TORONTO - The Hockey Hall of Fame is an argument waiting to happen. It doesn’t matter the year. It doesn’t matter who gets elected and who doesn’t.
That is the charm of the conversation and the passion of those who follow the game and believe only what they happen to believe. And that is why, if you open up the phones on a talk show and say “Hockey Hall of Fame,” the lines are forever jammed.
Any day of the year. Any time. There is nothing that automatic. And nobody is ever wrong with their fervent and very personal views.
Mats Sundin is officially a Hall of Famer today and Brendan Shanahan is not. Therein is the joy and the aggravation of the announcement. It depends whose side you are on. In Toronto, you’re excited. In Mimico, you’re irate.
It depends which players you care about and which ones you have no interest or belief in.
Pavel Bure is a Hall of Famer now. Last year, his brother Valeri went on Twitter and called the Hall of Fame a joke. He called it a few other choice adjectives as well. We suspect Valeri, after years of watching his older brother passed over, is quiet today. And if I followed Brian Shanahan on Twitter today, I suspect he might be calling the Hall a few names, except that his brother happens to be employed by the National Hockey League in a rather senior position.
It is all so very complicated, emotional and slightly political.
Before the announcement of the Class of 2012 was made Tuesday, the usual buildup occurred. The questions posed: Who belongs and who doesn’t? Everyone had Joe Sakic as a no-brainer. It was the rest of the class that created debate.
Shanahan or Sundin? Eric Lindros or Pavel Bure? Adam Oates or Jeremy Roenick? Ginger or Mary Ann? Hell, my learned TSN colleague Darren Dreger was floating Kevin Lowe’s name, he of the six Stanley Cup rings, as a Hall of Fame player deserving. And Don Cherry, who isn’t in the Hall but should be, always brings up Rick Middleton’s name as being lost in translation. And for my favourite lost Hall of Fame cause: Goaltender Rogie Vachon.
Everybody has someone.
And then it becomes official on your television screen: And Bure’s name gets called and I think, “It’s about time.” And then Oates, who was earlier in the day hired as the Washington Capitals’ coach, and I’m a bit perplexed. Not that he got in, but that he wasn’t in much of the conversation prior to the behind closed doors voting. Then came Sakic. This is done alphabetically. And what’s after Sakic in the alphabet?
Either Sundin or Shanahan.
A deep breath and then one name is called. I would have voted for both, but in a room with 18 voters — six media members, six ex-players, six executives, half of them Hall of Fame members themselves — if you’re left off five ballots, you are out.
Shanahan was left off at least five ballots. The election will come for him in another year. The passing over of a 656-goal-scoring power forward is part of what drives the annual argument: How can they do that?
How can they not induct a builder for the second year in a row, which means the late Pat Burns has been left out again? This isn’t the first time for Burns. The lobby for him started while he was still alive. The lobby lives on, as does his name.
But, clearly, the Hall voters couldn’t come up with the right 14 votes for Burns, or for Fred Shero, or for whomever else may have been discussed and really, isn’t it time for Viktor Tikhonov, the Russian supercoach, and Mike Keenan to get some consideration also? Shero won two Stanley Cups in Philadelphia. The general manager of that team is in the Hall. The owner is in the Hall. The captain is in the Hall. The goalie is in the Hall. Just not the coach.
Coaches get short shift from the Hall, which just gets the argument boiling all the more: How many world championships and Olympic medals did Tikhonov coach Russia to victory in? Probably a little less than a million, but not far from that. Keenan won the same number of Stanley Cups as Burns, and had a tremendous run in the ’80s and ’90s. And my argument du jour: Why isn’t Fran Rider, the mother of women’s hockey, in the Hall? If she didn’t build something, who did?
She doesn’t get any push from the outside because, frankly, most people have no idea who she is or what she’s accomplished. But that’s another column for another day.
There is the Hall of Fame to talk about today. The number to call is ...
Gentlemen, start your arguments: There’s only 364 days worth of debate until next year.