A good day for women's hockey ...

Bill Lankhof, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

Move over boys. Women, one from a dot on the Illinois map called Downer’s Grove, and another who began her career at Toronto’s Flemingdon Arena, have crashed the male bastion also known as the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are arguments to suggest that the Hall’s selection committee did the politically correct thing by naming U.S. national team star, Cammi Granato, and Canadian national team pioneer, Angela James. For all the girls playing hockey across this country it’s a feel-good story. Inspiring even. But no Doug Gilmour? Joe Nieuwendyk also was bypassed. And Pat Burns may need a new lease on life to see the day he is elected. Go figure. For hard-core (OK, make that mostly male) puckheads who worship at the chapel of Hockey Night In Canada, it just won’t make any sense at all. Bill Hay, chairman of the selection committee, says this isn’t a case of women being selected ahead of NHL stars. This isn’t a suggestion that James — regarded as the female Wayne Gretzky in the ’70s and ’80s — was better than Paul Henderson or Pavel Bure, who aren’t in the Hall. “The selection committee aren’t concerned about the new inductees. It’s time for female hockey to be in and to change the criteria,” said Hay. Good luck explaining that to somebody who isn’t about to bend any genders in his belief that the Hall of Fame should be for only the brightest and the best. The selection committee is going to catch flak. And, maybe they should. Not so much for naming Granato and James but rather for selecting only Dino Ciccarelli in the player category and Jim Devellano and Daryl Seaman as builders. In looking to redress past oversights on the gender front they went with the feel-good story. Fine. Maybe it was inevitable. But then why, instead of finishing off this warm-and-fuzzy moment, turn its collective back on Burns, who is battling terminal cancer. Devellano could’ve been selected any year. He still appears to have time on his side. Burns? Not so much. Burns is the only man to win coach of the year honours three times, but he was named in a police investigation into the Hells Angels and within the hockey glitterati, he wasn’t universally loved. Not to suggest that influenced the committee, but some people might think that. And, why not throw an exclamation point on the feel-good moment by putting in Nieuwendyk. And, what is against Gilmour? Sure the guy had some dicey personal issues, but in his day nobody did it better on the ice — and isn’t that the ultimate criteria for any Hall of Fame? In hockey it seems the main criteria for getting into the Hall of Fame is that it has to be your turn. And, this year it was the girls’ turn. “I’m completely at a loss for words. To know that I’m in the Hall of Fame ... ,” said Granato in a conference call. “it’s almost unfathomable as a woman.” She wasn’t the only one struggling for explanations. Committee member, Pat Quinn, mangled an explanation of why the Hall was opening its doors to women’s hockey. “Women have been eligible all along but we made slight adjustments to have them be discussed in terms of the standards for women’s hockey and what was accomplished in that using much the same criteria as the men. It was done on a different ballot in terms of preparing properly the women versus the men and the slight change just adjusted it so the women weren’t compared with the men in the game that might have prevented strong recognition for many years to come.” Huh? Easy for him to say. James, who once donned a pink uniform when the national team was in its infancy, suddenly has the credentials of greatness. Some will ask Angela Who? That, too, would be harsh. In her time and in her milieu, James was a pioneer. Olympic snub “In the days when we wore those pink uniforms, we did what it took to get our game on the map. We didn’t care if we were wearing polka dots. We just wanted to play and it has come a long way,” James said yesterday. Women’s hockey would be accepted into the Olympics. James would score 22 goals in 20 games in four world championships. A controversial decision left her off Canada’s first Olympic team in 1998. “I wouldn’t say I wasn’t hurt by that. It took a lot of time to leave that in the past,” she said. “I don’t look at this as retribution. I look at it as a great for female hockey. This is a day I never really thought would happen.” It is a day some hockey traditionalists will argue never should’ve happened; that being a pioneer doesn’t equate to greatness. “Breaking down barriers,” said Granato, “is something that is really familiar for women playing hockey. It’s a big day for women’s hockey.” It’s just too bad it isn’t also a great day for Doug Gilmour. Or Joe Nieuwendyk. Too bad it isn’t a great day for Pat Burns, who isn’t having many great days any more. The committee had wiggle room. According to its own rules it could’ve named up to four players. It could’ve showed Burns a heart. They didn’t. That’s not James or Granato’s fault. But it should be somebody’s. bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca

Videos

Photos