Always a Debate
Four terrific hockey players, each a star in his own right.
We can argue back and forth about whether others should have gone in before Doug Gilmour, Joe Niewendyk, Ed Belfour and Mark Howe, or whether the Hockey Hall of Fame adheres to the same tough criteria as Cooperstown (it doesn't).
So I don't really do the deserving or undeserving thing a whole lot other than to push hard for those unfairly overlooked (in my mind) or categories of the hockey population that should be recognized.
So I lobbied hard for the induction of women for years, and that finally got through. That's makes it a big disappointment none were inducted this year. Once again, the absence of a female voice on the induction committee stands out as a glaring ommission. Hard to be recognized by the old boys club when you're not even a boy.
Guess that fight's not over. It's okay. As the father of three daughters who play, not to mention having a wife who plays, I'm happy to keep this battle going for however long it takes.
I thought Glenn Anderson deserved to get in, and he did, and for years, Howe has deserved induction. Easily. A home run. Not sure how they missed the Son of Gordie for so long, but this was an outstanding player, both as a WHA forward and NHL defenceman, who was one of the smartest blueliners ever to play the game.
Putting Mark Howe in now rights a wrong.
Which brings us to Gilmour, Belfour and Nieuwendyk (with that many ex-Leafs inducted, you'd think maybe the club would have won something in the past decade or so.)
All outstanding players. Gilmour and Nieuwendyk played both ends of the ice, and how appropriate to see two members of the '89 Calgary champs recognized in the year we lost Harley Hotchkiss. Gilmour, to me, was the best player in the sport for almost two years in the early 1990s and was unfairly denied the Hart Trophy in '93. At his best, he was right there with the best, and his induction works for me.
Belfour was right there with Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek as the best of his era. Yeah, he was a bit of weirdo, but the man could play and he competed every night and prepared like nobody else in the business. Other than being a bad interview to the end, Eddie the Eagle is okay with me.
What about Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, etc.? This is where I get out of the debate. The HHOF long ago decided to be a closed club and refuses to let its decisions see the light of day. So I honestly cannot tell you what the criteria is for admission, or how those decisions are reached, or why those who vote are so terrified of openness, which makes it impossible, really, to see one player or individual as more or less deserving than any others.
There will be those disappointed that Pat Burns, a personal friend who I miss greatly, was not inducted. Or Fred Shero. My preference has always been for the hall to be for players only (another battle lost) and so I generally don't wade into the builders category, particularly given that it includes all kinds of cronies and friends of friends and people who simply used their influence in the sport to gain admission.
Frankly, can't say that's a club I'd want to belong to.
So this year, my opinion, if you care, comes down to this.
The four inductees are deserving. There should have been a woman inducted, and there should be one every year for the next decade or however long it takes them to catch up. Anything short of that is a disgrace.
And thank goodness they've finally recognized Mark Howe in time for his immortal father to see it.