As part of the CCM/All-Star Hockey Weekend that will take place in Hensville beginning on Friday, January 18, Toledo’s own heritage on the ice will be celebrated as the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame inducts five new members.
On Sunday, January 20, the 2019 Toledo Hockey and ECHL Hall of Fame luncheon will be held at the Seagate Center. The event will see five legendary Toledo players and coaches be immortalized for their contributions to the sport— Maurice “Moe” Benoit, Mike Eruzione, John McGrath, Chris McSorley and Greg Puhalski.
Honoring a heritage
“The purpose is to honor those who have made tremendous contributions to Toledo’s rich pro hockey heritage,” said Rob Wiercinski, community relations and communications manager for the Walleye.
“Pro hockey in Toledo goes back to the 1940s, and through those years there have been just countless folks that have put their blood, sweat and tears into making Toledo hockey what it is today. And we just want to recognize folks who have made their mark.”
The first class of the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame was inducted in 2016, and with this year’s class, 20 individuals hold the honor of membership. But as Wiercinski pointed out, it won’t just be Toledo’s history that will be recognized at the January 20 luncheon.
“Not only are we having the fourth Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame class, but also the 12th class of the ECHL Hall of Fame,” Wiercinski said.
“Those who are part of the ECHL class, one way or another, had input in Toledo as well. Whether you look at the former commissioner, Brian McKenna, who obviously helped oversee the transition from the Toledo Storm to the Toledo Walleye, but also Rick Judson, who is also the Storm all-time leading scorer, and Alex Hicks, who was here in the early 90s for our championship years. Also Jim Bermingham, who is another inductee, he did play briefly in Toledo, as well.”
For seven years— three as an outstanding center, four as a coach— Greg Puhalski, nicknamed “The Chief,” was a central figure on the Toledo Storm hockey team. His contributions helped lead the team to two ECHL championships. Now, Puhalski’s contibutions to Toledo hockey will take center stage as he is inducted to the Hall of Fame.
“I think for me, it’s a great honor. I know that there’s a lot of deserving people that need to go in, and I just feel honored to have my name thrown in the hat and join the great hockey history there in Toledo,” Puhalski said.
Puhalski said that his time in the Glass City was among the most significant of his life— not only because it was where he first made the transition from rink to bench as a coach, but because of the connections he made while here, including with his future wife.
“Part of being a coach and a player is being a vagabond. You’re going to different cities, especially the coaching part— the nature of the game, especially in pro hockey, is you’re not going to be in one place for too long. I can really say my seven years in Toledo, if I were going to take any other seven year period in my life, it’s by far the most enjoyable.”
Mike Eruzione— who gained worldwide fame as the captain of the legendary 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team— also expressed deep gratitude at the chance to be recognized in the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Any time you’re selected to be a part of a special group of people, acknowledged for what you were able to do as an athlete and as a person— to be inducted into something like a
Hall of Fame— is a great honor and a great thrill.”
Eruzione noted how he had nothing but fond memories of his two seasons with the Goaldiggers in the late 1970s, which included a league championship. “A lot of great players I played with, a lot of great friendships, great people. The fans were spectacular. I felt right at home from the beginning. When I first got there, for the two years that I played there, it was kind of a home away from home for me.”
Beyond everything, Eruzione said he was looking forward to reconnecting with the city of Toledo and the people who made it so memorable. “I’ve got a lot of friends there, and I look forward to getting back and hopefully seeing a lot of people.”
The 2019 Toledo Hockey and ECHL Hall of Fame luncheon will take place at 1pm on Sunday, January 20 at the Seagate Center on Jefferson Avenue. The doors for the event will open at noon, and admission includes a full meal served at the table. Tickets cost $30 for the luncheon itself, and $45 for admission to a full slate of events set to honor the
For tickets and more information, visit toledowalleye.com.