(L-R) Brian Gionta, Tim Thomas and Krissy Wendell are nominated for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Three players who suited up for Team USA and played at the Olympic Winter Games are among the five people announced as the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 on Wednesday.
Forwards Brian Gionta and Krissy Wendell and goaltender Tim Thomas will join NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and youth hockey builder Neal Henderson as this year’s inductees. There are 182 administrators, players, coaches and officials who’ve made exceptional contributions to hockey in the U.S. currently enshrined in the hall of fame, located in Eveleth, Minnesota.
The enshrinement ceremony will take place Dec. 12 in Washington, D.C.
Gionta played in two different Olympic Winter Games spaced 12 years apart. He first donned the Team USA jersey at the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006, where the U.S. placed seventh, then returned in 2018 and served as team captain for the Games in PyeongChang. He was the only member of the team with previous Olympic experience, and his veteran leadership helped the young team — NHL players did not participate in the 2018 Games — make it to the quarterfinals before falling to Czech Republic.
The Rochester, New York, native announced his retirement in September 2018 and moved into a position in the Buffalo Sabres front office in a player development role. In addition to his two Olympic experiences, Gionta won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils and played in three world championships and two world junior championships with the U.S.
Gionta said on a conference call with media that he was thankful for his long career and grateful to USA Hockey and all his coaches growing up for giving him a shot.
“Any time you have a chance to represent your country and go out there, put on that jersey, it’s a dream come true and every time I put on that jersey it sent chills down my back,” he said. “Competing on this stage, especially the Olympic stage, is something you dream of as a kid.”
Thomas, from Flint, Michigan, was a member of the U.S. men’s team that won the silver medal at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010. He was also a member of seven world championship teams between 1995 and 2014 and won the bronze medal in 1996. After becoming the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins at the age of 32, he became a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and then at age 37 became the oldest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for his performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. He was just the second American to win the award given to the playoff MVP and the first American-born goaltender to receive the honor. He last played in the NHL during the 2013-14 season.
“Everyone probably knows nowadays I don’t have all that much to say, at least publicly,” Thomas said. “In this case, though, I’m honored to be receiving this recognition and I’d like to thank USA Hockey for the experiences that have led to this storybook life.”
Wendell is an Olympic bronze and silver medalist who enjoyed a long and successful career with the U.S. women’s national team. A two-time national champion at the University of Minnesota and 2005 winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, Wendell is still in the top 10 all-time in NCAA scoring.
The forward played in six women’s world championships with the U.S. between 1999 and 2007, winning five silver medals and one gold. She was also the leading scorer and MVP of the 2005 world championships helping the U.S. to win its first gold at the tournament. The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, native last played competitively in 2007.
She noted that when she first started in the sport her only option was to play with boys and is thankful that she can now coach her three daughters, share the game with them and watch them build their own memories.
“I played because I loved the game and not because I thought I’d be on this conference call,” she said. “I could never dream of the opportunities this sport would provide, the places I’d see or even that the Olympics were a possibility. It’s been fun to watch the girls’ game continue to grow and provide opportunities and none of that would be possible without support from USA Hockey.”