The phone rang, and Cliff Fletcher's life changed forever.
"It took a couple of weeks for it to sink in after I got the call in June (2004) from (NHL Senior Vice President) Jim Gregory (the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee)," admits Fletcher. "When you think, years down the road, after you are gone, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren can go to the Hockey Hall of Fame and say, 'That was my Grandpa or my great-grandfather!' Well, that's not only an honour, it's a real privilege."
In 2004, a trio of extraordinary defencemen was announced as having been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Raymond Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy were named Honoured Members in the Players Category. With them was added Cliff Fletcher, selected for the Builder Category. "It is a tremendous feeling to be entering the Hockey Hall of Fame, and not something that during your career you anticipate happening," Cliff modestly stated.
"It's a tremendous honour and you get to appreciate it more when you look at the Great Hall, and look at the photos of everybody who has preceded me into the Hall all the great, great players and, in my category, all the great Builders of the game, and to realize how privileged you are to be considered someone who should be included in that group. For that, I'll be forever grateful." Cliff hesitates for a moment to capture his thoughts. "It's a real privilege and an honour to be part of that group."
Citing induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as the pinnacle of an outstanding career, one that we should remember is certainly not over, brought heartfelt gratitude during Fletcher's 2004 Induction speech. "As a kid growing up in Canada, I idolized hockey players. Now, having spent the past 48 years working closely with them, I can honestly say I admire them even more."
Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-Line Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.