ST. PAUL, Minn. -- This was a night to celebrate not just the sport of hockey in the United States, but the family of hockey.
Four men -- Mark Johnson, Bob Pulford, Tony Rossi and Jeff Sauer -- were honored Wednesday night as the Class of 2011 for the Lester Patrick Award at RiverCentre for their contributions to the sport in the U.S. All were deserving, and all in one way or another talked about the role of hockey in their families and about the greater family in the sport.
"The thing people sometimes forget about hockey is it is a close-knit community," Sauer said. "I've walked down Red Square (in Moscow) and had someone come up to me and say, ‘Hey coach, how are you doing?' It was a guy I had coached against in a world championship, one of the assistant coaches from Russia. It is a small community, and you don't see that in other sports."
Added Rossi: "The people in this sport have been phenomenal, and I do feel it is different than other sports because it always seems so family-oriented. Just with the rivalry we have Canada is really something to see, especially with the U-20s, but the guys at Hockey Canada like Bob Nicholson and Murray Costello -- they've stayed at my place in Florida. You're enemies on the ice, but when the game's over, the game's over. It is just a real family relationship. Now we've been able to meet people from all over the world and we've made such great friends in the sport."
Johnson could be here for his two goals against Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics and his 11-year NHL career, but he's also had a remarkable impact on women's hockey, both as a coach at the University of Wisconsin and with the U.S. National Team.
Pulford was one of the original pioneers of hockey in southern California, moving there as a player and then becoming the first successful coach of the Los Angeles Kings before they traded for Wayne Gretzky. After that he had a long career as an executive for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rossi began as a volunteer at the youth level in Illinois and has risen through USA Hockey to be a man of incredible influence at both the national and international levels of the game.
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Tag(s): Lester Patrick Award