There are five banners hanging from the rafters of the GFL Memorial Gardens that are significantly different than all the rest. They haven’t been put there because of an accomplishment of the team but rather for the personal contribution four individuals made to the Soo Greyhounds Hockey Club. There was something that set them apart from all the rest.
Wayne Gretzky, Craig Hartsburg, Ron Francis, John Vanbiesbrouck and Adam Foote, are among a special group of five that have had their Greyhound jerseys retired.
#5 ADAM FOOTE
Adam Foote was selected by the Soo Greyhounds in the 1988 OHL Priority Selection. A defenceman from Whitby, Ontario, Foote posted 38 points (7 goals and 31 assists) in his rookie season with the Greyhounds.
He played for three seasons with the Hounds playing in 186 games, scoring 37 goals and 125 assists. In his final season, he helped the Hounds capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup and appeared in the Memorial Cup.
In a Greyhounds jersey, he was known as a fearless leader, willing to sacrifice anything for his teammates and always taking on the opponent’s best forwards. When Eric Lindros did not want to play for the Soo Greyhounds in 1990 Foote took it personally, a true testament to what being a Soo Greyhound meant to him.
In 1989, the Quebec Nordiques drafted Foote 22nd overall in the NHL Entry Draft. He had a successful career in the NHL, playing his last game with the Colorado Avalanche on April 10, 2011. Foote won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2000. He also won an Olympic gold medal with team Canada in 2002 and a World Cup in 2004.
Foote now resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife Jennifer and two sons, Callan and Nolan. He will forever be a part of Soo Greyhounds history. The number five is where it belongs, in the rafters of the Essar Centre with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Craig Hartsburg, Ron Francis, and John Vanbiesbrouck.
#99 WAYNE GRETZKY
At the age of 16, Wayne Gretzky made the move from his southern Ontario home of Brantford, Ontario to this Northern Ontario hockey hotbed.
And despite playing only one season (1977-78) for the Hounds, then members of the Ontario Major Junior A League, Gretzky entertained the fans with his offensive prowess along with hitting one mark that has not been surpassed to this day.
In 63 games in a Greyhound uniform, Gretzky grabbed 70 goals and 112 assists, good for 182 points.
It’s those 182 points that have remained untouched, and still stand as a franchise record for most points.
He was also named league rookie of the year.
Following his single season for the Hounds, Gretzky would move on to the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA for the following season. It is from there the Hall of Famer would enjoy an NHL career in Edmonton, Los Angelese and St. Louis before playing his final game as a member of the New Yor Rangers in 1998-99.
#10 RON FRANCIS
He’s a hometown boy who had the opportunity to play for his hometown team.
And not only did Ron Francis leave his mark on this franchise, he continues to leave it on this community as well.
Francis’ tenure as a Soo Greyhound started in the 1980-81 season. As a major junior rookie he averaged over a point per game; 69 points in 64 games played (26 goals, 43 assists).
Ron would return for his second season in 1981-82 but his time with the Hound would get cut short when he was called up to join the NHL’s Hartford Whalers after 25 games. Hartford was the team that drafted him earlier that summer in the first round – fourth overall.
In total, his OHL career would last 89 games and 117 points.
A 24-year NHL career would follow, seeing the Soo product make stops in Hartford (10 seasons), Pittsburgh (8 seasons), Carolina (6 seasons) and thenm a final stop in Toronto in 2003/2004.
He won numerous NHL awards including the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy and King Clancy Memorial Trophy along with the ultimate prize – the Stanley Cup – TWICE!
The Carolina Hurricanes retired Ron’s jersey in 2006, just before he was inducted into the Sault Ste. Marie Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ron currently resides in North Carolina with his family.
#4 CRAIG HARTSBURG
A defenceman from Stratford, Ontario, Craig Hartsburg first dawned the Greyhounds red and white in the 1975/76 OHL season after being picked in the first round.
After posting 28 points in that rookie season, Hartsburg would later become the captain of the 76/77 edition of the team. That year he would increase his point output to 93 points (29 goals and 64 assists) and would also be rewarded with the Max Kaminsky torphy as the league’s best defenceman.
Following one season in the WHA with the Birmingham Bulls, Craig would move into the National Hockey League with the Minnesota North Stars in 1979-1980. That is where Craig would start and end his pro playing career accumulating 98 goals and 315 assists along with being named to the “25-year Dream Team” for the North Stars organization.
For the next 17 years up until the present, “Hartsy” would assume coaching duties amongst the NHL and OHL. He has been named the CHL Coach of the Year once, and OHL Coach of the Year twice.
Craig currently resides east of the Soo and is in his fourth season as coach of the Greyhounds.
#1 JOHN VANBIESBROUCK
“Beezer” as he is more commonly known, played three seasons for the Soo Greyhounds from 1980-81 season thru 1982-83.
It was during that time he accumulated a win-loss record of 82 wins, 49 losses and 4 ties.
The Detroit, Michigan native was a recipient of a number of OHL accolates including the F.W. Dinty Moore Trophy (1981) as the first-year goaltender with the best GAA, the co-winner of the Dave Pinkney award (1982) for duo with the best GAA along with being named to the OHL’s 2nd All-Star team in 1982 and OHL’s 3rd All-Star team in 1981.
A twenty-year NHL career would follow; split between the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and ending with the New Jersey Devils.
John is a former owner and coach of the Greyhounds.