Tough call for hall committee

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

The credential check for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow should be one of the most scrutinized in years.

The selection committee will consider a cast of good, but not spectacular, first-year candidates, pooled with holdovers from the 1990s who were lost in the shuffle. But players hoping to get in this time will find the locks have changed from last last year, when high-scoring defencemen Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy easily pushed the door open.

"Some years, I'll get calls from people who tell me: 'How could you let that jerk in?' " said Jim Gregory, chairman of the Hall's 18-man committee. "I try (to) hold my composure. The people on this committee (former players, executives, managers, coaches and journalists) are a fine cross-section of the game, the highest calibre people. They are looking for somebody who is above the crowd. There was the one debate a few years ago (about Clark Gillies). Most years, there is no controversy."

But with the anticipated fast track selection of goaltending great Patrick Roy and ex-Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour in 2006 (after their minimum three-year wait), some candidates will fall further behind if not chosen tomorrow. Up to four players can be added per year, if they get support of 14 of the 18 committee members (75%). Citizens can write in to nominate players, but it must be supported by one of the committee.

The ownership of the Edmonton Oilers has been pushing for Glenn Anderson, after Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Coffey were all enshrined the previous five years.

"The way it looks this year, a strong argument from one person at the meeting could carry the day for one player," a source familiar with the voting said.

Thousand-point men such as Anderson, Dino Ciccarelli, Steve Larmer, Dale Hunter and Bobby Smith have seen players with similar numbers get in, while newly eligible Rick Tocchet is in the ballpark with 952.

Goaltenders with respectable numbers include Mike Vernon and John Vanbiesbrouck.

Gary Suter would be among the defencemen under consideration.

There also is a push to have more Americans put in.

Career scoring points are the most convenient method of separating the best players, but Gregory says defensive excellence in the Hall also is recognized through players such as Bob Gainey. And those questioning Hunter because of his 3,565 penalty minutes (second in National Hockey League history), should remember (Terrible) Ted Lindsay is an honoured member.

"I've pushed for him to get Dale into the Hall for years," said Dave Fay, who covered Hunter during his 23 seasons as a hockey writer with the Washington Times. "Not just for what he did for the Capitals, but for what he did in Quebec with Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny. He was the solidifying force on that line and he was a leader everywhere he played.

"There was the Pierre Turgeon incident (Hunter hammered the New York Islanders star from behind after a playoff goal and was suspended 21 games), but I go by what Turgeon told me later. He'd still love to play with the guy."

Members of the committee include Scotty Bowman, Pat Quinn, Stan Mikita, Emile Francis, Frank Selke Jr., Dick Irvin Jr., Matt Pavelich, Harry Sinden and Colin Campbell.


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