The Hockey Hall of Fame unveiled its Class of 2019 earlier this week and a prominent former OHL architect is being recognized as one of six outstanding contributors to the sport.
Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, former OHL champion, and 1969 Memorial Cup champion will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame’s builder category in November, joining a class that also includes former NHL players Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov and Vaclav Nedomansky along with Canadian women’s hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser and long-time collegiate hockey coach Jerry York.
“Jim is a true builder of our great game at all levels from minor hockey up to our league and on into the National Hockey League,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “In the OHL he built great programs in Windsor and Detroit, served on many league committees including our executive council and was chairman of the board for the 1993-94 season.
“Jim’s contributions to the league both as a former player, manager and executive member cannot be overstated.”
A goaltender with the OHA’s Hamilton Red Wings from 1967-69, Rutherford joined the Montreal Jr. Canadiens for the 1969 Memorial Cup to sweep the Regina Pats 4-0 in a best-of-seven series. He then embarked on a 13-year NHL playing career spent largely with the Detroit Red Wings before retiring in 1983.
The Beeton, Ont. native’s hockey hiatus was a brief one as he quickly joined forces with Peter Karmanos and the Compuware Sports Corporation, a multi-tiered organization that included leagues for youngsters all the way up to Junior ‘A’. He became general manager of the Windsor Compuware Spitfires upon Karmanos’ acquisition of the franchise in 1984-85. Rutherford’s time in Windsor culminated in an OHL Championship in 1987-88 with a team that included Adam Graves, brothers Darryl and Darrin Shannon as well as Peter DeBoer.
Rutherford’s next pursuit saw him join with Karmanos once again, this time establishing an expansion franchise in Detroit to begin the 1990-91 season. Rutherford served as president and general manager of the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors, a franchise rebranded as the Detroit Jr. Red Wings in 1992-93. He won back-to-back OHL Executive of the Year honours in 1993 and 1994 before making the jump to the NHL’s Hartford Whalers in 1994-95. That same season the Jr. Red Wings team he helped build would hoist the Robertson Cup under the leadership of Paul Maurice.
Rutherford recently wrapped up his 25th NHL season in the front office, spending the first three in Hartford before a 17-year run with the Carolina Hurricanes that yielded a Stanley Cup title in 2006. He has served as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the past five campaigns, winning back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017.
For more on the decorated career of Jim Rutherford, visit the Hockey Hall of Fame website.