ECHL Hall of Fame class passes the credit to others

Doyle Woody
Bob Hallinen

The occasion was designed to honor inductees and celebrate their hockey careers, yet the folks praised at Friday's ceremony for the ECHL Hall of Fame's Class for 2014 invariably used their time behind the podium to pass credit to others.

Time and again, they reminded us, no one gets to this lofty level alone.

James Edwards is the former president of the Johnstown Chiefs and chairman of the ECHL's Board of Directors, and he's in the Hall as a builder. He lauded the tiny staff who worked so tirelessly with him to seize success in what was then the minor league's smallest market.

Al MacIsaac, an ECHL player turned NHL executive and inducted in the development category, cited two principal influences at the beginning of his playing and coaching careers. He lauded Hampton Roads Admirals founder Blake Cullen, a member of the Class of 2009, for teaching him the business of hockey, and coach John Brophy, another 2009 inductee, for sharpening his grasp on the virtues of simple, grinding hard work and the will to win.

Noni Spoltore, the mother of the late Louisiana Ice Gators center John Spoltore, spoke of how her son, who delivered assists like the rest of us take breaths, loved his teammates, and how he considered signing autographs and posing for photos with fans as an honor, not a burden.

And former Alaska Aces winger Wes Goldie looked down at the table where his wife and three children were seated and marveled at the sacrifices they made for him. In his two seasons here, his family was back in Ontario, and his various travels throughout his career -- stops in South Carolina, Quebec, British Columbia before Alaska -- meant his kids have attended many different schools.

"They've done it all for me, so I could live this dream and do what I love,'' Goldie said, his eyes red, his voice quivering.

All that fit hand-in-glove with the culture of a sport that cherishes humility, demands teamwork and honors sacrifice. This is a sport in which we talk of "deflections'' and "redirections,'' and so it was inside a sold-out ballroom at the Sheraton Anchorage -- the people honored pivoted the attention toward all those who helped them gain entry into the Hall.

When Goldie stepped behind the podium and began his acceptance speech with a long sigh as he gathered himself, you knew he was a goner.

"Just gonna wing it,'' said the erstwhile winger, then paused.

"I don't know what me and my family have done to deserve all this.''

Well, those 370 career goals, the most in ECHL history, are a start. Didn't hurt, either, that he helped the Aces in 2011, when he was the circuit's Most Valuable Player and leading sniper, secure the second Kelly Cup in franchise history. Or that he haunted goaltenders for more than a decade. Or that he was a consummate teammate.

Goldie spoke of the "loyalty and passion'' of the Aces' fans, the Cowbell Crew, and laughingly noted that Brian Swanson, the former NHLer who served as his center with the Aces, "taught me there are two ends of the ice.''

His wife, Marsha, got a kick out of her husband choking up. Goldie's kids -- Madison (15), Mason (11) and Makinnon (11) -- looked proud of their old man.

John Spoltore died of brain cancer in 2010, and his mother and daughter, Kendall, accepted his honor.

"I can see him smiling down and saying, 'Really?' Me?' " Kendall said.

Noni talked about getting a laugh from the newbie hockey fans in Lafayette, La., who initially would cheer icings against the visiting team. But, man, those crowds of 10,000 at the Cajundome were something.

"It was complete mayhem,'' Noni said, "and it was awesome.''

She seems more fun than recess, Mardi Gras and eating dessert before the main course -- combined. "They called me 'The Silver Fox' in Lafayette,'' Noni said after the formal ceremony.

Edwards, who chaired the league's Board of Governor's when the Aces and six other Western teams made the league a true coast-to-coast circuit in 2003, knew his crowd, which was filled with Aces supporters.

"What a great fan base,'' he said. "If I could have just 50 percent of these people, I'd still be in business.''

MacIssac, an executive with the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, took off one of his Stanley Cup rings to slip his ECHL Hall of Fame ring onto his right ring finger. He's won seven championships in his career. He owns more rings than a redwood.

Before and after the ceremony, fans took pictures with the Stanley Cup and the Kelly Cup, which are here this weekend as part of the league's Hockey Heritage Weekend, which includes three games between the Aces and Stockton Thunder.

Both hockey teams attended the ceremony, which was a nice touch. Many of them were scattered around the room, seated with fans. (Alas, Stockton captain Garet Hunt, the man the Cowbell Crew loves to hate on, was seated with teammates. Too bad. Fans could have seen his pleasant off-ice side. We're telling you for the thousandth time -- if that dude played in Anchorage, he would run this town).

When the tributes and the speeches were done, the inductees gathered on the stage for photos. Fans gathered for more photos. Autographs were requested and gladly given.

Goldie stood in front of the stage, surrounded by fans, signing cowbells.

Invariably, they thanked him for both his time playing here and his signature.

Invariably, Goldie thanked them.

This column is the opinion of Daily News reporter Doyle Woody. Find his blog at