BOSTON – Charlie Jacobs, chief executive officer and alternate governor for the Boston Bruins, proudly looked out at the capacity crowd inside the American Ballroom of the Westin Copley Center and smiled.
“Hockey is more than just a sport in Boston, it is the heartbeat of our city,” Jacobs said while welcoming the five newest members of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, their families and all of those in attendance for the 2023 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration.
And what is one common denominator for all of them?
Each of them exude a genuine passion for the game of hockey and a lifelong commitment to growing the sport that started for each of them at a young age.
“My journey playing hockey started when I was a young boy pushing a chair on the ice and going to Big Red Cornell games as a kid,” said Brown, the first of this year’s prestigious group to be enshrined on Wednesday night.
The Ithaca, New York, native is one of the few professional athletes in all of sports to play his entire career with one franchise. Brown, a two-time Olympian, was drafted 13th overall by the Kings in 2003, served as the team’s captain from 2008-16, and became the second American captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2012. He then would help the Kings win a second Stanley Cup in 2014. Brown totaled 1,296 regular-season games in the NHL, the seventh most of any American ever, and recorded 712 career regular-season points (325G, 387A) in the NHL and added 49 points (19G, 30A) in 92 playoff games.
“I feel lucky to have played my entire career with a crown on my chest,” Brown said. “It is one of my proudest achievements. I love playing hockey and I always have. As a kid, you never think it will end, and, of course, it does. But what doesn’t end are the relationships I built on and off the ice. From Ithaca, N.Y. to the world’s greatest stage.”
One of those friends was none other than Matt Greene. Brown and Greene spent nine seasons together in Los Angeles and celebrated those two Stanley Cup titles together.
“He played really hard, and he was hard to play against,” Greene told host Steve Levy during the ceremony. “I played against him for three years, and I was really happy when I was traded to LA to play with him. He kept you on your toes all the time. It didn’t matter if it was two minutes into the game or two minutes left in the game, he was going to play the same way. Play hard against all the guys. He never hit anybody who didn’t deserve it.”
Brown also served as the assistant captain for the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that earned a silver medal in Vancouver. Burke, the general manager for that Olympic team, was the next honoree inducted in Boston.
Burke has made it a point to continuously credit the accomplishments of his fellow honorees since first being named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in September. Burke even spent time with Brown’s parents, Sharan and Bryan, on Tuesday night during a welcome party and thanked them for raising such an honorable son.
Burke’s passion, love and commitment to the game of hockey has spanned decades. His professional career included stops with six NHL teams, including helping the Anaheim Ducks win the club’s first and only Stanley Cup in 2007. He’s worked in the NHL front office and has played a big part in the helping the U.S. Men’s National Team program in various roles.
The 68-year-old’s work is not done either as he has now begun a new chapter as the first executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about that,” Burke said. “When I got offered this job, I burst into tears. Like, I never felt I would get a chance. I worked 30 years on the men’s side and never thought I would get an opportunity. I can’t wait to get started with the women.”
Burke, who graduated from Providence College in 1977 with a history degree, proudly spent a portion of his speech in Boston giving a USA Hockey history lesson, recounting major milestones throughout the organization and sport’s history.
“I really just want to say, ‘Thank You’” Burke concluded. “I owe USA Hockey more than they will ever owe me, so thank you for the opportunity and thank you for tonight.”
No stranger to Boston, Katie King Crowley has made plenty of memories in Beantown less than 10 miles away from the Westin at Boston College where she serves as the head coach of BC’s powerhouse women’s hockey program.
However, Wednesday night was a surreal and emotional moment when she was officially enshrined in the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame.
King was one of the most prolific scorers in women’s hockey history during her decade-long run with the U.S. Women’s National Team. King Crowley is a three-time Olympian and helped Team USA win the first-ever gold medal awarded in women’s ice hockey at the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. King Crowley has 14 total Olympic goals, which puts her tied for first in the U.S. record books, and her 23 Olympic points (14G, 9A) are fourth best. She also has six medals from the IIHF Women’s World Championships, which includes helping the U.S. win its first gold medal in the event in 2005.
What made her Hall of Fame induction even that much more special was having several of her teammates from the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team, including A.J. Mleczko and Angela Ruggiero, in attendance to celebrate her induction.
“This one is going to be tough,” King Crowley said while holding back her tears. “My teammates. The teammates I have had are some of the greatest gifts I have had. … I have been spoiled to have teammates that support me, care about me and make me laugh. Many of them are still my best friends. I have learned from them, grown because of them and become a better person because of them. I am up here because they believed in me and trusted me. Thank you to my teammates from youth hockey to college to Team USA and a special shoutout to my ’98 teammates. I love you guys like family.”
King Crowley was also shocked to see her current players from Boston College inside the Westin.
“I didn’t know you guys were going to be here,” she said. “I saw you coming up that escalator and you shocked me… You have made my job easier. You have made such a positive impact on my life and I am grateful for that.”
The reaction that King Crowley received from her players and teammates on the ’98 squad spoke loudly of her impact.
“She was probably everyone’s favorite teammate,” Mleczko said. “She scored a lot of goals, that is great, but she also laughed a lot. I thought I was funny, but it is just Kinger laughs a lot with me. So I am not that funny, and I learned that the hard way.”
For Jamie Langenbrunner, Wednesday night was a mix of both his past and his present.
The Cloquet, Minnesota, native grew up 60 miles from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth, Minnesota, and never “fathomed” that his name would one day be forever enshrined. However, there he was inside the Westin Copley, just two miles from TD Garden where Langenbrunner, who is now an assistant general manager with the Boston Bruins, hopes to bring the Stanley Cup back.
Langenbrunner already has two Stanley Cup championships on his resume following his 16-year playing career. His first came with the Dallas Stars in 1999 where he tallied 10 goals and seven assists in the playoffs and then with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 as he led the NHL with 18 playoff points. On the international stage, Langenbrunner captained Team USA to a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics after also representing the red, white and blue at the 1998 Olympics.
“It is with immense gratitude and a profound sense of honor that I stand before you today as an inductee for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame,” Langenbrunner said. “As a young boy growing up in small town, northern Minnesota less than 60 miles from the Hall, I was aware of its existence and amazed by the players and builders who have their names enshrined. But in no time could I fathom my name would be a part of that history.
“I was the kid who was too small. I didn’t skate all that well. If I am being a fair evaluator of my talent, I wasn’t overly skilled either. What I did have was a competitive fire and a passion to be the best that I could be. I was also probably stubborn or naïve enough to not know that I was too small, not that good of a skater or overly skilled. I also had an amazing support system and people along the way that saw beyond the reasons I couldn’t play and saw the reasons I would. I may be the one standing here, but I can guarantee you this, this was not a journey I did on my own. The support I received in my career and my life is why I am here today.
Finally, Brian Murphy was the last honoree inducted on Wednesday evening. Murphy is one of only two Americans, and eight individuals ever, to officiate more than 2,000 regular-season games in the NHL. His 32-year career also included assignments to work nine Stanley Cup Finals and more than 300 playoff contests, while also officiating at the Olympics and World Cup of Hockey.
Murphy, though, explained his biggest accomplishments, and the ones that he cherishes the most, are those he has accomplished as a mentor to young officials.
Helping the next generation is something Murphy will forever take pride in, and he thanked USA Hockey for creating its officiating program in the 1980s and inspiring him to become a mentor and teacher.
“You look at some of the things USA Hockey has done like the ADM model and U.S. National Team in Plymouth – so many great things and great programs. Back in the ‘80s they decided to create an officiating program and they hired a man by the name of Mark Rudolph. He built the program and was instrumental. I am here tonight, but I feel like I am just the first wave of that program. There are so many other people that have gone through the program that had those same opportunities, some of them currently work in the NHL. Without Mark’s leadership and guidance, Kevin Collins helped him greatly with the camps. Those two people are the reason why I give so much back to USA Hockey.”
There was also a bit of advice that has always stuck with Murphy
“My dear friend Terry Gregson told me one time, ‘Murph, you are not going to be remembered for how much you learned, but how much you taught.’ Those words were never more true.”
Justin Felisko is the editor of USA Hockey Magazine.