|Pat Burns was passed over for the honour of being part of the Class of 2010 on Tuesday. (QMI Agency/Claude Croisetiere)
LOS ANGELES - The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee blew it.
They missed out on a chance to do something special, something uplifting.
They should have put Pat Burns in the Hall this fall.
The three-time winner of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year and Stanley Cup champion in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils deserves it.
There’s nothing more to it than that.
Burns should be in the Hall.
“A travesty,” said a former Burns’ colleague Tuesday.
The fact Burns is battling terminal lung cancer should have only been a slight consideration on the part of the committee, but it should have been a consideration none the less. Maybe it was.
We probably won’t ever know because, according to the HHOF by-laws, “No member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee or any other person present at the Annual Elections Meeting shall disclose to any person how any member of the Selection Committee voted on the election of any particular candidate (including the particulars of the balloting).”
The baseball writers who vote on that sport’s Hall of Fame inductees are accountable for their selections; why not hockey’s?
Jimmy Devellano of the Detroit Red Wings and the late Daryl “Doc” Seaman, who helped bring the Flames to Calgary, were announced Tuesday as the inductees in the builders’ category. Both are deserving, I’m sure. But couldn’t Seaman’s induction have been put off a year and Burns given that opportunity? (The committee can vote in one builder a year or two if there are no selections in the referee-linesman category, which is the case this year).
Maybe I’m being too sentimental. I don’t think it’s a question of if Burns will be in the Hall, only when and the fact is we don’t know how much longer we’ll have Burns around. He was blunt about that when he appeared for the dedication of a rink being named in his honour in Stanstead, Que., in March.
“I probably won’t see the project to the end, but let’s hope I’m looking down on it and see a young Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux,” said Burns in a voice left high-pitched and raspy by the ravages of the disease.
If he’s deserving of being in the Hall, then it would have been right to induct him when he - and perhaps just as importantly - his family, friends and colleagues could savour it.
If Burns is worthy - and let’s face it, there have been a couple of honoured members whose credentials pale in comparison to Burns’ - then how could the ideals of the Hall be compromised by inducting him now?
There is always going to be debate on the merits of the inductees. That’s part of the fun. (Dino Ciccarelli over Joe Nieuwendyk? Really?) Truth is, the exclusion of Burns this time around, unfortunately, is only going to detract attention from those who did make it, as deserving as they may be.
Election to the Hall is a wonderful individual honour, but for any of you who have watched the speeches of the newly-minted “honoured members,” it is often a moment for the player, builder or official to publicly thank those who played big roles in helping them arrive at that podium, to achieve that moment.
Maybe Burns, being the fighter he is, will still have that chance.