The historic election of two women - Angela James and Cammi Granato - to the Hockey Hall of Fame was overshadowed Tuesday by the snubbing of several worthy candidates among the men.
Despite the fact the selection committee was allowed under the rules to select as many as four male players in addition to two female players, only Dino Ciccarelli was selected in addition to James and Granato. Left out were Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, Pavel Bure, Mark Howe and Eric Lindros among others.
But most of the outrage among hockey fans and the media was about the exclusion of Pat Burns from the builder category. The long-time coach, who is fighting cancer, was not selected, although he was the overwhelming sentimental favourite because this may be the last year he will be able to attend the induction ceremony in November. Burns has the credentials for the hall, being a three-time winner of the NHL's coach-of-the-year award and a Stanley Cup winner in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils.
Former Detroit Red Wings general manager Jim Devellano and the late Daryl (Doc) Seaman, who was a part-owner of the Calgary Flames, were selected in the builder's category.
NHL vice-president Jim Gregory, the co-chair of the selection committee along with former Edmonton Oilers head coach Pat Quinn, said the Hall of Fame's rules do not allow committee members to explain the omissions.
"I'm sorry to give this kind of answer," Gregory said. "But the 18-member selection committee signed a confidentiality agreement and agreed not to discuss [losing candidates]"
Both James and Granato said they were overwhelmed by the honour of being the first women selected for the Hall of Fame. James, 44, was the biggest star in women's hockey from the 1980s through the 1990s. She has 12 gold medals from the Canadian championships and four from the world championships. Granato, 39, was the best player on the U.S. women's team through the 1990s and has an Olympic gold medal from 1998.
"This is a day that I never really thought would ever happen," said James, a Toronto native. "I'm really honoured to represent female hockey players from all over the world."
Ciccarelli, 50, played 19 seasons in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. The native of Sarnia, Ont., started his career as an undrafted free agent because he suffered a broken leg in his draft year of 1980 but had 608 goals and 592 assists in 1,232 games by the time he retired in 1999. He played in two Stanley Cup finals, in 1981 and 1995, but did not win a championship.
"It makes you feel like a kid again," Ciccarelli said of his selection.
Like many of this year's candidates for the Hall, Ciccarelli was overlooked for many years. Some NHL observers think it was because of a couple of off-ice incidents that brought him notoriety.
"A lot of friends and family told me it might take a little bit longer [to get in]" he said. "Maybe you start thinking that way.
"I tried not to get too excited this year but when I got the phone call, obviously I was very excited."