Monday, 27 June 2016

The New Class

The Hockey Hall of Fame contains some of the greatest names to ever have strapped on a pair of skates and skated at the top levels of the game. Names like Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, Richard, Howe, Tretiak, and Kharlamov are on plaques at the Hall. These are the men that redefined the sport in their times and generated stories of their greatness that have been passed on from generation to generation. There are names upon names of the men and women who built, curated, and made the game of hockey better than what it was prior to their arrival, and the Hockey Hall of Fame will add four more names this fall after their selections today.

Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov, Rogie Vachon, and the late Pate Quinn will all have their names beside the greatest men and women to have played, coached, managed, and built the game of hockey. While some will suggest other names who may be more worthy, there's no denying that this class brings some unique abilities to the Hall.

Some will argue that Eric Lindros getting in before players like Mark Recchi or Paul Kariya shows the shortsightedness of the Hall's committee. I have made the case several times about why Lindros shouldn't be in based on the numbers put up by others, but there's no denying that Eric Lindros' presence in the NHL changed the way hockey was played for almost a decade.

His size alone changed how GMs approached the way they built their teams. He was a massive man who scored at will a times, and it got him several accolades along the way. Lindros won the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Trophy in 1995, led the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup Final before bowing out to the Detroit Red Wings, and averaged more than a point a game in the regular season and playoffs during his career. While injuries limited that career to just 760 NHL games, his international achievements can't go unnoticed either.

Lindros was part of the 1990 and 1991 gold medal-winning Canadian World Junior teams. He remains Canada's all-time points leader at the World Junior Championships with 31 points. He won a silver medal at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics and a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He certainly had his ups and downs in the NHL, but he always seemed to be willing to pull on the Hockey Canada logo when needed.

Sergei Makarov will join Igor Larionov in the Hall of Fame as two-thirds of the legendary KLM line from the days of Soviet hockey dominance are now enshrined. There's no end to how much he accomplished outside the NHL:
  • Gold medals in two World Junior Championships in 1977 and 1978.
  • Named as tournament MVP in 1978.
  • Gold medals at the IIHF World Championships in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989 and 1990.
  • Gold medal at the 1981 Canada Cup.
  • Gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics, and a silver medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics where the "Miracle On Ice" took place.
  • 11 championship seasons with CSKA Moscow in the Russian SuperLeague.
  • Named Soviet Player of the Year (SuperLeague MVP) three times.
  • Awarded Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1984.
After joining the Calgary Flames for the 1989-90 season, he won the Calder Trophy at the age of 31, forcing the NHL to change its rules for eligibility for the trophy. Makarov was inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2001, so it seems only appropriate that he's added to the Hockey Hall of Fame as well!

Rogatien Vachon might be a surprising addition to the Hall of Fame, but he did some things in the NHL of which you might not be aware. He was a three-time Stanley Cup champion, and he holds a number of Los Angeles Kings goaltending records still to this day.

Among the things you may not know is that Vachon was the first goaltender to be credited with a goal - briefly. It was determined that he was the second-last player to touch the puck against the New York Islanders in the 1976-77 season, so the goal was credited to Vic Venasky after video review. During his career, Vachon never allowed a goal on a penalty shot. He was also the first Detroit Red Wings player to earn more than $1 million per season! Add in a 1976 Canada Cup championship where he was named to the tournament All-Star Team and was named Team MVP, and Vachon has made some hockey history in his career!

Finally, the late Pat Quinn is being inducted as a builder for his work as a coach, general manager, and executive in hockey. This is one of those inductions you wished had come earlier as Pat passed on in 2014. Quinn won gold medals as a coach of the men's hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics, 2008 IIHF World U18 Championships, the 2009 World Junior Championship, and the World Cup championship in 2004. He won a Memorial Cup as an owner of the WHL's Vancouver Giants, the Jack Adams Award in 1980 and 1992 as Coach of the Year in the NHL, was chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee until his passing, and went 684-528-188 in his NHL coaching career. Twice, he led teams to the Stanley Cup Final.

There will always be a debate about who should and should not be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but let the record show that these four men will join the likes of Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, Orr, Richard and the others this fall when they are inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Until next time, hold your sticks high in honour of these men!

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