Joe Nieuwendyk should’ve been a shoo-in.
The former Calgary Flames standout has Hall-of-Fame numbers — 564 goals and 1,126 points in 1,257 NHL outings.
He has a Hall-of-Fame hardware collection — a Calder Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy, an Olympic gold medal and three Stanley Cup rings with three different teams.
He has a Hall-of-Fame reputation — a man known as a class act both at the rink and away from it.
Nieuwendyk does not, however, have an invitation to this year’s Hockey Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony.
Instead, the selection committee said Tuesday former Minnesota North Stars sniper Dino Ciccarelli and female hockey pioneers Angela James and Cammi Granato are the only skaters set to be enshrined in November.
Up to four male skaters can be inducted each year.
The late Daryl (Doc) Seaman, a founding member of the Flames ownership group, and longtime Detroit Red Wings executive Jim Devellano will enter via the builder’s category.
Nieuwendyk, meanwhile, will have to wait ’til next year.
Terry Crisp, who was behind the bench at the Saddledome when Nieuwendyk won the Calder Trophy in 1988 and when the Flames skated laps with Lord Stanley’s mug the following season, was stunned when he heard the news.
“If his name is on the list, he sure as hell should be a lock to get in, with what he’s done for the game, what he has won, his longevity, the class he has brought to our game …” Crisp said. “The two gentlemen that I use as my criteria or my bar are Jean Beliveau and Glenn Hall when you’re talking about class gentlemen, hockey gentlemen in all aspects of the game and all areas ...
“Joe Nieuwendyk ranks up there with them, in my estimation. That’s why it surprises me that they wouldn’t consider or have Joe Nieuwendyk on that list. His name should definitely be on that list. Why would he not be?”
This Hall-of-Fame class is more notable for its snubs — no Eric Lindros, no Pat Burns — and none was more surprising than the exclusion of Nieuwendyk, now serving as the GM of the Dallas Stars.
Nieuwendyk was declining media requests Tuesday, with a Stars spokesperson saying he “would rather let the inductees named to the Hall of Fame have the spotlight. This is their day.”
Truth is, it should have been his day.
During a career that spanned 20 NHL seasons and included stops in Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto and Florida, Nieuwendyk established himself as a presence at both ends of the ice, a scoring threat who also took care of business in his own end.
And, according to former Flames teammate Tim Hunter, the four-time all-star and two-time Olympian ranks among the greatest leaders to ever lace up skates.
“He’s not unlike Steve Yzerman, very much the same as Steve Yzerman — a quiet leader that did everything on the ice that a leader was supposed to do,” said Hunter, who spent parts of six seasons alongside Nieuwendyk in Calgary. “He wasn’t vocal in the room, but he led on the ice and paid the price to win, and showing that with three Stanley Cups is quite something.”
The fact he won’t be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this fall is something, too.
“Joe will be a Hall-of-Famer eventually,” Hunter said. “Whether it was today or in the future, he will be, no doubt.”