Bettman bails on U.S. HHOF ceremony

DALLAS -- Looking for an indication of the importance of this week’s labor negotiations? NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, a regular attendee at the USA Hockey’s annual U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, declined at the last minute to make the trip here for Monday’s ceremony. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly had likewise planned to attend but likewise sent his regrets.

Both NHL leaders are strong supporters of USA Hockey, and the league has a long relationship with the sport’s governing body in the U.S., so the two likely would not cancel their previously planned trip on a whim. Brian Jennings, executive vice president of marketing, was the ranking league official in Dallas where Ed Olczyk, Mike Modano and Lou Lamoriello were enshrined. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr had also been invited to the ceremony but had earlier sent his regrets.

Small world

There’s something perpetually endearing about just how small is the hockey world.

Although Mike Modano, Lou Lamoriello and Ed Olczyk never belonged to the same NHL organization at any point in their careers, their paths crisscross like a spider web.

Olczyk met Lamoriello in the summer of 1983 when Lamoriello, then running the hockey program at Providence College, was coaching a team from the East at a summer sports festival in Colorado Springs, Colo., that would act as a tryout for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, which Olczyk would make as a 17-year-old.

Lamoriello would go on to act as the GM of the U.S. entry in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, a seminal moment for hockey in America as the U.S. beat Canada in a thrilling best-of-three final. Modano was one of the stars of that series, playing on a line with Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin.

Pat Lafontaine, inducted in the U.S. and Hockey Halls of Fame in 2003, was part of that 1996 team as well. Lafontaine was on hand Monday night in Dallas in part to help celebrate Olczyk’s induction. The two, along with David A. Jensen, who was also in Dallas Monday night, formed what was known as the Diaper Line at the 1984 Olympics.

"We could get 'er going pretty good," Olczyk said. "They had me on that line to just kind of keep the speed limit at what it was supposed to be. Because Patty and D.A., they could fly and I just pretty much just tried to keep up and get the puck to them. But it was no doubt one of the best lines that I ever played on because we played together for the whole season."

Olczyk also played with Modano at a number of World Championships.

Other honorees

Also honored Monday night were longtime Washington Capitals executive Dick Patrick and Bob Chase-Wallenstein, who will broadcast his 60th season with the Fort Wayne Komets this season. Both men were named winners of the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the U.S.

Patrick is the grandson of Lester Patrick, for whom the trophy was named, and the son of former New York Ranger player and coach Muzz Patrick. He has been the Caps’ president since 1982-83.

Canadian Murray Costello, inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders’ category in 2005, was named the winner of the Wayne Gretzky International Award.