Monday, 8 July 2013

Two Worthy Men

If I were voting for the 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame class tomorrow, both Fred Shero and Pat Burns would be on my nominations. The fact that these two men have yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame completely blows my mind. It's not like they didn't produce results. Both of these men have had a lasting impact on the game of hockey, and both men have produced at the highest level in leading their respective teams to a Stanley Cup. The injustice of not electing them into the Hall of Fame would end tomorrow if I were voting.

Fred Shero's impact on the Philadelphia Flyers was almost immediate as he instituted a "hard work" policy in the Flyers. While his first season with the club in 1971-72 didn't result in a playoff berth, the groundwork was laid for what was to become the fearsome Broad Street Bullies. Along the way, though, he became the first coach to institute systems for players to follow and hired the NHL's first full-time assistant coach in Mike Nykoluk. Fred Shero changed coaching forever upon his hiring in 1971.

Shero, of course, coached the Philadelphia Flyers to two Stanley Cups in '73-74 and '74-75, and also was named the Jack Adams winner in 1973-74 after coaching the Flyers to a 50-16-12 record. For four straight seasons from 1973-74 through to 1976-77, Shero's Flyers never dropped below a .700 winning percentage. In 318 games over that time, the Flyers, under Shero's watch, went 200-63-55. The Flyers' team record for points in a season - 118 - was set in 1975-76. Clearly, the man knew how to coach, and how to get the most out of his players.

The Winnipeg native also had a ton of success in the minor leagues as a coach. Shero led the IHL's St. Paul Saints to the 1959-60 and 1960-61 championships. He led the AHL's Buffalo Bisons to the 1969-70 Calder Cup. He led the CHL's Omaha Knights to a championship in 1970-71. He was named as the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as coach of the year in the AHL after guiding Buffalo to their win, and followed that up with being named as the Jake Milford Trophy winner as coach of the year in the CHL in 1970-71 after leading Omaha to victory.

How Fred Shero hasn't been inducted yet with his innovative techniques and overall success in the game of hockey astounds me. Perhaps tomorrow will change this feeling I have.

There is another man whose coaching legacy should have had him inducted long before tomorrow's vote as well. Pat Burns coached over 1000 games in the NHL, earned a Stanley Cup, coached three of the six Original Six teams, and has three Jack Adams Trophies to his name. His work in junior hockey in Quebec is legendary, and he, like Fred Shero, finds his name nowhere within the walls of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Pat Burns has a record of 501-353-165 as a head coach in the NHL. While he didn't win a Stanley Cup coaching the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, or Bruins, he did find one in New Jersey that he had a large part in winning. Outside of seasons where he was let go before the end of the season, teams under Pat Burns missed the playoffs only once. In ten of Burns' twelve full seasons in the NHL, Burns posted 39 wins as a head coach!

Burns ran the bench for the AHL's Sherbrooke Canadiens in 1987-88, but was quickly promoted to the Canadiens as the team changed direction. However, his start in the AHL wouldn't have happened had his time with the QMJHL's Hull Olympiques from 1984-87 had not been noticed. It was in Hull where Burns led the Olympiques to their first Jean Rougeau Trophy as regular season champions, and followed that up by having his team capture the President's Cup in advancing to their first Memorial Cup! While they had a strong showing at the Memorial Cup, they would fall short in the final to the eventual champions in the Guelph Platers. Even with the setback, though, the former police officer's hockey career was taking off!

Again, it's hard to fathom why two men who have three Stanley Cups and four Jack Adams Trophies between them have yet to attain glory in being enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Clearly, they've made an impact on the hockey world with their ideas and success, yet neither were able to see the fruits of their labor before passing on due to voters seemingly ignoring their successes.

Do the right thing, voters. Put these men in the Hall of Fame.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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