John Tavares figured to be an absolute slam dunk for the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame this year. And he was.
But he'll have some familiar company.
Former Buffalo Bandit teammate Tracey Kelusky will join him in the Class of 2016. In addition, veteran forward Josh Sanderson also was selected.
They will be inducted in the Hall of Fame Ceremony on Sept. 27 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ont.
Tavares was a unanimous choice for the Hall. Sanderson was picked by 77 percent of the voters, while Kelusky was chosen by 71 percent. Kelusky's number is below the 75 percent needed, but he did receive more than 75 percent of the votes from Hall of Fame members and thus qualified for induction.
“It’s an honor to be inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame,” Tavares said. “It feels great to be included in my first year of eligibility, but to get 100 percent of the vote is extra special.”
Kevin Finneran and Gavin Prout were the other two finalists.
Tavares spent 24 seasons in the NLL, a league record. He retired holding most of the NLL's major records, including games (306), goals, (815), assists (934) and points (1,749). He was the league's most valuable player three times, and won four championships.
Kelusky spent three seasons with the Bandits. Before that he played in Columbus, Calgary, Montreal and Philadelphia. Kelusky is a five-time All-Pro and retired with 383 goals and 823 points. His time in Buffalo was hampered by issues with concussions.
“It’s great to go in with Tracey,” Tavares said. “He played in Buffalo, and he was a competitor in Calgary and Columbus.
“It’s also great for Josh. I respect them both so much – their style of play, the way they carry themselves on the floor. They were leaders. I’m thrilled to go in with two great guys.”
Sanderson played 19 seasons in the NLL and won two champions. He finished with 1,357 points, and is a nine-time All-Pro. Sanderson won two titles.
It’s been quite a year of honors for Tavares, who is now an assistant coach with the Bandits. Earlier in 2016, he had his uniform number retired by the Bandits before a game. Tavares said it’s difficult to compare the two honors.
“The jersey retirement was special because it came within my own organization. That was a night I will remember forever,” he said. “That one was one where I celebrated with my fans, my family, and my friends. I got to share it with 18,000. With the Hall of Fame, Tracey and Josh are also involved, but it’s still the biggest honor the league gives out.”
The list of people to be part of the NLL’s Hall with Buffalo connections also includes Les Bartley, Johnny Mouradian, Darris Kilgour, Rich Kilgour, Steve Dietrich, Pat O’Toole and Buffalo News sportswriter Tom Borrelli.
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Here is the NLL's entire press release:
TRACEY KELUSKY, JOSH SANDERSON & JOHN TAVARES WIN INDUCTION INTO NLL HALL OF FAME
Trio of lacrosse legends will be enshrined into the Class of 2016 at NLL Hall of Fame Ceremony on Sept. 27 in Toronto
The National Lacrosse League today announced Tracey Kelusky, Josh Sanderson and John Tavares have been voted into the NLL Hall of Fame as the Class of 2016. The trio of inductees, which marks the league's largest member class since 2010, will be enshrined at the NLL Hall of Fame Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ont.
"It's really an incredible statement and testament to the staying power of our players and League when this outstanding trio get inducted into the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame and all continue to work as executives in our League," said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz. "Tracey Kelusky, Josh Sanderson and John Tavares were all dynamic players on the floor, and they continue to serve the National Lacrosse League in their post-playing careers as coaches and team executives. It's an honor and very important to have former players find post-playing careers with our League and each of these men have made immeasurable contributions to the sport, and continue to do so in guiding the next generation of NLL players. It's fitting that each will now be forever immortalized in the NLL Hall of Fame."
Kelusky played 14 seasons in the league with Calgary (2003-2010), where he served as team captain and won two Champion's Cups (2004 & 2009), Columbus (2001), Montreal (2002), Buffalo (2011-2013) and Philadelphia (2014). He retired with the 11th-most goals (383) and points (823) in league history and 13th-most games played (195) along with 886 loose balls. Won the 2001 NLL Rookie of the Year award and 2007 Sportsmanship Award. The five-time All-Pro (2001-2005) forward ranks 10th all-time in NLL career playoff goals (37). Finished his career second in Roughnecks franchise history in goals, assists and points and had 50 or more points in 10 of his 14 seasons in the league.
Sanderson spent 19 seasons in the league with Toronto (2005-2008 & 2012-2016), Rochester (1998-1999), Albany (2000-2003), San Jose (2004), Calgary (2008-2010) and Boston (2011). Won two Champion's Cups (2005 & 2009) and retired fourth in NLL career scoring with 1,357 points (449+908). Ranked second in NLL history in games played (268) and assists (908), fifth in goals (449) and 10th in loose balls (1,216). Finished seventh on NLL all-time playoff scoring list with 100 points (35+65) in 23 games. Nine-time All-Pro (2000, 2002-2006, 2009-2010 & 2015) recorded 60 or more points in every season from 2002 to 2015 including five 100-plus point campaigns.
Tavares played an NLL-record 24 seasons in the league, all with Buffalo (1992-2015). Retired as NLL’s all-time leader in games played (306), goals (815), assists (934) and points (1,749), and ranked second in loose balls (2,169). Four-time Champion's Cup winner (1992-1993, 1996 & 2008) leads NLL all-time playoff list in games played (38), goals (84), assists (116) and points (200). Scored 30 or more goals in 16 seasons and had 80 or more points in 12 seasons, including 10-straight years from 2000 to 2009, with four 100-plus point campaigns. Three-time NLL Most Valuable Player (1994, 2000 & 2001) was named NLL All-Pro a league-record 19 times (1993-2009 & 2011-2012).
The five finalists for the Class of 2016 were selected last month by the league’s Hall of Fame Committee. The other two finalists were Kevin Finneran and Gavin Prout, who automatically returned from last year's ballot.
Hall of Fame ballots were cast by the teams, current members of the NLL Hall of Fame and the league's senior media members. Voters were able to select up to three of the five nominees on the ballot. To win induction into the Hall of Fame, nominees must be selected on a minimum of 75 percent of the overall ballots cast or 75 percent of ballots cast by Hall of Fame members.
Tavares was voted in unanimously by receiving votes on 100% of the overall ballots, followed by Sanderson (77%), Kelusky (71%), Finneran (26%) and Prout (23%). Kelusky won induction by receiving votes on 75% of the ballots cast by Hall of Fame members.
The NLL Hall of Fame was established in 2006. The 24 current members are:
Class of 2006 (Founding Members)
Class of 2007
Class of 2008
Class of 2009
Class of 2010
Class of 2011
Class of 2012
Class of 2013
Class of 2014
Class of 2015
Members of Media Recognized by Hall of Fame
Tom Borrelli (2007)
Neil Stevens (2008)