A US$20-million renewal project launched in 1998 was officially completed Friday with the opening of the Esso Great Hall. The final phase of renovations saw $1.7 million spent on reconfiguring the exhibition space where all of the NHL trophies and inductees plaques are displayed.
"Welcome to the next chapter of progress," said Hall of Fame chairman and CEO Bill Hay. "The Hockey Hall of Fame is a shrine to the game and those that made it great. ... It is about the people who played the game better than anyone, the people who built the sport into what it is today and it is about the people who broadcast and report the excitement into our homes and brought the game into the world."
It took a little over three months to complete the final phase of renovations. Six Hall of Famers were on hand for the official opening: Johnny Bower, Yvan Cournoyer, Harry Howell, Bernie Parent, Denis Potvin and Darryl Sittler.
The final construction work was being completed as they arrived Friday morning.
"As long as my picture was still on the wall, I was OK," said Bower, the former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie.
Imperial Oil helped fund the extensive work. The redesign features improved sightlines for visitors, enhanced multimedia content and custom-built showcases for the trophies.
"It's just a continuation of our support for the Hockey Hall of Fame," said Brad Merkel, Imperial Oil vice president and general manager of fuels marketing. "And a continuation of a long tradition of supporting hockey in Canada."
Standing under the cathedral ceiling in the Great Hall, Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard wore a wide grin.
"Most of all, this is the reason we're here," said Pritchard. "The Hockey Hall of Fame exists because of the guys on these walls. This is the epitome of the sport — the pinnacle if you want to call it that."
The Hockey Hall of Fame's current lease runs through 2032.
Note to readers: This is a corrected version of an earlier story. Brad Merkel, Imperial Oil vice president and general manager of fuels marketing spoke about the company's continuing support of the Hall of Fame, not Imperial Oil CEO Bruce March as previously stated.