NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, pioneering black player Willie O'Ree and Martin Brodeur, the league's all-time winningest goaltender, top the latest class for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Bettman has been commissioner since 1993, during which time the NHL has expanded its footprint across North America and increased to 31 teams. During Bettman's tenure, the league has gone from a $437 million business to one with almost $5 billion in revenue.
O'Ree was the first black player in the NHL but he will be the third inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Edmonton Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr and Canadian women's national team captain Angela James. O'Ree, a native of Fredericton, New Brunswick in eastern Canada, made his NHL debut in 1958 as a call-up for the Boston Bruins. The winger put up four goals and 10 assists in 45 NHL games during the 1957-58 and 1960-61 seasons despite being 95 percent blind in his right eye.
Now 82, O'Ree works for the NHL as diversity ambassador in the league's "Hockey is for Everyone" initiative. Sixty years after he broke the league's color barrier, there are now about two dozen black players currently on NHL rosters.
The 46-year-old Brodeur was a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils who was elected in his first year of eligibility as the goalie with the most wins, shutouts and games played in NHL history.
The Montreal native was the last real standup goaltender as the position moved almost exclusively to the butterfly technique, and his puck-handling prowess led the NHL to institute the trapezoid behind the net as a way to increase scoring.
In net, Brodeur has a league-best 369 wins and 125 shutouts in 1,266 regular-season games with the Devils and St. Louis Blues, and he won the Vezina Trophy four times. He won 113 playoff games and had a 2.02 postseason goals-against average. Brodeur also scored two regular-season goals and another in the playoffs - more than any other goalie.
The Devils retired Brodeur's No. 30 in 2016 and later that year unveiled a statue of his famous salute outside their arena in Newark. Sharks forward Joel Ward said that same year the NHL should retire O'Ree's No. 22 like Major League Baseball has with Jackie Robinson's No. 42, which he wears as a tribute to the player who broke baseball's color barrier.