SUN Hockey Pool

Image hurting Hall hopes

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Cal Nichols, the lead man of the Edmonton Oilers ownership group, is on the phone.

He is selling the idea that Glenn Anderson belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"I got to know Glenn very well," Nichols said. "My company had an endorsement deal with him and I admired his stick-to-it-iveness. He'd talk to the fans and sign autographs hour after hour."

Anderson, Nichols said, also was active with the Cross Cancer Institute in town.

"A lot of times, he would show up on his own and pay particular attention to the kids. You could see that he genuinely cared. That's a side only a few of us got to see."

Nichols was taking the time to pitch Anderson because he knows many in the hockey world do not hold a particularly high opinion of Glenn Anderson the man. And that, more than any failure on the ice, is what has kept Anderson out of the Hall.

The selection committee makes its announcement next Wednesday.

In 2006, Doug Gilmour and Patrick Roy will be the minimum three years removed from the game and should be locks.

For Anderson, first eligible for the Hall in 1999, this could be his last chance. Since that year, a handful of comparable players -- Bernie Federko, Clark Gillies, Dale Hawerchuk, Joe Mullen and Denis Savard -- have glided into the Hall while Anderson has been shunned.

"I think it's media-driven," Nichols said of Anderson's exclusion. "Glenn with the media was a different person than he was with the citizens and sports fans."

There are other explanations.

The Hall of Fame has been top-heavy with Edmonton Oilers with the selections of Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri.

But there is the image thing. Five of the 18 members of the selection committee are media members. That does not guarantee they will vote against Anderson. Far from it. But Anderson's standing among the men and women who covered him hasn't helped.

A while later, Nichols, a guy with plenty to do, called again.

"Glenn will be calling in a couple of minutes," he said.

The call never came.

This is classic Glenn Anderson. The Oilers have launched a substantial campaign to get him in the Hall. They have made themselves available to talk about his skills and gloss over his defects. He was one of them.

"Ask anyone. Ask Wayne or Jari or Mark (Messier). Glenn Anderson was as big a part of the package as anyone," said Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe, another member of the Edmonton dynasty.

The Oilers know a flattering story in a Toronto daily a few days before Wednesday's vote could help land Anderson a spot in the Hall.

But despite all their efforts on his behalf, Anderson didn't bother to pick up the phone.

Glenn Anderson stands as one of the most unaccommodating, ungracious athletes I have ever dealt with and in this I am not alone. Even reporters who worked with him for a decade in Edmonton were blown off whenever they asked for a word.

Once, on a whim, he said: "Sex on the beach" to whatever a reporter asked him.

He had, as far as I was ever able to determine, only two profound character flaws. He had no regard for anyone of a lesser intelligence and he vastly overrated how smart he was.

Anderson's public image has been further tarnished by a high-profile child support case over a boy he fathered 16 years ago. Anderson maintained no relationship with the boy and fell behind $125,000 in child payments over four years. He later agreed to pay $602 a month -- plus a lump sum of $80,000 -- but only after being hauled before a B.C. court.

Although he never gambled as Pete Rose did, or stole money as did Alan Eagleson, Glenn Anderson makes us ask the question: How much should off-ice comportment mean in selecting players to the Hall?

Players, and probably readers too, would feel that playing suck-up with the media shouldn't be part of the job description. If a player opts out, so what? The fans aren't paying to see the player interviewed. They pay to see them play.

Maybe some people just aren't built to play the media game. Should they be penalized for refusing to co-operate?

"I think Glenn always took to heart the old saying: 'What goes on in the room stays in the room,' " Lowe said. "He didn't know how to give the media what they needed, so he didn't."

But the Hall's own bylaws call for "playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team or teams and to the game of hockey in general."

There is no quarrel that Anderson could play, especially in the spring. He scored 498 times in the regular season but stands as the fourth-leading point getter in NHL playoff history. He is fifth in post-season goals (93) and seventh in assists. He scored 17 game-winning goals. Only one player, Maurice Richard, has more overtime goals than Anderson's five.

He won six Stanley Cups, five with the Oilers and one, in 1994, with the New York Rangers.

Nor was Anderson's value a secret confined to the Oilers room. Cliff Fletcher, the Calgary Flames general manager through the team's long rivalry with Edmonton, identified Anderson as one of the key Oilers to stop.

"He was an integral part of one of the best teams of all time," said Fletcher, who later brought Anderson to the Leafs. "He was one of the best I've ever seen. He was so dynamic. He could cut off on the off wing so effectively and go to the net. He played with a real edge."

But he did only what he wanted, when he wanted. Anderson could have scored another 200 goals, but was often bored by the regular season. Judge me on my actions, was Glenn Anderson's unspoken demand.

Fair enough. I agree. All of them.


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