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HOCKEY HALL OF FAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 28, 2007
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome you to the 2007 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction media conference call. There will be an opportunity to hear from all our inductees this year. Hopefully we'll have them all on the line, and at end of the conference call we'll have an opportunity for questions and answer questioners. Without further ado, I'd like to introduce the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
BILL HAY: It's a pleasure for me to welcome members of the media on this occasion with such an outstanding group that are new inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame. As most of you are aware, the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee consists of roughly six media, six players and six managers.
I would like to mention that Jimmie Gregory is on a leave of absence, and he for many years has been an outstanding chairman of the selection committee and in his place we have asked Pat Quinn to help us with the selection committee and this call.
PAT QUINN: I had opportunity to work with individuals who work with all aspects of our game. The task of the selection committee is one that all 18 members take very seriously. Today we considered a number of worthy candidates. Today I am pleased to announce five individuals have been selected to the Hall of Fame. In the players category, the Hall is pleased to welcome Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Mark Messier and Scott Stevens. In the builder category, our 2007 inductee is Jim Gregory.
Our first player inductee hails from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario where he played for the Greyhounds. Before being drafted -- (line drop).
RON FRANCIS: Certainly over the years I got to spend a lot of time playing against Mark and Scott now, and appreciate just how great of hockey players they were. And Jim I've known for a long time over the years, I think the committee made another excellent selection with Jim and I'm honored to go in with Jim also.
The last thing I'd like to say is that I would not be on this conference call today if it was not for a lot of the teammates I've played with over my career. There was a lot of great players that made it possible for me to be on this conference call today, and without their help I wouldn't be here.
So thanks to all of the guys I played with over my career.
BILL HAY: Very nicely said, Ron.
Our second player inductee was born in 1963 in Fort Hood, Nova Scotia and was a member of a Memorial Cup Championship Team in Kitchener before beginning his 23-year NHL career with Calgary and St. Louis. A member of Calgary's 1989 Stanley Cup winning team and seven-time first or second team NHL All-Star, he was also known for winning the league's slapshot competition, winning that seven times. The Hockey Hall of Fame is pleased to welcome our first-ever member from Nova Scotia, Al MacInnis.
AL MACINNIS: Thank you, Bill.
First I want to thank you and Pat Quinn and the rest of the Hall of Fame selection committee for making this certainly probably the most special day a guy could have. It's just a thrill to be part of it. It's a privilege for me to be entering the Hall of Fame with this group of inductees, Mark Messier, Scott, Ron Francis and Jim Gregory. It's going to be a special day and I look forward to November 12.
As Ron says, when you reflect back, there's so many people to thank from family members to teammates to coaches to the teams that I've played for, the Calgary Flames and the St. Louis Blues. Again, it's a special day and I'm honored and it's a privilege.
PAT QUINN: Our third inductee is a native of St. Albert, Alberta and began his professional career in 1978 with the WHA Cincinnati Stingers before joining the NHL and starting his career with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979. In 12 seasons with the Oilers, he won five Stanley Cups, then moved to the New York Rangers and captained them to the 1994 Cup Championships. A multiple Hart Trophy winner his number 11 is retired in both Edmonton and New York. The Hockey Hall of Fame is pleased to welcome as a player inductee, Mark Messier.
Now, Mark is not available on the call right now. It's his 50th anniversary and they are celebrating for his parents and they are on a boat in the Bahamas someplace, and hopefully he will maybe join us before the call is over, but if not, we'll set something up in the future so that media is able to talk to Mark about this wonderful day.
Our fourth player inductee was born in 1964 in Kitchener, Ontario and played junior hockey for the hometown Kitchener Rangers before being drafted fifth overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1982 entry draft in the NHL. He played eight seasons for the Capitals before signing as a free agent with St. Louis in 1990. After one season in St. Louis, he moved to the New Jersey Devils where in 13 seasons, he led the team to three Stanley Cup Championships and was the Con Smythe winner in 2000.
A five-time first NHL All-Star and second All-Star, he leads the NHL in all time games played by a defenseman with 1,635. The Hockey Hall of Fame is pleased to welcome as a player inductee, Scott Stevens. Congratulations, Scott.
SCOTT STEVENS: Thank you very much, Pat. And thank you Bill Hay and the Hall of Fame committee. This is a very special day, and I think that when you're growing up as a kid, you definitely dream of winning the Stanley Cup. And I guess one more thing you think about is maybe having an opportunity to make it to the Hall of Fame, and I feel very fortunate and honored to be inducted along with the great players like Al MacInnis, Ron Francis, Mark Messier, and also Jim Gregory. It's just a special day.
I know the other guys touched on it, there's a lot of people that made this possible to reach this place in hockey. And obviously parents and teammates, there's no question I would not be here without them. And I'm looking forward to this night. It's capped a long year off, a long career, and something that's very special.
BILL HAY: The Hockey Hall of Fame is pleased to also welcome a very outstanding individual in the builder category. He grew up in Dunnville, Ontario and in 1953 moved to St. Michaels College in Toronto to attend school. His contributions to the game came not on the ice surface but in team and league operations. He worked his way up from the junior levels to the NHL and becoming GM on the Maple Leafs in 1969. After the Maple Leafs, his career continued at the league level as head of NHL's central scouting to his current position as senior vice president of hockey operations for the NHL. The Hockey Hall of Fame is pleased to welcome Jim Gregory in the builder category. Congratulations, Jimmy.
JIM GREGORY: Thank you, Bill. I can't tell you how flabbergasted I was when I got the call from you this morning. And I'd like to congratulate the unbelievable list of people what's names were just read on and the contributions they have made to hockey throughout the year, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Mark Messier. And to be inducted in the Hall of Fame and have the privilege of being inducted at a time with these gentlemen is unbelievable and it's mind-boggling. I can't thank everybody enough, all of the members of the selection committee.
Like the other gentlemen, I tried to work in hockey to help as much as I can, as I could over the years, and I had more help given to me than I gave and I could list -- the list could go on and on and on, but it's just unbelievable and I can't thank you enough.
Q. First my questions are for Ron, Al and Scott. Given that you guys all have played for Team Canada, what does it mean to be going in as a group of Canadians into the Hall of Fame?
RON FRANCIS: Well, I think anybody who is born is Canada, you grow up being extremely proud of your hockey heritage. You know, the NHL is a huge part of Canada and certainly understanding how important hockey is to the people of Canada and how important the Hockey Hall of Fame is; to be able to walk into the Hall of Fame as a Canadian, it's a great thrill and something I'm very proud of.
AL MacINNIS: Obviously with the Hockey Hall of Fame being in Toronto, the heartbeat of hockey, and being Canadian, growing up with all of the same dreams as most kids have, it's obviously very special and it's even more special when you know the guys personally and playing with these guys sometime throughout our careers.
SCOTT STEVENS: No question, I played with Ron and Al and Mark, so it's very special going in with them, there's no question about that, all great hockey players and classy guys on and off the ice. So that's been great.
Obviously Canada, there's no question it's the heartbeat of hockey and just a lot of fond memories playing on the outdoor rinks. I'm sure Mark and Al can contribute to that. I remember just playing hockey with my brothers, street hockey 24/7 and that's what growing up in Canada was all about.
Q. Has there been any consideration given to releasing the results of the votes to the public?
PAT QUINN: No. There is no such thing and there never has been. And we really under confidentiality speak only about the inductees this we're talking to now.
Q. Jim, I was wondering if you could recollect some of your days in Vancouver.
JIM GREGORY: Well, that's easier to do -- Mr. Gallagher, and I remember them very, very well. Part of my training was in Vancouver and I was fortunate enough to be associated with very many hockey players who influenced me and particularly Tony Esposito.
But the thing that I remember the most about Vancouver is how many games we didn't win. (Laughing) It was tough. I used to joke, we opened the new building, we played in the old Vancouver arena in the Forum and then in February, we opened -- we played at an interlocking schedule with the American Hockey League and I was coaching the team. We were struggling to make the last playoff spot with Phoenix and Vancouver. The opening game was a sellout and I believe we played Baltimore, and we got beat. I remember how disappointed everybody was, and I was talking to Huey Watson (ph), if you remember him, and my good friend Tom Marschott (ph) in Vancouver and told them, please help pull me out of the fires' they are burning me. If anybody has a to chance to work in Vancouver, stay in Vancouver, work in Vancouver, it's a place that God made and it's beautiful. That's my memory.
Q. Ron, a couple things, where were you when you got the call? I know your parents are very big part of your life; was that the first phone call you made? And maybe talk a little about coming to Carolina and kind of putting hockey on the map in North Carolina.
RON FRANCIS: Thanks. I was actually at home when I got the phone call around lunchtime down here. They told me I was not allowed to talk to anybody until 3:30, but I must admit I broke that rule and did call my parents. But they weren't there, my brother had some minor surgery today, so when they got home we talked and they are very excited about this also.
Coming to Carolina back when I did, a lot of people looked at me a little funny, but you know, it's been everything I hoped it would be. I came down to an area that the people are extremely friendly. It has a lot to offer. The only thing is that now the secret is now and now people are understanding what a great place it is to live and there's a huge influx of people.
But it has not disappointed me. The whole organization Mr. Karmanos, Mr. Rutherford, has treated me great over the years and still work, with them today. Very proud to be part of it and see hockey growing in this market and think it will be successful for a long time.
Q. I did not realize you were the first person selected to the Hall of Fame from Nova Scotia, I think you were raised in Cape Breton, with Sydney Crosby hopefully you won't be the last to make it to the Hall of Fame. Can you talk about an area that has not produced hockey players and maybe your hopes that this might spur some more players to take the game seriously there?
AL MacINNIS: You know, I certainly am proud of where I come from. Honestly I wasn't aware of being the first Nova Scotian until Mr. Bill Hay told me that this morning. Obviously I'm very proud of that accomplishment and you know, with the players coming out of there today, the likes of Sydney Crosby, it's not going to last long.
So I actually told Sydney at the awards in Vancouver last year, I was kind of upset because someone mentioned to me that I was maybe the top player that ever came out of Nova Scotia and I worked 23 years to get that; and it ended after four months of Sydney Crosby being in the NHL. We got a good chuckle out of it.
But you know, again I'm very proud of it. I think with the addition of some of the Quebec Junior Hockey League teams going into the Maritime's, Halifax, we are seeing more and more players coming out of that area and I'm sure we will be for a long time.
Q. Wondering when you guys handicapped your chances of getting in, which were obviously excellent, but the fact that there are so many great players available this year, the obvious man out is Igor Larionov; your thoughts about the four of you getting in deservingly but a guy like him getting the short end of the stick today.
AL MacINNIS: The Hall of Fame, you know, I've said for the last couple of days, it's a tough place to get into. With the players that were available to get in this year, not only for the first-time players that were eligible, but the players in the past, the last number of years trying to get in still; it's a very impressive list.
I wasn't going to hold my breath. I know there's a lot of great players out there. Larionov is a world-class player that will eventually get in the Hockey Hall of Fame. That's why it is called the Hockey Hall of Fame because it's open to anybody and any nation at. Again, I was thrilled to get the call today to be inducted and it's an honor.
SCOTT STEVENS: Obviously I feel for a lot of those players. There's a lot of players that deserve to be in there today, but hopefully that will come soon and Igor is no exception. He's a great individual, and I had an opportunity to play with him and play against him many times over in Europe. And he's just one of the best players I've played against and one of the best persons, people I've played with alongside.
So hopefully next year he'll get in and I wish him all the best.
RON FRANCIS: Obviously this is a tough day. When you look at who they had to pick from, there's a lot of great names, Igor being one of them.
I don't think it's a question of whether he'll get in; it's just when. Unfortunately this year there's just a whole bunch of guys up for the position. I think as Al and Scott said, he certainly deserves the honor and some day he'll be a part of it.
Q. Ron, you spent the better part of a decade here. What's your most enduring memory of your time in Pittsburgh, and who do you think that you played with in Pittsburgh who isn't in the Hall yet that might join you in the years to come?
RON FRANCIS: Well, tough question. Certainly I think having the opportunity to complete a dream and win the Stanley Cup, I remember jumping over the boards, it was as good as it gets and it's getting better with each passing day and that's true to this point. I think being able to accomplish that and knowing how tough it is for a group of guys to come together and accomplish that feat is still probably the most special hockey moment.
A few guys on that team are already on there, obviously Mario and Paul Cowsi (ph) and Larry Murphy and Tommy Brasseau (ph) is sitting on the sidelines and had a great career. There's some guys coming down the road, Jagr and potentially Mark Recchi. So I guess that's a reason why we had that kind of success. We had a lot of good players on that hockey club. It's hard to say which one, but you know, I think probably the safest bet is Jaromir Jagr.
Q. Scott, do you think that Mario Lemieux will eventually make it to the Hall of Fame?
SCOTT STEVENS: Yes, I do, there's no question, he's a unique player, very strong player, great player under pressure. Like Ron touched on it's such a strong year, I feel fortunate to be inducted my first time but I know it won't be long before you see Lemieux and Igor and Adam, I had the privilege to play with those guys and know what they mean to a team and I have respect for all of them. Adam I played with him one year and he's probably the best playmaker I ever played with and Igor was the same type of player, a great playmaker, very unselfish with the puck like Adam. So I don't see it being very long before they are all in the Hall of Fame.
Q. You played a lot of big games against Scott Stevens; can you describe him as a player?
RON FRANCIS: Yeah, he's big, strong, physical. The one game that still sticks out in my mind that probably a lot of people may not remember was the game that Canada lost to the U.S. 3-2 in the third game, it was like in the late 90s, I can't remember the exact year.
I was in the stands watching it and just what a complete game, did he everything, offensively, defensively, physical, bad willing. It was like a player possessed, just that sort of driven competitive nature. You knew that Scott Stevens was going to come and play as hard as he was going to play every single night, and you knew what to expect from him. I think as a player that's probably the ultimate compliment when you say that this guy doesn't take a night off, and he never did.
Q. We heard from Ron where he was when he heard the announcement; can we go through the panel and find through each of you what you were doing and where you were when you found out about your induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame?
AL MacINNIS: I was home, and I knew that I was going to be notified sometime early afternoon. So I was just home here with one of my boys and I was told not to say anything, and I didn't and I kept it a secret.
SCOTT STEVENS: I was just cleaning -- I was at home here and I was kind of expecting a call and I'm very fortunate that call came. So that's what I was up to. Still don't have the floor done yet.
JIM GREGORY: Well, I was in Dublin, Ontario last night with my family celebrating a 50th anniversary and my wife and I were driving home and I got a call from Kelly Masse and she had Mr. Hay on the phone. And I had been involved with the Hall of Fame for many years, and I have to admit I forgot that today was the day that they were having the selection just because of what was going on.
And when I got the call, I just was flabbergasted. I had to pull over and my wife and I really enjoyed the moment. It was fantastic.
Q. Wonder if you could for the three players, if you could tell us what it is that you do now that consumes most of your time away from the NHL.
SCOTT STEVENS: I have a couple of kids in high school, so busy with them, going to their different sporting events and driving them to school. Also I'm in the midst of renovating an old farmhouse and planting a garden this year and looking after a couple lawns, and that keeps me busy. There's not enough time in the day.
AL MacINNIS: I've been working closely with our president of the League, John Davidson and the general manager, Larry Pleau in hockey operations. You would think with the season being over it would slow down, but it doesn't. The last couple of weeks we were getting ready for the draft and the next couple of days we are getting ready for free agency and it's keeping my busy and hours of much longer with management than as a player.
RON FRANCIS: I took a position with the Hurricanes last November as director of player development. So I work with Jim Rutherford and Mr. Karmanos as well as Tom Roenner (ph) the farm system. But basically all of the kids we have drafted in our system trying to get them to our parent club here in Carolina.
Q. Could you tell us what it was like to work under Harold Ballard (ph)?
JIM GREGORY: He was a flamboyant character. I started my year in junior hockey before there was a draft when you had to go out and try to get the players to sign a contract to play in your organization. I had a great gentleman who helped me, Bob Davidson, and Stafford Smythe, and Harold was involved with a team but didn't have a lot to say until Mr. Smythe died. In '72, I was the manager.
I think he certainly -- you could say that a lot of things Harold did was erratic. I think there was some -- I think there was some history behind that if you knew what was going on and all of the things that were going on with the business part of it. Most of the time, he wasn't hard to work with. Once in awhile he tried to get his hands and feet and arms and legs and everything in it and it was difficult.
But when you're working in hockey and in a place like Toronto and the passion that's involved, you want to win so badly, and I think that's what consume him. He wanted to win. He wasn't patient a lot of the times but I can honestly say, and people who were around at that time watched what was going on; it wasn't as difficult as a lot of people painted it to be, but there certainly were moments.
I think if you ask anybody who has been in management, they have had those kind of moments, maybe not quite as many. But I enjoyed all of my time working at the Maple Leafs Gardens and for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just sorry that it wasn't able to be more successful.
Q. Al, when did you ever think that you were going to come into consideration? At what point does it ever occur to you that you would be a candidate?
AL MacINNIS: Well, I guess probably not until near the end of my career. Starting out obviously in Calgary, Fletcher being the manager, had to be pretty patient with a junk defenseman who wasn't that great going in.
But I think like any player stepping into the National Hockey League you want to become the most complete player, the most consistent player you can be. I felt after a few years I did that and just as time goes on, you get to be lucky enough to play some great teams and some great teammates and you're able to put up some numbers and these guys help you accomplish a Stanley Cup and a few individual awards.
I think just overtime and the longevity, you know, you think near the end, well, this day might come, but you never want to hold your breath. Again, it's quite an honor and it's an exciting day. It's hard to explain.
Q. To Bill and Pat, without using numbers, if you could just speak to how difficult the choices were this year in general terms; is that possible?
PAT QUINN: Well, it is possible. As everyone knows there was a number of players eligible this year beyond the number that we could have put in. The deliberations were strong, and as Bill said at the outset it might have been one of the best meetings that he's been part of since 1980.
But we're very proud of the group that was selected today, and as bylaws state, they are the maximum number in and they are all tremendous selections.
Q. Ron, and Scott, you're going into the Hall with a guy in Scott, we've all seen the video of the hit; have you ever watched it?
RON FRANCIS: I lived it. I didn't have to watch it. (Laughter)?
Q. Does that prove to you that the guy was going to the haul for something?
RON FRANCIS: I don't know the exact number but seal like every time we got into the playoffs we had to go through Scott and jersey, or is teamed that way in Carolina. I don't know the exact number of games we've played over each other over the years but you didn't have to convince me or spend too much time trying to convince me he was deserving of this honor. I now how good of a player he was and probably fortunate the amount of times we played each other that it only happened once.
But he's certainly a good player.
Q. Scott, where would that have ranked in your -- I know TSN has your top ten hits and that's on there, I don't know if you keep a list but was that one of your better ones.
SCOTT STEVENS: I don't know, I just know that Ron Francis, he's such a heads-up player and a great person. It was unfortunate it happened but like I say, I have a lot of respect for Ron and he's a class individual. I'm not sure where it ranked. I haven't really even looked at it myself.
Q. You played with a guy in Rob Langley; a lot of times, people are quick to look at offensive numbers of defensemen that go into the Hall. Do you think that with guys like yourself and Ron, that shows that there is a lot of room for all-around defensemen that were as good on their own ends as the other team's?
SCOTT STEVENS: Absolutely. The physical part of the game is very important and good defense just like offense, you need a good combination of everything and a good combination of different players and character to make a good team.
So I think it should be open for all different types of players and what they bring to their team and what they have done to help teams win Stanley Cups.
Q. You just mentioned Ronny is a heads-up player; and Al, if you can comment on Ron, too, as far as what kind of player he was, how heavy he was on the ice.
SCOTT STEVENS: Well, just once again, a great playmaker. And his own unselfishness on the ice is what you see most. He would rather make a nice pass and set someone else up than score the goal himself than take credit. I have a lot of respect for guys like that, team guy and puts the team first and individual stuff is secondary.
To play as long as he did, he's a big, strong guy, great on draws and just one of the smartest players I played against on the ice, just knew where to be and knew where everyone was on the ice much like Wayne Gretzky.
AL MacINNIS: Well, you bring up Ronny's name and what comes to mind is, again, a complete player and he's one of a handful of players where a coach could look down the bench and put him in any game in any situation at any time, whether you needed a goal late in the game, a power player, you're defending a one-goal lead, you're killing a penalty, you need a big faceoff, those are the things that come to mind when you talk about Ronny Francis. Just a complete player and I'm sure every coach would love to have him.
Q. Ron, what is it like there today, is it a big deal that you're going in? I know there are other guys in the haul from there but how big of a deal is it at home?
RON FRANCIS: I'm not sure. I guess I'll call my parents and find out. It's a steel town. Obviously they have had a lot of hockey players come out of there; the Esposito brothers are probably the two most well known.
But it's a city that's proud of its hockey heritage. And having grown up there and coming through the Minor League system and the Greyhound organization it's a proud moment for everybody associated and I'm proud to be able to represent Sault Ste. Marie in the Hall of Fame.
Q. Do you think Paul Maurice is proud of you today?
RON FRANCIS: I hope so.
Q. Another Sault Ste. Marie guy.
RON FRANCIS: He should be proud of it. As both Al and Scott mentioned, you don't get here without a lot of people and it's not only the players, but it's the coaches and it's the managers and the owners and the trainers and the doctors and there's a lot of people that sort of go into this. There's a lot of people that should feel good about themselves because they helped all of us get to where we are today. It's an accomplishment for a lot of people.
Q. Since Mark is not here, we can't ask Mark any questions, I want your opinion on Mark Messier getting into the Hall of Fame and what you thought about playing against him.
AL MacINNIS: Mark's reputation obviously is the right one, I mean, as far as maybe being if not the best leader in the game for many, many years, everybody talked about the stare; I'm sure that stare not only went for his own teammates but also went to a lot of players that played against him.
Just, again, another great leader, complete player. He could change the momentum of a game with his skill level and his physical attributes; making a great play. All of the rewards Mark has received are well deserving and one of the top players to ever play the game.
RON FRANCIS: For me, that was probably what I'll mention. The first two things that came to mind, just the amount of ability he had: The shot, skating, his passing, he could hit. He was a complete player.
And having had to go face him in numerous faceoffs, I know exactly what Al was mentioning when he said "the stare." You could see the look in his eyes when you came in. He meant business when he was taking a faceoff against you.
I think the big thing for me in addition to what he did on the ice, I got to know him a little bit off the ice, just a tremendous human being and how he handled himself and his willingness to do stuff for different charities and help out wherever needed. You know, obviously, I think it was a slam dunk that he was going in today. You know, for me, having had the pleasure of playing against him for all those years, not only as a player, but getting to know him as a person, too, makes it even more special for me to go in with a guy like that.
SCOTT STEVENS: Well, I don't know if there's anything else to say but no question, like Ron said, slam dunk; just a complete player. I think that's probably one of the things with guys going into Hall of Fame is being all around players and playing in any situation and no question Mark could play in any situation and do it with the best of them out there. Strong, physical, great, could score goals, set up goals and really not much he could not do; skate, just a great, complete player, a winner everywhere he went. No question, very easy decision for the committee.
Q. Scott and Al, you guys were junior teammates, what about the other did you notice at a young age that you felt they were going to be a pretty good player in this league?
AL MacINNIS: I'll start out by saying that I already had a year of junior under my belt in Kitchener before the local kid came on board in Scott Stevens. You could tell that Scott was one of these defensemen that was going to be a force out on the ice. He's well known for his open ice hits and that started back in junior.
I could tell you, I remember one night in Niagara falls, we were playing, and Paul Gillis, who played a bit in the National Hockey League came across the blue line with his head down and Scott met him at the blue line. And I can remember like yesterday, I said, "If that guy gets up and plays again, I'll be amazed." From that day on, Scott had that competitive drive in him and just knew he had to play one year of junior before he moved on to the pro level. That's how physical and mature he was.
We were all right, and he turned out to be a Hall of Famer.
SCOTT STEVENS: Thank, Al. Like Al said he had a year under his belt but no question we had a great team and I enjoyed playing with Al. Al obviously was always gifted offensively, even a big shot in Kitchener, I can remember that was a big part of us winning the Memorial Cup. Al, he worked hard, he had to work hard for everything he's earned and that probably goes back to his background.
But the way he developed quickly in all aspects of the game, the defensive part, the offensive part, he just really quickly became a great all around player and probably one of the best defensemen to ever play. But just very smart and picked up things very quickly. I'm sure a lot of people said, well, he can't play defense, but it turns out he learned that very quick and he was just a heck of an all-around defensemen and like I said, one of the best to play.
Q. What are your memories of your first training camp as an 18-year-old in Hartford?
RON FRANCIS: I remember there was a guy in our lineup by the name of Dave Keon who I had grown up admiring and I got to skate on the ice with him. Gordie Howe was still living there and he would come out and screw around with us and practice. Those were all things as a kid growing up that you watched these guys play and you aspire to play in that league and to be on the same sheet of ice with these guys was a great feeling.
I really enjoyed my time at Hartford. I had a lot of fun.
Q. Looking back on the trade, what was your reaction initially? Obviously it worked out well for you, but when you first heard about it, what was your initial reaction?
RON FRANCIS: Well, you know, we had just had our first child, about four weeks old and my wife had a C-section. So the trade probably couldn't have come at a worse time for us at home. And I had been at Hartford almost ten years and felt like I had kind of grown up in the city. Obviously it was very tough for me to leave.
Three months later we win the Stanley Cup, win another one next year; obviously it was a move that turned out to be very good for me from a career standpoint. But at the moment, it was tough to take.
Q. Last week the NHL held it's entry draft for young teenage hockey players in Columbus, Ohio, saw Al there working the table with the St. Louis Blues, that he that's something that you and your good friend, Frank Pinello (ph), created out of nothing out of your vision; can you talk about what pride you must have in setting up a permanent department of the National Hockey League and turning it over to EJ McGuire and the good grew there now.
JIM GREGORY: Wow, you give me credit for something that I was involved with. But the original idea for the entry draft started with the original six owners back in 1963 or '64, and I believe this was a feeling that Montreal and Toronto were getting all of the good players and the other teams were having one heck of a time signing anybody and I think Stafford Smythe was the originator of trying to follow the other sports people into starting the entry draft which started in the 60s.
Central scouting I was involved with and the general manager is the one that started and I was fortunate enough when I was let go by the Leafs to get a job with Mr. John Ziggler and Brian O'Neill phoned me and I took a job to get involved with central scouting. And while I was there, I had an opportunity to sign Frank Pinello to look after the job that I was doing and moved on to do a new job in hockey operations, and it's really been a pride of all of us.
I have to also mention that the managers that were involved at the time Bill Torre and Ira Shindon (ph) particularly, Neil Francis who helped get central scouting started, and the first person who was director was Jack Button who did an unbelievable job and myself and Frank and now EJ have just tried to continue that good practice that Mr. Button started and help the teams in every way we can. I think that particularly in the last few years, it's been very rewarding and successful operation of everybody.
Q. Earlier I think you said last night you celebrated your 50th wedding anniversary. Could you say your wife's name again, please?
JIM GREGORY: No, we were at a family member's 50th anniversary. It wasn't ours. We're close to that but not there yet. My wife's name is Rosalie, and she was in the car with me when I got this beautiful call.
I also can't go out saying, like everybody else saying, all of the sacrifices that everybody, your children and your in-laws and your brothers and sisters make for people who are in hockey, and I want to thank them and hope they hear what I'm saying.
BILL HAY: We're pleased to have Mark join the call. I'd like to call on Pat Quinn to officially welcome Mark to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
PAT QUINN: Mark, I have a task that Bill Hay would normally conduct, and that is to inform you and welcome you as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a player inductee for this year. And the committee is proud on their behalf and I'm proud to welcome you aboard and wish you congratulations and also congratulation to your folks on their 50th, as well.
MARK MESSIER: Thank you very much. Like everybody else, it's obviously a tremendous honor to be grouped in with the people that were there before me and I thank the committee for counting me in for this year's balloting. We are down here for my mother and father's 50th anniversary. I guess it makes it even more of a special day.
JIM GREGORY: Congratulations on a well-deserved honor.
MARK MESSIER: Thank you very much, Jim. As well, yourself.
Q. This is a question for Mr. Hay, and maybe Pat Quinn as well, and as I ask it, I'm a little worried about the backlash because I don't think that there's anybody in their right mind in hockey that would argue against Jim Gregory being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I think everybody agrees Jim Gregory should be in there; he's had a remarkable career and done some great things, but that's not where my quarrel is. I'm just wondering, though, of the timing of it. I'm wondering how the Hockey Hall of Fame can justify inducting its selection committee chairman while he's still active. I know he's taken a leave by the timing seems rather curious to say the least.
PAT QUINN: Well, Mr. Hay is not available. Basically our corporate bylaws provide that an active member of the selection committee is eligible for nomination and election into the honored membership and is subject to a three-step procedure.
One, the submission of an official nomination by a member of the selection committee to the chairman of the board.
Then, two, the approval of at least 12 members of the selection committee through a confidential screening process.
And if the nomination is approved, the person nominated is advised and has the option to stand for election and take a leave of absence from the selection committee or otherwise withdraw from the nomination.
And Mr. Gregory's case, an official nomination was received on January 10, 20007, and subsequent to the screening process he confirmed acceptance April 6 of 2007. I hope that provides a good answer.
JIM GREGORY: Could I add to that? My reason for my resignation or asking for a leave of absence was in regards to my health and had nothing to do with the fact I didn't know that I had been nominated when I called the Hall, the doctor had suggested I get out of the activities that I was in and for the benefit of my health.
It didn't happen the way the bylaws allow it. It happened because of my health, basically.
Q. So, Jim, when did you take your leave of absence?
JIM GREGORY: In January. I don't know when or who put in my nomination, but I don't believe there was any nomination there before I resigned, and I resigned at the doctor's request.
Q. Mark, wondered if you could talk about the amazing depth of the class this year, the three guys joining you in the players category.
MARK MESSIER: Well, we were just talking about that the other day, how many great players that came into the league from the early to the mid 80s and went on to have unbelievable careers and some of the best players that have ever played the game.
I think we are starting to see witness to that now when the Hall of Fame ballots are eligible. We started an era that produced some amazing players and players that had incredibly long careers, as well with numerous Stanley Cups to go along with them.
It was a great time to come into the League, and tremendous competition, and I have a lot of respect for all of the guys that got inducted this year. I think their stats and what they have done alone stand for themselves.
Q. If you have to select, will you go in as an Oiler or as a Ranger?
MARK MESSIER: Well, I'm not going to hopefully have to make that decision. I felt my career was really defined in Edmonton from the first 12 years of my career, and obviously for the 12 years that I spent in, or I should say, the ten years I spent in New York.
Unfortunately the time that I spent in Vancouver, we never had the success that we were hoping to. But I think that hopefully they can sew a jersey together and split it down the middle there and I can go in as both.
PAT QUINN: Mark, that is a good answer. But players and other inductees are not required to go in as an Oiler or a Ranger or whatever it is. And especially in today's game, players that are Hall of Famers that have played for a number of organizations, it's not required at all. Their hearts are going to be in all of the places that they were a part of.
MARK MESSIER: Well, I think that's obviously a great idea and as you see, there's more and more movement than there ever has been in the league. It would make it awful difficult. There would be some hurt feelings, and I don't think that's what this is all about.
As you had mentioned, Pat, it's about being a hockey player and wherever you had the fortune of praying through your career is hopefully you had some success but if not, at least you did your best and tried your best and that's what I thought I tried to do throughout my career.
Q. Talk about the trade from St. Louis.
SCOTT STEVENS: Everything happens for a reason and it turned out very well for my career and for my family coming to New Jersey and winning the three Stanley Cups. But there's no question St. Louis is a great hockey town and I met some great people and great fans. I missed St. Louis a lot but everything happens for a reason and it worked out well. There are a lot of good people here in New Jersey and I'm still living here in New Jersey and just very honored to play for them and be a part of three Stanley Cups.
Q. How does it feel to beat Lou into the Hockey Hall of Fame?
SCOTT STEVENS: That's the first time I've beat him at anything. I don't know, he'll definitely be there. He's one heck of a GM and I have a lot of respect for him.
Q. What do you think your legacy in the National Hockey League?
MARK MESSIER: I don't know. I mean, that's always been something that's been difficult for me to talk about is the way I was viewed and what kind of player I was. I think that should be left to, you know, the fans and the people that have opinions and what makes our game so special is the fans are important.
I don't really know. I think it's obvious that when we won our first Cup in 1984 that that was a real reason that we were playing for each and every year, and I think that continued to my last year. I think what you realize early or maybe later in your career is that you're going to have for more failures than your successes if you count those championships.
But what I learned to do through the years is enjoy the process of any winning season, and so when we didn't win, it wasn't such a complete disaster in my own mind, anyways. And still really kind of enjoyed working towards a Stanley Cup. If we were not able to win, there were some good things that came about. In the end trying to win Stanley Cups was I guess what myself and Scotty and Ronny and all of the guys were playing for towards the end of their careers and probably even at the start of their careers.
Q. A lot of people say leaders are made; they are not born -- were you --
MARK MESSIER: I don't know if somebody is born to be a leader. I was fortunate to have great people around me and starting with a great family and mother and father and will teach you I guess the early lessons in life.
But I think that you have to be surrounded by good people and I think you have to be in good position to have learned from your mistakes and be successful and be astute enough to learn as you go along and obviously that's what I tried to do.
Q. Looking back at that first Cup victory it sort of came on the heels of the Islanders dynasty and you got to see what they went through to win firsthand in 1983, how much did you learn from that experience that you were able to take with you?
MARK MESSIER: Well, they were a great measuring stick not only for us but for the rest of the National Hockey League. They were on the way to becoming a dynasty, or they already were a dynasty. I guess they had won four straight and on the way to winning another one. They had beaten us twice along the road to those can you please and we felt that if we were going to win a Cup, the road to the Cup was through the New York Islanders.
So we studied them long and hard for many years, not only from a team standpoint but from an individual standpoint and what they were doing and why they were successful and all those kinds of things. In the end, you know, I mean, we really held them responsible for the way -- the maturation of our team, not only as a team but as individuals, as well.
Q. Scott, your game changed dramatically over the course of your career, you started off and you were much more offensive oriented and you got into your fair share of fights and over the course of your career you became more of a stabilizing presence; was there anyone in particular who got through to you and said, hey, this is how your game needs to change?
SCOTT STEVENS: Well, there was no question -- inaudible -- my first coach in Washington and I guess it's probably my third year and he just said, you can't be in the penalty box, as much as you enjoy fighting and the physical part. He wanted me to stay on the ice more and have a bigger role in the power play so that was probably where that all changed.
Going back to the defensive part, you know, I think that's what championships are made of is the sacrifices and I've been fortunate to play on three teams that had a lot of individual sacrifice and give up certain things to win Stanley Cups and I think that's what it takes to win and very happy with my role and the results.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much to all of the inductees for taking so much time. And thanks very much, Mark, for motoring back in and joining us this afternoon and again, thank you everyone for taking time out to be on the call and this concludes the 2007 media conference call for the Hall of Fame.
End of FastScripts