Wednesday, 24 June 2020

A More Inclusive Class

The 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees were announced today, and I have to say that the Class of 2020 is a decent selection of players and builders. Honestly, I was shocked that there were a few names left off the list, and I think it's time that we start holding the Hockey Hall of Fame to a higher standard than how they currently promote some inductees. That's not to say that this year's group of inductees aren't talented; rather, the players who seemingly are overlooked year after year for some reason who have changed hockey for the better should, in my view, get more promotion than someone who collected a Stanley Cup and a couple personal awards.

The Absolutes

Jarome Iginla was always set to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer based on his body of work in the NHL, on the international stage, and off the ice with his charitable ventures. Besides that, Iginla is universally known as one of the nicest guys in the game, but his carrying the Calgary Flames for so long along with his efforts for Team Canada made this induction a sure thing. Honestly, being just the fourth Black hockey player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame is a little disappointing when one considers the number of players already inducted.

Kim St-Pierre was the backbone of a dominant Canadian team as she earned a plethora of gold medals at the Olympic and World Championship levels while also winning a Clarkson Cup at the CWHL level as one of the best women's goaltenders to ever walk the planet. She became the first woman to win a men's hockey game at the U SPORTS level when she backstopped the McGill men's team to victory in 2003. St-Pierre set the original standards when it came to the goaltending position for the Canadian woman, and she set the bar high for others to follow as she has the most appearances and the most wins of any Team Canada women's team netminder. St-Pierre is just the eighth woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

They're Good, But...

Marian Hossa was always a good player in the NHL, and his work for the Slovakian National Team was well-regarded. Hossa's numbers are good enough to break the 500-1000 barriers to make it into the Hall of Fame as he piled up 525 goals and 1134 points. He won three Stanley Cups in five trips to the final series, and his game really blossomed defensively as he became a good two-way winger. With zero personal trophies to his name and no international success, Hossa's induction is really only based on his NHL numbers. To me, that isn't good enough this year.

REPLACED WITH: Reggie Leach. Leach was a big part of the 1975 Stanley Cup victory that the Flyers celebrated after he and former Flin Flon Bomber teammate Bobby Clarke reunited in Philly. His 61 goals were good enough to win the goal-scoring race in 1975-76, and he's still the only non-goalie player in NHL history to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the losing team in the Stanley Cup Final in 1976. While his .713 points-per-game average is less than Hossa's .866 rate, Leach's achievements in the NHL as an Indigenous player should be recognized as he and his son, Jamie, are the only Indigenous father-son combo to win the Stanley Cup. It's been far too long for the third member of the LCB line to be left out, so it's time for the Hockey Hall of Fame to pays its respects to Reggie Leach.

Doug Wilson might be a bit of a surprise, but it's hard to argue the consistent play of Wilson when he was playing in an era with names like Coffey, Bourque, Chelios, and Mark Howe. Wilson won the 1982 Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenceman, and 0.81 points-per-game rate of scoring ranks him as one of the best offensive defenders in the league's history. His lack of international play, though, makes it a little tougher to warrant his inclusion outside of his NHL work. Like Hossa, he's good, but not good enough this year.

REPLACED WITH: Alexander Mogilny. Mogilny's work on the international stage is unquestionably good as he was a star with the Soviet Union on a line with Pavel Bure and Sergei Fedorov. He gold medals from the 1988 Olympics, the 1989 World Junior Championship, and the 1989 IIHF World Championship, and those alone should establish a base for his inclusion. However, we need to look at what he sacrificed to open the doors for his countrymen as Mogilny's defection from the Soviet Union in 1989 opened a crack in the Iron Curtain. With Mogilny's defection, we'd see other players such as Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov, and Viacheslav Fetisov find their ways over to the NHL from the Soviet Union. Had it not been for Mogilny, North Americans might never have known those names as well as we do.

From there, the Buffalo Sabres rookie scored his first NHL goal against Quebec Nordiques just 20 seconds into his first shift. He scored 76 goals in 1991-92 to tie Teemu Selanne as the top goal-scorer that season, and he'd find himself as a part of the Triple Gold Club after winning a Stanley Cup in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils. While he would only win the Lady Byng Trophy as a personal award, it's prletty clear that Alexander Mogilny was one of the best wingers on both the NHL and international stages for a long time while opening the door literally being the sole reason for so many Russians to follow their dreams of playing in the NHL.

Kevin Lowe will be added to the Hockey Hall of Fame as the six-time Stanley Cup champion will join a host of other talented Oilers in the Hall of Fame. Mainly viewed as a defensive defenceman, Lowe was Edmonton's first NHL draft pick, he scored their first NHL goal, and he was often given the task of checking incredibly gifted forwards in the Smythe Division such as Dale Hawerchuk, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Trevor Linden, and some guy named Gretzky. He holds the record for games played by any Oiler in NHL history, and he never once played a game in the minors over the course of his career. There's no doubt that he's one of the great leaders in NHL history, but he only represented Canada twice internationally. That isn't good enough this year.

REPLACED WITH: Jiri Holecek. If there's one thing the Hockey Hall of Fame does poorly among a number of things it does poorly, it's recognizing international stars of the game who never played in North America. Jiri Holecek is one of those players, and some in the international hockey community think he was a better goalie than Vladislav Tretiak in their playing days. In twelve tournaments where the two goalies played, they both earned the "best goaltender" or all-star awards six times. The Czechoslovakia team that played in front of Holecek was often seen as inferior to the Soviet team in front of Tretiak, so it could be argued that Holecek was the better netminder. Holecek is seen as a pioneer of Czech goaltending as he learned the spread-kneeling position - an early prototype of the butterfly stance used by Canadian netminders - and refined it to where he was highly successful with it. He has 164 international games to his credit, and he was part of the Olympic silver- and bronze-medal Czechoslovakian teams. Holecek was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1998.

Does the Hockey Hall of Fame know there are two spots for women to be inducted annually? It hasn't happened since Angela James and Cammi Granato both went in, so let's correct that egregious error as well since the Hall of Fame seems intent on letting the bare minimum of women in annually.

REPLACED WITH: Riikka Sallinen. Sallinen is a legend in the Finnish hockey community, recently retiring from the sport at the age of 46! Sallinen began her career on the international stage at the 1989 Women's World Championship, and she'd represent Finland in three IIHF Women's European Championships where she won three gold medals, eight IIHF World Women's Championships where she won six bronze medals and one silver medal, and four Olympic Games where she won two bronze medals. In her international career, she scored 109 goal and 95 assists while spending a mere 24 minutes in the penalty box, and she led the 1998 Nagano Olympics in scoring with seven goals and five assists in six games en route to capturing the bronze medal. She has been named the IIHF Women's World Championship Best Forward twice in 1990 and 1994, was an IIHF Women's World Championship All-Star Team three times in 1992, 1994, and 1997, and was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2010 as just the fourth woman to be inducted. Along with Marianne Ihalainen, they were the first women inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, and she still holds a pile of records in the Naisten Liiga in Finland.

Ken Holland goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame for his work in building the Detroit Red Wings into the powerhouse it was for nearly two decades. His shrewd acquisitions of key talent while retaining some quality players and drafting some exceptional players can't be overlooked when it comes to the success the Red Wings had through the 1990s and into the 2000s. His hiring of Scotty Bowman, his hiring of scouts all over the world, and the work done by Holland in keeping this unit intact over a long stretch of time is a lot of the reason that the Red Wings had all the success they did. However, there's another Red Wings executive who deserves this honour before Holland.

REPLACED WITH: Marguerite Norris. Norris was named as the President of the Detroit Red Wings at the age of 25 after her father, James E. Norris, died in 1952. Immediately, Norris went about making changes that would prove wise as reports stated the arena was "visibly cleaner", the interior of the arena was painted, ushers were issued new uniforms, restrooms have been improved, and "a wire screen was erected" to protect fans from flying pucks. Norris was the first female President and executive in NHL history, and she presided over the club as they finished in first-place from 1953-1955, culminating in two Stanley Cup victories over those three seasons. In one of her few permitted efforts as a woman, she lobbied the other five owners to grasp the idea of televised games, sensing this was the future of hockey. She was a visionary for her few short years at the helm of the Detroit Red Wings, and the NHL was better with her as part of the game than without her.

No Rain On This Parade

Look, I'm not here to call into question the legitimacy of the six people who are being inducted this year. All six have resum├ęs that anyone would take pride in, and that's what the Hall of Fame seems primarily to represent. What I am drawing attention to, though, is the fact that Hockey Hall of Fame is primarily the NHL Hall of Fame, and that's not the purpose of a Hall of Fame that is supposed to represent ALL of hockey. That means there should be more People of Colour, more women, and more international stars going into the Hall of Fame than NHL players, but that monumental shift has yet to happen.

Let's start making those corrections with the 2021 Hall of Fame Class, Induction Committee. There's no better time to start inducting some of these incredible hockey people, and it would be best if we did it before they're gone.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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