Gregory headed to Hall

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Had Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens not been announced as slam-dunk inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a well-known hockey zealot, might have called for a federal inquiry.

For the record, each of those former NHL superstars did make it in their first year of eligibility, the first time four players were inducted since Mike Gartner, Jari Kurri, Slava Fetisov and Dale Hawerchuk in 2001.

But the nicest story of the day might have been the announcement that long-time hockey man Jim Gregory was being welcomed into the builders' category.

Gregory, who served as the general manager of the Maple Leafs from 1969-79, easily could have been a candidate for the sympathy vote, having served under the tyrannical Harold Ballard for 10 years. But his duties with central scouting and his role as the NHL's vice-president of hockey operations underscores the work of a man involved in the sport for more than four decades.

Because of health issues, Gregory took a leave of absence from his league-wide duties back in January, including his role with the Hall's selection committee. He received the call concerning his induction while driving home from a family function in Dunnville Wednesday night, causing him to pull off the road.

"You could say some things with Harold were erratic," Gregory chuckled. "Most of the time he wouldn't pry but there was the odd time that he would try to get his arms, legs, feet, everything, into it. He wanted to win.

"I tried to be patient and enjoyed my time there, but there were moments ..."

Each of the player inductees were known for their specific traits: Messier's ferocity and leadership; MacInnis' missile shots from the point; Francis' slick playmaking abilities; and Stevens' bone-crushing hits.

"I have a lot of respect for the guys inducted this year," Messier said.

Former Russian great Igor Larionov was the most notable of the first-year eligibles not to make it.

"I had the privilege to play with Igor and know how good he was," Stevens said. "It's just a matter of time."

The induction ceremony will take place on Nov. 12.

NHL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

RON FRANCIS

Home town: Sault Ste. Marie

Career stats: G: 549 A: 1,249 P: 1,798

The Skinny: Drafted 4th overall by NHL's Whalers in 1981 ... Won Stanley Cups in 1991 and '92 with Pittsburgh Penguins ... Led Carolina Hurricanes to '02 Stanley Cup final ... Ranks second in assists; third in games-played; fourth in points.

Ron says: "For my entire career I always relied on other guys to put the puck in the net and have benefited from playing with so many great goal scorers and teammates."

AL MACINNIS

Home town: Port Hood, N.S.

Career stats: G: 340 A: 934: P: 1,274

The Skinny: After winning a Memorial Cup with Kitchener Rangers, went on to spend 23 year-career with Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues ... Won NHL's hardest shot competition seven times ... First Hockey Hall of Fame inductee from Nova Scotia

Al says: "I grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup but I never imagined this type of recognition."

SCOTT STEVENS

Home town: Kitchener

Career stats: G: 196 A: 712 P: 908

The Skinny: Drafted fifth overall by Washington Capitals in '82 NHL draft ... Spent 13-years with New Jersey Devils ... Won three Cups and the 2000 Conn Smythe winner with Devils ...All-time leader for games-played by a defenceman with 1,635.

Scott says: "From winning a Memorial Cup with Al MacInnis in Kitchener to the (Cups) in New Jersey, this is a wonderful way to cap off my playing career."

JIM GREGORY

Home town: Dunnville

The Skinny: Came to Toronto to attend St. Mic hael's College in 1953 ... Ran Junior A and professional teams before being named Maple Leafs GM in 1969 ... Went on to become head of NHL central scouting and senior vice-president of hockey operations for the NHL.

Jim says: "I was flabbergasted when I got the call saying I had been inducted."

-- Mike Zeisberger

MARK MESSIER

Home town: St. Albert, Alta.

Career stats: G: 694 A: 1,193 P: 1,887

The Skinny: Began pro career in 1978 with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers ... Won five Stanley Cups in 12 years with the Edmonton Oilers ... Captained Rangers to long-awaited Cup title in 1994 ... Only player in pro sports history to captain two championship teams.

Mark says: "This comes while my parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary so this makes it even more special."


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