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Rafalski headlines U.S. Hall of Fame inductees

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Aug 06 2014 12:08:35 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 06 2014 02:24:47 PM CDT
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Four Olympic medalists, including two players and two coaches, headline this year's inductees into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

The honorees, announced Wednesday by USA Hockey, include Brian Rafalski, a two-time Olympic silver medalist and three-time Stanley Cup champion.

Rafalski is joined by Karyn Bye Dietz, who served as alternate captain for the gold medal-winning U.S. women's team at the 1998 Nagano Games; Jeff Sauer, college coaching legend and coach of the gold medal-winning 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team; and Lou Vairo, who was an assistant coach for the silver medal-winning U.S. team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

"The class of 2014 is an extraordinary collection of individuals that have had an immensely positive impact on hockey in our country," president of USA Hockey Ron DeGregorio said in a statement. "Cumulatively, they have been involved at every level of hockey and this group is a big reason why our sport has advanced to the point it has in the United States."

The 42nd U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner and ceremony will be held in Minnesota on Dec. 4.

Rafalski played 15 seasons of professional hockey, 11 in the NHL, winning three Stanley Cups -- two with the New Jersey Devils and one with the Detroit Red Wings.

Rafalski, who played for Sauer at the University of Wisconsin from 1991-95, was never drafted but proved himself in Europe for four seasons before being signed by the Devils as a free agent in 1999. He played in New Jersey for the first seven seasons of his NHL career, beginning in 1999-2000. Rafalski played 541 regular-season games with the Devils and had 44 goals and 311 points, helping the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003.

Rafalski joined the Red Wings as an unrestricted free agent in 2007. He helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2008, scoring four goals and finishing with 14 points and a plus-6 rating in 22 Stanley Cup playoff games. He played 292 regular-season games for the Red Wings and had 35 goals and 204 points, as well as 12 goals and 40 points in 63 playoff games.

Rafalski finished his NHL career with 79 goals and 515 points in 833 regular-season games. Knee and back injuries forced him into retirement after the 2010-11 season at the age of 37.

Rafalski represented USA in three Olympics (2002, 2006, 2010). The native of Dearborn, Mich., was a member of silver medal-winning teams in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010.

Dietz, who was selected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame Class of 2011, led the women's team at the 1998 Nagano Olympics with five goals in six games. She tied 2008 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Cammi Granato, Katie King and Gretchen Ulion for the scoring lead with eight points. The 1998 U.S. women's Olympic Team, which was inducted into the 2009 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, twice defeated Canada and won the first gold medal presented in women's ice hockey at the Winter Olympics.

Dietz was also a key member of the silver medal-winning U.S. women's Olympic Team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. The River Falls, Wis., native was named USA Hockey's Women's Player of the Year in 1995 and 1998.

Sauer's 31-year NCAA Division I college coaching career featured 655 wins and national championships at the University of Wisconsin in 1983 and 1990. He led the Badgers to three NCAA Men's Frozen Four appearances, 12 NCAA tournament berths, six Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff titles and two WCHA regular-season crowns in 20 seasons (1982-2002). He also spent 11 years (1971-82) as coach at his alma mater, Colorado College, where he was named WCHA Coach of the Year in 1972 and 1975.

In March, Sauer led the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics. Sauer was named coach of the team on Feb. 14, 2013.

Vairo, who has served as director of special projects for USA Hockey since 1992, has directed national and professional teams in both the U.S. and Europe for parts of three decades. He was coach of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and an assistant coach for the silver medal-winning 2002 team.

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