Thursday, 28 June 2012

Paul In The Hall?

There aren't many issues in hockey that can divide a country. We can look at examples like Marc Crawford keeping Gretzky on the bench in the shootout in the 1998 Olympic Games, but it's not like that moment defined either person's hockey career nor did it tarnish Hockey Canada's legacy in any significant way. However, there is one player who essentially became a household name due to his success on the international scene, and there is always a debate over whether or not he deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame because of this one defining moment. Paul Henderson was a good NHL player and he certainly scored more than a few goals during his time, but his moment will always be defined by his most famous goal in 1972.

I received an email from Sun Media today with a video clip attached. I'm going to post the video clip below. I think it needs to be seen before I get involved in the debate. Here is the clip from Menzoid Mornings, starring David Menzies, regarding his push to get Paul Henderson into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Everything that Mr. Menzies said in his piece is true. Henderson did score the winning goals in Games Six and Seven of the Summit Series, and he certainly will be remembered for his goal in Game Eight of that series. He played in five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, seven seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, two seasons with the WHA's Toronto Toros, another three seasons with the WHA's Birmingham Bulls before ending his career after a 30-game stint with the Atlanta Flames. Henderson's career was long, but hardly illustrious if you remove his biggest hockey moment. And I think that's why he doesn't deserve to be part of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

I'm not here to rain on Mr. Henderson's career or achievements. The man was a legitimate NHL player who seized the opportunity to become immortal when it was presented. I have no ill will towards Mr. Henderson, and, having met him, I know he's a genuine, caring, and warm individual. The news of him battling leukemia is horrible, and I want him to win in that battle because the man is a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

But the Hockey Hall of Fame still inducts jerks of all kinds. If Harold Ballard can get into the Hockey Hall of Fame, you have to know that the criteria doesn't include a "goodwill towards man" section. Instead, the criteria places merit on achievements, and Mr. Henderson's greatest achievement lasted for, at best, three games in 1972. Again, he was a very capable NHL winger, but he just didn't have the numbers or accolades to make him a Hall of Fame player - a fact that lots of players deal with year after year.

His best season for goals was 1971-72 while with the Leafs when he notched 38. His best season for points came in 1970-71 while with the Leafs when he scored 60. He appeared in two All-Star Games - '71-72 and '72-73 - but only appeared in 1067 professional hockey games. In 707 NHL games, he recorded 236 goals and 241 assists for 477 points - hardly numbers that are worthy of a Hall of Fame induction at any point.

If we consider the three-year period of wait time after retirement, the first year that Henderson could have been inducted would have been 1983. The men inducted that year? Ken Dryden, Bobby Hull, and Stan Mikita. None of those players should have been left out of the Hall of Fame in place of Henderson when you consider their careers as a whole.

There aren't many players who scored less NHL points than Henderson that are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are examples of men who have, though. Woody "Porky" Dumart, who played from 1935-1954 with the Boston Bruins, scored 211 goals and 218 assists for 429 points in 772 games, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. But Dumart helped the Bruins to two Stanley Cups in 1939 and 1941, was named as All-Star in 1940, 1941, and 1947, and he missed four years of his NHL career serving in World War II with Canada. His achievements alone are more notable than Henderson's, and I believe that his induction is more warranted than Henderson at this time.

Another player, Edgar Laprade, played 500 NHL games and scored 280 points in a 10-year career with the New York Rangers. He was inducted in 1993, and those numbers may raise some eyebrows. However, Laprade helped the Port Arthur Bearcats win the Allan Cup in 1939-40, was named the Calder Trophy winner with the Rangers in 1945-46, played in four All-Star Games from 1947-1950, and won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1949-50. Again, Henderson's list of achievements pales in comparison to Laprade's despite Henderson scoring more points in his NHL career.

Since 1983, there aren't a lot of players who have been inducted that could be included in the debate about Henderson not being inducted. Each of the players have historically been better than Henderson in terms of their achievements. While Henderson's achievement is a massive accomplishment in terms of Canadian hockey history, it doesn't really resonate with the rest of the world that way. And since the Hockey Hall of Fame deals with hockey in a broad, general sense, the fact that Henderson's goal was a massive accomplishment in Canadian history just isn't that important to Americans, Swedes, Finns, or even Russians.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has an exhibit dedicated to the 1972 Summit Series where Paul Henderson's goal is a prominent highlight. That's precisely where it should be featured because his hockey career, as a whole, isn't worthy of a Hall of Fame induction. In fact, there are other sites who agree that his accomplishments in hockey aren't Hall-worthy either.

Mr. Menzies can insult female hockey players who put the game on the map and made it an Olympic sport, and he can try and sway the public with his passionate plea for Henderson's inclusion based on one goal (or three, depending on how you look at it). But the accomplishments over a career for Henderson make him an outsider, and Mr. Menzies says it himself when he states, "Henderson's NHL and WHA career statistics (he played from 1962 to 1981) won't make Wayne Gretzky green with envy. But who cares about those games?"

I'll tell you who does: the Hockey Hall of Fame. And I commend them for holding true to a standard that doesn't sway to the public opinion of an outspoken Canadian.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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