Cloud hangs over Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

NHL Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mats Sundin (right) is seen on the bench with teammate Dave...

NHL Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mats Sundin (right) is seen on the bench with teammate Dave 'Tiger' Williams at the NHL's Legends Classic in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:37 PM ET

TORONTO - There was a hockey game Sunday at the Air Canada Centre, with guys who were actual NHLers.

There were people milling around the ACC in their Toronto Maple Leafs and Quebec Nordiques sweaters as they celebrated Hall of Fame weekend, the feeling in the air that people were happy to have a hockey-related reason to congregate.

There were even scalpers at work.

But while the fans were enjoying a few moments to relish and relive the careers of some NHL greats, at the same time the latest meeting between the league and its players was breaking up in New York after just 90 minutes.

As the NHL Alumni game concluded, it was understandable if some of those fans spilling back into the streets were wondering it this was the closest they would get to seeing NHL hockey at the ACC this season.

That's where we're at as the hockey world, fragmented in North America by the owners' lockout of the players, comes together to celebrate the careers of four of its brightest lights.

The lockout cloud hangs over the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and it will be interesting to see if the presence of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr serves to overshadow the proceedings.

Inductee Joe Sakic had his 20-year career impacted by two lockouts, limited to just 48 games in 1994-95 and missing the entire season to the 2004-05 fiasco. So did Mats Sundin. Pavel Bure and Adam Oates, the other inductees, were both retired before the 2004-05 lockout.

With each day there isn't progress on a new CBA, the chances grow this season could be wiped out. There will be a generation of players whose careers will be significantly impacted by the labour policies of the current NHL leadership. Will that make it tougher for guys to get into the Hall of Fame down the road because their career numbers will be significantly lowered?

Perhaps.

Consider a player like Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils, one among many who have lost a considerable number of games to the lockout(s). He had 41 goals the season before the 2004-05 lockout and 52 the season after.

It's not out of the question he could lose a potential 80 goals (maybe more) in his career. The difference 80 goals makes on the career scoring list is about 60 spots (Dave Keon, for instance, is in 88th place on the list with 396 goals. Sergei Fedorov is in 48th place with 483.)

Kovalchuk is currently stuck on 406 career goals, so he's still going to be a good bet to get into the Hall, but his career numbers aren't going to be nearly what they might have been.

Is Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning Hall of Fame material? Labour disruptions are probably going to cost him the chance to get to 400 career goals and 1,000 points (he has 323 and 852, respectively).

The Hall of Fame selectors don't exactly have a glittering record when it comes to deciding who gets into the Hall and diminished career numbers because of lockouts aren't going to help the cause of some future candidates.

Monday, for one day at least, should bring some respite from the gloomy state of the CBA negotiations as four remarkable careers are celebrated.

Better to take a day or two to look back and celebrate the hockey lives of four greats.

It doesn't sound like there's much to look forward to in the immediate future.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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