Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night with a historic class which also included Haley Wickenheiser to be inducted. Rutheford spoke for nearly nine minutes and thanked many people along the journey. As Rutherford captivated the Hall with his emotional speech, he also gave some advice.
The boy who grew up just 60 miles north of Toronto in Beeton, Ontario who is only 5-foot-8 but also carved out a 13-year NHL career was firm.
“Don’t let anyone tell you ya can’t do something because that was the story of my career. And the more they told me I couldn’t do things, the more it turned out, I did,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford’s management career began with a youth program owned by Compuware mogul Peter Karmanos. The success of that program led Karmanos to own the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL and make Rutherford the GM. Rutherford’s Windsor squad won the OHL championship and came within a game of the Memorial Cup.
In 1994, Karmanos and Jim Rutherford purchased the Hartford Whalers, and Rutherford became an NHL General Manager. After the ownership group moved the team from Hartford to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997, Rutheford built an Eastern Conference champion team in 2002, and a Stanley Cup team in 2006.
Rutherford thanked many of those involved in the 2002 and 2006 Carolina teams including player, now Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi. Rutherford also paid special attention to one player who has been a part of all three Stanley Cup championships on Rutherford’s resume: Matt Cullen.
“I’ve been fortunate to win three Cups as a manager, and there’s been one player whose been with me for all three,” Rutherford said. “I want to recognize Matt Cullen who played such an important role on all three of those teams.”
Rutherford also built back-to-back Stanley Cup championships as the Pittsburgh Penguins GM in 2016 and 2017. Rutherford praised many people, including Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, and head coach Mike Sullivan. Rutherford also lavished special praise on one of the all-time greats.
“But the most special part of my career has been the chance to be a part of a team with Sidney Crosby,” he said. “It’s really hard to put into words for everyone in Pittsburgh who knows what I’m talking about. It’s remarkable to watch Sid day in and day out. To see his work ethic, to see the impact he has on the team and the city.”
You can watch Jim Rutherford’s full speech via TSN, here.
In addition to Jim Rutherford and Jerry York who were inducted into the Builders category, Haley Wickenheiser, Guy Carbonneau, and Sergei Zubov were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as players.
*Editors Note: The original version of the story incorrectly listed Wickenheiser as the first woman named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The story has been corrected.