GAA. However, while playing in eight World Championships for his home nation, Irbe went 17-11-7 with a much more impressive 2.31 GAA and a .944% SP.
For what he accomplished for both his international and NHL squads you can’t argue with someone who was drafted in the 10th round of the 1989 draft by the Minnesota North Stars. Hockey fans will likely most remember Irbe for his pads that looked to be the only pair he wore his entire career and how he helped to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001-02 before losing in five games to a stacked Detroit Red Wings team.
Making the Case for Miller
The third interesting name is TSN play-by-play man Gord Miller. Canadians and other hockey fans will know Miller from his countless calls during the World Junior Hockey Championships. Miller was awarded the Paul Loicq Award by the IIHF for his outstanding contributions to International hockey.
This Boxing Day Miller will enter his 20th season covering the annual holiday tournament when the latest edition comes to Toronto and Montreal. Miller got his start with TSN back in 1990 as a reporter and covered his first world junior tournament in that role in 1993.
Fast forward two years later and Miller got his first taste as one of the voices calling the games starting with colour-commentary for the contests. It wasn’t until 2002 where Miller got his first chance at doing play-by-play for the
tournament, a position he has held ever since. Besides the WJC , Miller has also covered the Women’s World Championship and then getting the opportunity to call games for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Miller is a four-time Gemini Award (for Canadian broadcasting) nominee including for his call of the 2002 gold medal game between Canada and Sweden in the Czech Republic.
Miller will likely most resonate with hockey fans, or Canadians anyway, when he called the 2009 semi-final between Canada and Russia that saw Jordan Eberle scoring the game-tying goal in the final seconds of the third period.
Of course the IIHF Hall of Fame includes the names one would expect to find such as Gretzky, Lemieux, Bure, Forsberg, and Kurri, but the list includes many names not seminomas with hockey fans including players and builders from Belgium, Italy, Great Britain, Japan, and Romania. The three names above may be familiar with hockey fans, but my not be those you would expect to be recognized if you consider their NHL contributions.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.