Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake started playing hockey in four different countries as kids.
They will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame together.
"This tells me that our game is growing, our game is growing worldwide," John Davidson, chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, said Monday. "When we have a class like this coming into the hall, I think that says a lot about our game and how worldwide it is."
The four players will be inducted Nov. 17 in Toronto along with former referee Bill McCreary and the late Pat Burns, who will be enshrined posthumously as a coach in the builder category.
Hasek, who was known as "the Dominator," won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender six times, tying Bill Durnan's total and trailing Jacques Plante's record by one. He won two Hart Trophies as league MVP in 1997 and 1998 with the Buffalo Sabres, becoming the first to win the award from his position since Plante did it in 1962.
Hasek also helped the Czech Republic win gold at the 1998 Olympics — the first with NHL players — several years after he almost left the world's top league.
"I was thinking about going back to Europe because I was in the minors, playing for the Indianapolis Ice," Hasek recalled, referring to the Chicago Blackhawks' affiliate. "But I got a chance to play in 1992 and it was the best thing that could happen for me because in Buffalo, I got a chance to play."
The Sabres traded him to Detroit nearly a decade later and he helped the Detroit Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in 2002. Hasek becomes the seventh player from that team to be elected to the Hall of Fame as a player and it was led by Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman. Hasek was a backup in 2008 when Detroit won another championship.
Modano ended his career with his home-state Red Wings after leaving Michigan to play in Canada at the age of 15, a move that seemed to pay off. He finished with records for American-born players — 561 goals and 1,374 points — and helped the Dallas Stars win the Cup in 1999 against the Hasek-led Sabres. Modano was drafted No. 1 overall in 1988 by the Minnesota North Stars after playing juniors with the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League.
"It was a tough decision to leave Detroit, to leave home," he recalled. "I thought Canada was the best place to go for competition."
Canada was home for Blake, who was born in Simcoe, Ontario. He helped his country win it all at the Olympics in 2002, earning a place in the Triple Gold Club that includes only players with a Cup, Olympic and world gold medals. Blake won an NHL title with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 after winning one Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman in 1998 while playing for the Los Angeles Kings.
Forsberg, a smooth-skating, slick-shooting Swede, is also in the Triple Gold Club. He won two championships in Colorado and helped Sweden win gold at the 2006 Olympics. Philadelphia drafted Forsberg with the No. 6 overall pick in 1991 and traded him to Quebec a year later in a trade for Eric Lindros, and he played one season for the Nordiques before the franchise moved to Colorado. He had a great career, but it was stunted by several injuries.
Burns, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup title, died of cancer at 58 in 2010. The police officer-turned-hockey coach won the Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach with three teams: Toronto, Montreal and Boston.
"It's a very emotional day for the Burns family, I can tell you that, and I think it's a great day," said his wife, Lynn.
McCreary was an official for nearly 2,000 games, including 282 playoff games, from 1984 until he worked his last game on April 2, 2011. He also was an official in the 1998 and 2002 Olympic finals.
Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, Geraldine Heaney and the late Fred Shero were inducted last year. Among eligible players who have not been picked for induction are Lindros, the 1995 NHL MVP and six-time All-Star, and Mark Recchi, a seven-time All-Star who won three Cups with three teams.
Hockey Hall of Fame: www.hhof.com