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A Hat Trick for Hall of Fame

Bourque, Coffey and Murphy, all offensive defensemen, elected in first year of eligibility.

June 10, 2004|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy, all of whom enhanced Bobby Orr's legacy and made mobile defensemen vital to Stanley Cup success, were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday in an appropriate convergence.

Bourque was known for his vision on the ice, Coffey for his smooth and swift skating, and Murphy for his power-play acumen and intelligence. Born within four months of one other, the trio played on a combined nine Cup-winning teams. Each also played more than 1,000 games and scored more than 1,000 points.

Each also has a connection to the Kings. Bourque was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 1979 with a pick they'd obtained from the Kings for goalie Ron Grahame; Murphy set records for assists, 60, and points, 76, for a rookie defenseman with the Kings in 1980 and played for them until he was traded to Washington in 1983, and Coffey played for the Kings for 11 months, from February 1992 until January 1993.

"I don't know if there's ever been a class inducted like this," said King General Manager Dave Taylor, who played with Murphy and Coffey and against Bourque. "Those are three nice defensemen to start with if you're starting a team, if they were 23. Of course, no one would be able to afford them now."

In addition, Cliff Fletcher was elected in the builders' category. Fletcher, father of Mighty Duck executive Chuck Fletcher, was general manager of the Calgary Flames when the team won the Stanley Cup in 1989. He is executive vice president of hockey operations for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Each player was elected in his first year of eligibility. They will be inducted on Nov. 8 at a ceremony in Toronto.

"When I got the call, I was a little emotional and taken aback," said Coffey, who scored 396 goals and assisted on 1,135 more for 1,531 points, second among defensemen only to Bourque in all three categories. "I've had a chance to play with some fabulous players over the years.... I've known Larry a long time, and those two players made me a better player over the years."

Said Murphy, who scored 1,216 points in 1,615 games, "It's an affirmation of all the work and effort you put into the game. To be added to this group of players is a tremendous honor I'll cherish the rest of my life."

Bourque, a five-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, was traded by the Bruins to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000 to enhance his chances of getting his name engraved on the Cup. He had to wait a year but finally won with Colorado and retired soon after.

Emotional though that was, Bourque said he had "shivers" Wednesday when told of his election. "For me it's an incredible honor," he said.

Coffey played for three championship teams with the young, brash Edmonton Oilers and another with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He bounced around late in his career but retains a fondness for his Oiler days.

"That was my whole growing-up period," he said. "It's a time that we as players are very, very proud of."

Murphy won the Cup twice in Pittsburgh and twice more in Detroit, after he'd been booed out of Toronto.

"He's a tremendous individual, very easygoing, but he had a very strong competitive nature," Taylor said. "He had just unbelievable patience with the puck and great hockey sense."

"He had an immediate impact as a first-year defenseman with us, particularly on our power play."

Taylor lauded Coffey's exceptional skating.

"You certainly didn't want to chase him behind the net," Taylor said. "You'd be two feet behind going in and 10 feet behind coming out. He could really accelerate around corners. He was a perfect fit for those Oiler teams."

Taylor also said Bourque was versatile enough to play a finesse game or a physical style.

"He was strong and durable and a tremendous leader, with the way he carried himself," Taylor said. "It's unfortunate he had to leave Boston to win the Cup."

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