Hockey Hall just too tough

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

File this in the category of columns you never thought you would write.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has to lower its admission standards.

This all goes against the grain.

What you want in a Hall of Fame is what you want in a bar: A feeling of exclusivity. The busiest places often have the lousiest interiors. What brings in the customers is the size of the queue.

The problem for the Hockey Hall of Fame was a shortage of true greatness earlier this decade.

Unless you're related to one of them, it's tough to make an argument for Rod Langway, Bernie Federko and Clark Gillies in 2002 and Pat LaFontaine in 2003. Fine players all of them, but first-order Hall of Famers? Nope.

BASEBALL'S EXAMPLE?

Baseball, the cynics typed, never would induct such borderline names. Baseball only skims the cream.

That's bunk of course, unless you consider Charlie Cummings, Eddie Plank and Joe McGinnity the gold standard for Baseball Hall of Fame exclusivity.

But now the Hockey Hall faces a different credibility problem. It has become too exclusive.

The slam-dunk selection of Patrick Roy and the surprising inclusion of Dick Duff has set up a sliding scale of unfairness for the 18-man selection committee.

Look no further than former Leaf, Edmonton Oiler, St. Louis Blue and New York Ranger Glenn Anderson.

Anderson's case is clear cut. He won six Stanley Cups, two more than fellow inductees Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky. He scored 498 goals, plus 93 more in the post-season. He scored 17 game-winning goals. Those who played with him said he was as vital to the success of the Oilers as any single player.

Kevin Lowe, the glue of the Oilers defence, also has been shunned.

Also stiffed was 608-goal scorer Dino Ciccarelli who, while prolific, did not produce a title. Can't forget the electrifying Pavel Bure.

In lesser seasons you could even make an argument for the psychotically competitive Dale Hunter and hard-rock winger Rick Tocchet long of the Philadelphia Flyers.

WHAT ABOUT JAMES?

Same with female superstar Angela James (it's the Hockey Hall of Fame, remember) and Russian greats Boris Mikhailov, Alexander Maltsev and Vladimir Petrov.

Here's the problem. If you don't let anyone through the front door of the bar, well, you go broke.

There was ample stink that Doug Gilmour, a Cup winner in Calgary and an incendiary competitor here, didn't earn inclusion. But even if you wanted to, how to justify Gilmour without acknowledging Anderson?

Next year, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis, Igor Larionov and Mark Messier become eligible. Except for the sublime Larionov, you're looking at first-ballot candidates.

The stockpile eventually will continue. In 2009, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille become eligible. Hull scored 741 times, Robitaille 668. Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios, Steve Yzerman and Brian Leetch soon will follow.

There is a point where exclusivity stops working in your favour. Keeping MacInnis or Gilmour waiting for years creates a fan backlash that creates acrimony, not controversy.

What the Hall needs to do is acknowledge its special moment in history. Incredibly, it needs to lower the bar, from 75% approval per candidate to, say, 70 or 65 or increase the number of eligible player inductees to five from four.

It's time to open the door wider. The Hall needs it. So does the game.


Videos

Photos