No sports franchise owner has done more for hockey in Rhode Island than the late and legendary Louis A.R. Lou Pieri.
No female athlete who has laced up skates in the Ocean State has distinguished hockey as much as Cammi Granato.
No Rhode Island native has the distinction of winning two Olympic hockey medals like Sara DeCosta-Hayes.
No native Rhode Islanders have ever achieved the status at the schoolboy, collegiate and professional levels of hockey as Johnstons Louis A. Lou Lamoriello and Warwick’s Chris Terreri and the late and legendary Zellio Toppazzini is in a league of his own.
So what do these highly-accomplished six people have in common?
They’re all of proud Italian heritage who are among the 16 selectees to the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame who will be enshrined with the Charter Class on Sept. 20 at the Twin River Event in Lincoln.
Typically, Hall of Fame classes are highlighted by a select few who standout. However, as Hockey Hall Chairman Vincent Cimini rightly points out: Each deserves the spotlight; this is the Mount Rushmore of Rhode Island Hockey.
Few people, if any, would dispute that theory about the first-ever hockey hall class that Cimini noted 11 have represented the USA in world championships, including eight in the Olympics and 10 have previously been enshrined in the International, USA and AHL Hockey Halls of Fame.
Moreover, three have their names engraved on the NHL’s Stanley cup and many have set records that still stand in the sport. Most of all, as players and pillars of the game, they each represent the very best of our state rich and illustrious hockey heritage.
The Charter Class also includes Bill Belisle, Curt Bennett, Harvey Bennett, Sr., Bryan Berard, Keith Carney, Joe Cavanagh, Brian Lawton, Dick Rondeau, Mathieu Schneider and Ron Wilson.
Below are brief bios of the six Italian-Americans who will be enshrined on Sept. 20 during an open-to-the-public Induction Ceremony Celebration at Twin River in Lincoln.
LOUIS A.R. LOU PIERI: A three-sport star at Brown University, beloved General Manager then owners of both the Providence Reds, RIs first professional hokey team and the RI Auditorium, the birthplace of pro hockey in RI. His teams captured three Canadian-American League Fontaine Cup and 4 AHL Calder Cup championships. Inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2009. The Louis A.R. Pieri Award is presented annual to the AHL’s Coach of the Year.
CAMMI GRANATO: Considered by many the greatest women’s hokey player of all-time. Three-time ECAS Women’s Hockey Player of the Year at Providence College and all-time scoring leader for Team USA Women’s Hockey with 343 points in 205 games. Captained USA’s 1998 (Gold) and 2002 (Silver) Olympic teams. Selected as USA’s flag-bearer for the 1998 Games. In 2010 became the first woman ever inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame.
SARA DECOSTA-HAYES: All-State goaltender at Warwick’s Toll Gate High, first girl to play in RI’ Championship Division. Two-time USA Hockey Women’s Player of the year at Providence College. Two-time USA Olympian, capturing Gold in 1998 and Silver in 2002. Named a genuine Jewish Sports Heroine by Brandies University.
LOUIS A. LOU LAMORIELLO: Born in Johnston, starred sat La Salle Academy and Providence College before becoming the winningest coach in PC hockey history. Was the driving force behind the creation of Hockey East. Architect of three Stanley Cup champion teams with the New Jersey Devils. Current GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2009 inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame. Enshrined in U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
CHRIS TERRERI: Two-time Pilgrim High All-Stater, Hockey East Player of the Year, two-time All-American, Academic All-American and finalist for the Hobey Baker Award while starring at Providence College. Played 14 seasons in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. Donned the USA colors in three World Championships, including the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
ZELLIO TOPPAZZINI: A 2012 inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame, Topper is considered the greatest RI Reds player of all time. Named their Player of the Century in 200, played in four NHL and 12 historic AHL seasons with the Reds, becoming the team’s all-time leader in all statistical scoring categories. Led his 1955-56 squad, voted greatest team in Minor League Hockey history, to the Calder Cup with a league-leading 113 points.
Tickets for the Sept. 20 Enshrinement Celebration & Dinner at the twin River Event Center are on sale now at the RI Hockey Hall of Fame website, www.RIHHOF.com