TORONTO - Unless the Hockey Hall of Fame committee succumbs to Maple Leaf myopia, there won’t be a second consecutive slate of Toronto-tinged inductees to announce in a few days.
While it would be nice for Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts and Curtis Joseph to get in on their first try, they’ll likely be in a pool with other new eligibles behind the two strongest entrants — the much-decorated Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan. The aforementioned Leafs trio join four-time Cup winner Claude Lemieux and American scoring ace Jeremy Roenick.
Their consideration then hinges on whether the selection committee chooses to redress one or two players growing older on the vine, including multi-Stanley Cup winners from the Original Six era and some near-forgotten Europeans. The list will be finalized a few days before voting.
Last year’s ceremony was a Leafs love-in, with Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mark Howe, all of whom played at least one year for the Leafs, or Toronto Marlboro juniors. Those, except Howe, won Stanley Cups, all elsewhere.
“The number of players put forward by people isn’t as important as who gets committee support,” reminded co-chairman Jim Gregory. “You, your mother or your girlfriend can put a name forward (public and committee submissions are now closed for this year) but you need 14 of the 18 votes of the committee.
“It isn’t easy to decide on players, but it’s good we have people on the committee who go back years in the game, who can compare a player such as Mark Messier to someone older.”
Gregory or his members can’t discuss individual player cases in public.
“I will say that very few names that are submitted (usually around 40) aren’t legitimate. But it’s our job to make sure the great ones get in, not just the good ones.”
Up to four male players can be added, two female and two builders or on-ice officials.
Sakic never craved the media spotlight, but won’t have a choice when he is recognized for 1,641 points, two Cups and two Canada Cup/world titles. He and Sundin were teammates on the Quebec Nordiques, before Sundin’s trade to the Leafs and the Nords’ move to Denver sent the pair on different career paths.
Shanahan has 1,524 points and won three Cups to Sakic’s two and boosted his chances the past year with service in the NHL’s demanding new department of player safety.
Speaking of Cups, that might be one criteria that holds Sundin back in his first attempt. Sakic and Shanahan won Cups as well as several individual awards and all-star team nods, including a Hart Trophy for Sakic in 2001. Sundin had 1,349 points, good for 27th in league history and just about everyone near him on the list who hung up their skates is now in the Hall. Roberts won a Cup with Calgary.
Sundin did win an Olympic gold, which carries weight in the voting, and fellow Swede Anders Hedberg is now on the committee. It’s expected the committee will also get another public submission to induct Team Canada hero Paul Henderson.