Zubov was artist on blue line, Larionov says
The thing that stood out most about Sergei Zubov was his creativity in a generation when that was not the norm for defensemen, say those who played against him.
“The game is unpredictable, so you can’t be playing the game like a robot. (Zubov) played the game like an artist,” said forward Igor Larionov, who was inducted into the Hall in 2008. “Every time he got the puck, he could slow down the game, he could make it faster. That’s why people would come to watch him play because the game was much more beautiful when he played.”
Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek agreed, saying Zubov was the most lethal defenseman on the power play he faced during his career.
“If not the best, he was in the top three players on the blue line offensively during his generation. He was the best on the power play, the way he handled the puck, it was something unbelievable,” Hasek said. “I remember him very well from the  Stanley Cup Final. We always prepared for him, but it wasn’t easy for our penalty kill to stop him.”
Zubov also received high praise from Brett Hull, one of the greatest shooters in NHL history.
“He’s got to be in the top three or five greatest passers that I ever saw pass the puck,” said Hull, who played with Zubov with the Dallas Stars from 1998-2001. “He had unbelievable durability. He’d play 30 minutes a night without even dropping a bead of sweat. He was kind of like [Nicklas] Lidstrom.
“It was much more fun playing with him than against him, I’ll tell you that. Out there on the power play, just get yourself open. It was always right in your wheelhouse. It certainly made my job easier.”
— Nick Cotsonika and Dave McCarthy
Wickenheiser was Gretzky of women’s hockey, Armstrong says
Doug Armstrong didn’t mince words when describing what 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Hayley Wickenheiser means to the sport.
“She is the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey,” the St. Louis Blues general manager said. “What she did for the game inspired so many young girls to follow in her footsteps.”
Armstrong was part of Hockey Canada’s management group for two consecutive Olympic gold medals by the Canada men’s team (2010 in Vancouver, 2014 in Sochi). As such, he got to know Wickenheiser better while Canada won women’s gold at each Olympics.
“So skilled and such a fierce competitor,” Armstrong said. “She was the complete package as a hockey player and very much deserves to be in the Hall.”
— Mike Zeisberger
Wickenheiser had dueling personas, Hefford says
There were two Wickenheisers.
“We used to joke and call her Hayley and Harley,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, who played with Wickenheiser for Canada.
Away from the rink, Wickenheiser was kind and generous. She would do anything for you.
“But when she steps in the rink and gets her equipment on, she’s like a totally different person,” Hefford said. “Some of the stories, you don’t know if you’re on her team or not. It doesn’t really matter. But you know she’s going to show up, she’s going to put her head down, and she’s going to work.”
Hefford said Wickenheiser’s defining characteristics were her intensity, competitiveness and work ethic, and how she was the face of the women’s game.
“She carried that with her for most of her career,” Hefford said. “I think that’s not an easy thing to do, but I think that’s where her mark is made, is that she was the face and she was always sort of leading the way for those that weren’t necessarily [deep into women’s hockey]. She was leading it for those in the sport, but outside of the sport, she was the one people knew.”
— Nick Cotsonika
No secret to Rutherford’s success, Cullen says
Perhaps no player has more of a connection to Rutherford than former NHL forward Matt Cullen, who played for him twice with the Carolina Hurricanes, played for him twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and won the Stanley Cup with him three times.
His favorite memory? When the Penguins won their second consecutive championship in 2017.
“It was just a little different,” Cullen said. “It was a pretty special deal, seeing that smile on his face and knowing everything he did to keep that team together and put everything together.”
Cullen said it was special to have a guy in his corner who had his best interests at heart, but …
“I think there’s a lot of guys that would say that,” Cullen said. “They’ve gone through a lot with him. He’s a loyal guy, and he’s as good as they come. [In retirement], I think I have a new appreciation for the level of honesty that he works with and integrity. To me, there’s no secret why he’s so successful.”
— Nick Cotsonika
Botterill: Rutherford always trading, trusting
Jim Rutherford never rested when trying to make trades.
“Every day, whether it’s a win or a loss, he’s coming up with a new idea on how to improve the team,” said Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill, who was an assistant GM under Rutherford with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rutherford would delegate responsibility and listen to his assistants, asking for opinions.
“It was great for myself, being a young person, a young executive, just trying to find my way,” Botterill said. “He gave me a ton of responsibility, overseeing the scouting staffs and Wilkes-Barre [of the American Hockey League] at the time. What I loved about him was, he trusted you. He gave you space. He wanted updates on how things were going, but he trusted you to take care of it.”
Rutherford had another quality that was perfect for the Penguins, who had Mario Lemieux as co-owner, great players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and the highest of expectations.
“Jim doesn’t get too excited about things,” Botterill said. “From day to day, one of his biggest attributes is sort of his even keel, his calmness. I think especially he was such a great fit in Pittsburgh, where you obviously had the star players, the star owners, and he brought a real calmness to the situation there.”
— Nick Cotsonika
Hull learned a lot from Carbonneau, but not everything
Guy Carbonneau and Brett Hull had a lot in common off the ice.
“We spent a lot of time together,” said Hull, who played with Carbonneau with the Dallas Stars and won the Stanley Cup with him in 1999. “When the guys would go into a city and they’d all get changed and head to Hooters, me and him would find the most expensive restaurant and treat ourselves to a good meal. We got along swimmingly.”
On the ice? Carbonneau and Hull couldn’t have been more different.
“I learned something from him every day, but it certainly wasn’t blocking shots, I know that,” Hull said with a smile
Hull appreciated Carbonneau’s defensive mastery though.
“You need a guy who’s going to score,” Hull said. “But when you’re playing against [the] Colorado [Avalanche], and it’s [Peter] Forsberg and [Joe] Sakic, you need Guy Carbonneau and those guys out there playing those hard minutes.”
— Nick Cotsonika
Canadiens owner Molson first thrilled by Carbonneau as fan
Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson was a fan of the Canadiens decades before he bought the team in 2009. And it was as a fan that Molson first came to admire Guy Carbonneau.
“I really followed the team as a kid and whenever Carbo stepped on the ice, I was pretty sure the other team wasn’t going to score,” Molson said. “That’s the best memory I had of him. He scored some goals, blocked a lot of shots, but when he and (linemates) Bob Gainey and Chris Nilan went on the ice late with a one-goal lead, Guy was the shutdown guy and he did it perfectly.
“It’s impressive how he reinvented himself in the NHL. You can be a superstar in junior, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be a superstar in the NHL. I think he very quickly learned that for him to be a superstar, he’d have to change his style. He did it, and he did a great job. It’s a team game. He picked his role and he did a great job doing it.”
— Dave Stubbs
Zubov was revelation for Gainey
As general manager of the Dallas Stars, Bob Gainey traded with the Pittsburgh Penguins to acquire defenseman Sergei Zubov in 1996. But Gainey admits that he didn’t really know what he was getting.
“We had a pretty good team when Sergei came to Dallas, but he made everybody better,” Gainey said. “We weren’t certain what we were getting, but we got a lot more than we thought we were getting.”
With Zubov on the blue line, the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999.
— Dave Stubbs