Hayley Wickenheiser among six entering Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019

She announced her retirement in January, 2017, after playing her last game April 4, 2016

The Hockey Hall of Fame wasted no time hustling Hayley Wickenheiser into its gallery of heroes in her first year of eligibility.

The 40-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., joins players Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky and Sergei Zubov and builders Jim Rutherford and Jerry York in the 2019 class of inductees.

Wickenheiser was the only first-year eligible player to be selected.

She announced her retirement in January, 2017, after playing her last game April 4, 2016, at the women’s world championship.

The all-time leading scorer on the Canadian women’s hockey team was similarly accelerated into the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame last month.

She is the seventh woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto since 2010.

Wickenheiser joins former Canadian teammates Angela James, Geraldine Heaney, Danielle Goyette and Jayna Hefford as well as Americans Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero.

The selections were announced Tuesday, with the induction ceremony to take place Nov. 18.

ALSO READ: Toronto Maple Leafs hire Hayley Wickenheiser for front-office role

During her 23 years playing for Canada, Wickenheiser scored 168 goals and assisted on 211 more in 276 games while winning four Olympic gold medals and seven world championships.

She was captain of national teams that won Olympic gold in 2010, as well as world titles in 2007 and 2012.

She pushed the envelope for female sport, twice playing men’s professional hockey in Europe.

Wickenheiser is assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a medical student at the University of Calgary.

She didn’t participate in the Hall’s media conference call Tuesday because she was writing a mandatory exam at the university.

“It is richly deserved that she is one of the newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Hall of Fame board chairman Lanny McDonald said.

Carbonneau, a native of Sept-Iles, Que., was the last captain of a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, doing so with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

He won three Selke Awards as the NHL’s top defensive forward and three Stanley Cups — two with Montreal, one with the Dallas Stars.

“Just to be on the same list as guys like Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky, it’s unbelievable,” Carbonneau said.

“People thought when I did become a defensive player that I sacrificed a lot of offence. I see it the other. It gave me chances.”

Rutherford, from Beeton, Ont., began his management career with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in 1984.

He then became general manager of the Hartford Whalers for 20 years and won a Stanley Cup in Carolina in 2006 after the franchise moved to Raleigh.

Rutherford has since won two more Stanley Cups as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“One of the advantages I think for me when I retired as a player, I didn’t try to stay in the NHL,” Rutherford said.

“I went back to the grassroots. I went all the way back to youth hockey for a couple of years and then got the opportunity to manage in the Ontario Hockey League and kind of worked my way up.

“We won the Stanley Cup in Carolina against the odds. We certainly weren’t the odds-on favourite to win it that year.

“And then I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be hired by Pittsburgh and I already had a great advantage when you come into a team with (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin and (Kris) Letang.”

Rutherford and Nedomansky were Detroit Red Wings teammates for four seasons in the late 1970s.

“He was terrific,” Rutherford said. “He’s always been a first-class guy and I’m really happy to be going into the Hall at the same time as him.”

Nedomansky played 12 seasons in Bratislava before becoming the first athlete from an Eastern European communist country to defect to North America to pursue a pro hockey career.

The Czech played 252 career NHL games with Detroit, the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

He played in the WHA with Toronto and Birmingham before joining the Detroit Red Wings as a 33-year-old rookie in 1977.

“I’m proud to be the first player from a communist country to come and play in North America,” Nedomansky said.

Russia’s Zubov joined the Rangers in 1992 after playing four seasons with the Moscow Red Army. He won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 and another with Dallas in 1999.

“I was eight years old when I travelled with the national team to a tournament in Canada,” Zubov said.

“I had a chance to walk into the Hall of Fame. Back then, I couldn’t even think of, dream of, that one day I would have a chance to be part of it.

“It’s truly special. You realize you’ve done something in your life that you can be proud of.”

York is the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey with over 1,000 victories. He’s navigated Boston College to four national titles in 26 seasons there.

York coached current and former NHL players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Brooks Orpik, Brian Gionta and Patrick Eaves.

“They seem to make you a better coach when you have those players,” York said. “Never once did I think I’d go in (the Hall) in any category whatsoever. Just really surprised.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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