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    Willie O’Ree didn’t know he had broken the NHL’s color barrier when he made his debut in 1958. Martin Brodeur couldn’t see the three Stanley Cup titles and jaw-dropping career ahead when he played his first game in goal for the New Jersey Devils in 1992 and Joe Thornton Jersey , a year later, Gary Bettman didn’t know he would end up growing the league by leaps and bounds over the next 25 years as its commissioner.All three will go into the Hockey Hall of Fame together as the headliners of a trailblazing class of 2018 that also includes diminutive forward Martin St. Louis, four-time gold-medal-winning Canadian women’s national team star Jayna Hefford and Russian Alexander Yakushev.O’Ree was the first black player in the NHL, Bettman has overseen the league’s expansion into a multibillion-dollar industry and Brodeur piled up the most wins and shutouts of any goaltender in NHL history.”This is an exciting class to be around because everyone has tried to take their game to the next level,” Bettman said Tuesday. ”I really wasn’t focused on whether this was happening now; I was really focused on whether Willie O’Ree was going to be selected because that to me was a very important act for the Hall to take.”Bettman has been commissioner since 1993, during which time the NHL has expanded its footprint across North America and increased from 24 to 31 teams. In that time, the league has gone from a $437 million business to one with almost $5 billion in revenue. It’s been an occasionally bruising ride, with three work stoppages, including one that canceled the entire 2004-05 season and led to the salary cap. But Bettman has been nothing if not a strong leader, and all-time great Wayne Gretzky said the efforts to help each club compete have made the game stronger.”His leadership and love for hockey is very evident,” Gretzky said. ”Hockey has become more entertaining year after year, thanks in part to his passion for the game.”Brodeur lifted the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils between 1995 and 2003. He leads all goalies with 691 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 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.”You play your whole career and you don’t expect to get this phone call, but when it does, it definitely does feel pretty good,” said Brodeur, the Blues assistant GM who was sitting alongside Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson at prospect camp in St. Louis when he got the news. ”I want to thank the committee for putting me on so early.”While Brodeur and St. Louis were first-ballot selections, O’Ree had been waiting decades for this honor since making history at the Montreal Forum on Jan. 18, 1958, with the Boston Bruins. He was 32.A native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, in Eastern Canada, O’Ree finished with 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. 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.”Willie paved the path for the rest of us Joonas Donskoi Jersey ,” Fuhr said. ”In that way he is a true builder of the game. If you look up the word

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    Yes we won, I’m still playing, this is the best day ever,”’ McDonald said.— ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — After all of their individual days with the Stanley Cup from Moscow to Minnesota, all of the fountain-diving and beer-guzzling, the parade and the diamond-encrusted rings , Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals get to do something else new for the franchise: raise a banner signifying an NHL championship.The team and its fans finally will enjoy that rite Wednesday night, before the Capitals open the regular season by hosting the Boston Bruins.“The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable,” Ovechkin said. “The people are going to be happy. Some might even cry.”The Cup itself Justin Braun Jersey Kids , now etched with his name, will be on the ice for the banner ceremony, which is supposed to start 15 minutes before the opening faceoff. And then it’ll be time to play hockey that counts for the first time since a 4-3 victory on Lars Eller’s goal in Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights back in June.“Once that banner goes up, it’ll be nice closure for everyone that what happened was real,” forward T.J. Oshie said Tuesday after Washington practiced. “And we can start focusing on the future and trying to do this thing again.”There will be a different coach in charge of Washington — Barry Trotz left when he didn’t get the sort of contract he wanted and was replaced by one of his assistants, Todd Reirden — but otherwise, not much has changed: 18 of the 19 players who appeared in the Cup-clinching game are still around.“The systems and stuff, it’s all the same. So it’s pretty straightforward,” goalie Braden Holtby said about the switch from Trotz to Reirden. “Obviously they have different personalities and it’s going to take some adjusting for everyone, but that almost can be a good thing in that way, because we do have almost the same roster coming back and when you have that happen, complacency can sometimes set in, just because everything’s the same. That little change might help us stay fresh and stay excited about things.”What’s entirely, and inalterably, changed is the whole vibe around the Capitals, who have been around since 1974 and only once before even made it as far as the conference finals. The longtime core of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom never had been past the second round of the postseason.Whatever sense of doom and gloom that hung over their team for years has now disappeared.“All the talk of jinxes and things like that,” Oshie said, “people can kind of get out of their minds.”Ovechkin, Oshie and Backstrom were among the Capitals who had to sit through a banner-raising as the opponent two years ago in Pittsburgh, when Sidney Crosby and the rest of the rival Penguins celebrated a championship.This time it is Washington’s turn.“You hear all the things going on. That’s the same feeling you want to have yourself, and we’ll have it tomorrow,” Backstrom said. “It’s a way better feeling than sitting in the locker room, just waiting for the game to start.”Notes: D Michal Kempny will miss at least Washington’s first two games. He is on injured reserve after getting elbowed in the head by Blues D Robert Bortuzzo last week. … Washington claimed St. Louis Blues F Dmitrij Jaskin and reassigned D Jonas Siegenthaler to Hershey of the AHL. … Fs Jayson Megna and Nathan Walker made the opening-night roster. … F Brett Connolly is expected to start against Boston in place of Tom Wilson on the top line with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Wilson’s hearing for his hit to the head of Blues C Oskar Sundqvist is scheduled for Wednesday.

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