SUN Hockey Pool

Cold war rages at Hall of Fame

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Explain this to me.

If the 1972 Summit Series was the pinnacle of hockey, why are there 14 Canadian players from that series in the Hockey Hall of Fame and only one Russian?

Brad Park, Bobby Clarke, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Tony and Phil Esposito, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Gilbert Perreault, Jean Ratelle, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Frank Mahovlich and Marcel Dionne, chosen to represent Canada, have a place in the Hall.

Goalie Vladislav Tretiak is only one of two Russian players chosen for the Hall and he gained entry by showing so well against Canada. Had the only other Russian trained player in the Hall, Slava Fetisov, not spent the second half of his career in North America, one of the best half-dozen defencemen to ever play would never have been let in the door.

It's not like the Hall's standards are immune to scrutiny.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is really the Hockey Hall of Pretty Darned Good and it has been at least since 2002 when it admitted Bernie Federko and Clark Gillies.

This is not an indictment of either man, but you need to recognize a weakness in the selection process when Gillies, at least the fourth-best player on the New York Islanders' championship team, and Federko, the 93rd-highest scorer in National Hockey League history, make the grade.

On June 8, the 18 members of the selection committee will meet in Toronto to select a new crop and the pickings are pretty lean, until you look past the NHL candidates. Before everyone gets on the plane to come here, how about a word of advice. Fix the Russian thing.

The NHL, remember, is supposed to be the most international of the big four sports. But the exclusion of contributors to the world's second most important hockey nation and Canada's most lasting rival doesn't make sense.

The answer lies with the selection of one or more of these four men: Valeri Kharlamov, Vladimir Petrov, Alexander Maltsev and Boris Mikhailov.

The four accounted for 24 combined world championships and eight Olympic titles. Maltsev, Kharlamov and Petrov dazzled their Canadian opponents until Clarke's slash wrecked Kharlamov's ankle midway through the '72 series.

Kharlamov, who died in a car crash in 1981, was a superb skater, probably the fastest, most skilled man in the series and it speaks only to the NHL skew of the selection committee that he has not been recognized.

Petrov was the setup artist and an excellent defensive centre who credited Clarke and Esposito's offensive prowess for making him become a better defensive player. Petrov, who centred Kharlamov and Mikhailov through most of his career, recorded 154 points in 104 world championship games.

Mikhailov was a spectacular character player, every bit the equal of Clarke. Maltsev's name is mentioned among the best Russian players in history. It's not like there are a ton of Canadian players more deserving.

Glenn Anderson rates a look and given the resumes of Federko and Gillies, he should be a layup. But while Anderson racked up prodigious numbers, he played the game with a disregard for his opponents and treated the media with contempt.

He could play, though, but the great Edmonton Oilers teams were mostly attributable to Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey and Mark Messier. Anderson can wait awhile.

The Hall can go a long way in restoring its credibility, not by a foolish publicity stunt to induct Summit Series hero Paul Henderson or the entire 1972 team, but by putting the Russian greats, belatedly, where they so richly deserve to be ... among the immortals.


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