No stopping these guys

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

The four-player 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame class had a combined 2,607 goals and 3,560 assists -- about as much offence as the entire Maple Leafs team the past decade.

But the most remarkable thing about Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille is they kept producing during one of the National Hockey League's most stilted, defence-oriented eras -- the trap-happy, Sun Belt expansion years.

The four will walk into the Yonge St. puck pantheon in November together knowing that the free-flow game they championed is back in vogue.

"When I came to the Rangers (in 1987), I didn't have someone putting the locks down on me," thousand-point defenceman Leetch said yesterday as their selections were announced.

New Jersey Devils president Lou Lamoriello also will enter the Hall, selected to the builders' wing.

"The way the game progressed, you didn't notice (the obstruction creeping in) until you took a step back, Leetch said. "I certainly appreciate the guys who spoke up and did something about it (creating the post-lockout 'new' NHL). It was a great playoff this year and it's only going to get better."

Robitaille, who scored 668 regular-season goals, also experienced the thrill of the go-go '80s and the reverse when netting goals seemed like mining for gold with a breadknife.

"When I came in, they put me on Marcel Dionne's line (in Los Angeles) and said: 'Go to the net, kid,' " Robitaille recalled. "Good teams always played you tight, but the biggest difference was the goalkeeping got better. It took a lot more shots to score, but good players found a way to do it."

But Yzerman, who had almost 2,000 regular-season and playoff points, thought his Red Wings teams didn't brake for the trap, they simply adapted to it.

"Detroit won three Cups in the dead-puck era," Yzerman reminded. "I thought it was a great brand of hockey. Good defensive teams win. Individually, our stats were down, but we weren't going to trade a scoring championship or a 50-goal season for a Cup."

Yzerman, Hull and Leetch were a cinch to have their Hall tickets punched this year the moment they retired in 2006.

If he didn't get in this time, Robitaille would have been on a short list, but the committee judged him more worthy than other first-year eligibles such as Dave Andreychuk and Alex Mogilny.

Leetch was driving south of the border yesterday when he saw the 416 area code and pulled over to get the news.

Yzerman, a Wings executive, was in a salary-cap meeting when he found out and Robitaille was in his Kings business office when he got the call.

Hull heard just before boarding a plane to Montreal last night where he'll represent the Stars at a governors meeting at the draft.

ELITE COMPANY

Bobby and Brett Hull become the second father-son team in the Hall's player wing behind Lester and Lynn Patrick. Brett's 741 goals rank third in league history behind Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe.

"Brett was a good all-round player," Yzerman said. "We killed penalties together. A lot of his (strengths) went unnoticed because he was a great shooter."

---

CLASS OF 2009

BRETT HULL

- Age: 44

- Born: Belleville

- Hall Pass: Played 19 seasons with Calgary, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix ... 741 goals, third in NHL history ... Won two Stanley Cups ... Beat out Wayne Gretzky for the 1991 Hart Trophy.

BRIAN LEETCH

- Age: 41

- Born: Corpus Christi, Tex.

- Hall Pass: Has more than 1,000 NHL points ... Won the Calder Trophy, two Norris Trophys and the 1994 Cup ... First U.S. player to win Conn Smythe Trophy.

LUC ROBITAILLE

- Age: 43

- Born: Montreal

- Hall Pass: Played 18 seasons with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Detroit ... An eight-time first- or second-team all-star ... Had 668 goals, a record for an NHL left winger ... Won 2002 Cup with Wings.

STEVE YZERMAN

- Age: 44

- Born: Cranbrook, B.C.

- Hall Pass: Chosen fourth overall by Detroit in 1983 ... At 18, youngest player in an all-star game, captain of Wings at 21 ... Holds team record with 1,063 assists and 155-point season ... Won five trophies, three Stanley Cups, Canada Cup, Olympic gold.

LOU LAMORIELLO

- Age: 66

- Born: Providence, R.I.

- Hall Pass: Coached Providence College 15 years ... Founder and Commissioner of NCAA Hockey East ... Took dual role as president and GM of New Jersey Devils in 1987-88 ... Won three Cups ... GM of Team USA when it won the 1996 World Cup.


Videos

Photos