The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomes the class of 2010 at a ceremony tonight in Toronto.
Angela James and Cammi Granato will become the first women to enter the hall, inducted alongside former NHLer Dino Ciccarelli and builders Jim Devellano and Daryl (Doc) Seaman.
To mark the occasion, we asked our hockey writers the following question: If we gave you the power to immediately enshrine one player who is currently not in the hall, whom would you choose?
Easiest question imaginable on any hockey trivia game -- Paul Henderson, of course. Let's just review matters for a moment. The greatest hockey series ever played? Well, no debate there at all: the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. The most memorable goal ever scored in the game? No question again: Paul Henderson's game winner in Game 8. How can it be that Canadians who weren't even born when the puck when in the net can often recite Foster Hewitt's famous call from the afternoon of Sept. 28, 1972: "Here's another shot! Right in front! They score! Henderson has scored for Canada! Henderson right in front of the net and the fans and the team are going wild! Henderson right in front of the Soviet goal with thirty-four seconds left in the game!"
Ah yes, Paul Henderson and the Summit Series. Most of the other faces remembered from that early fall nearly 40 years ago are in the fall: not just Phil Esposito, the heart of the series, Bobby Clarke, the villain, Ken Dryen, the goalie -- and yet not the man who scored the game winning goal in all three of the final games that Canada HAD to win is not.
Some have said the reason is that the Hockey Hall of Fame is really the NHL Hall of Fame, that those who starred in the World Hockey Association (as Handerson later did) or international hockey had to be truly sensational to be in the Hall, as opposed to, say, Bob Pulford, who was selected.
But that doesn't quite hold. After all, the man who let in Henderson's three game-winning goals, Vladislav Tretiak, is in the HHofF despite never having played a single NHL game.
Why, then? It couldn't possibly be that Henderson's up-front Christianity puts some voters off, could it?
Or is it simply that his NHL career wasn't quite as sparkling as many of those selected -- though certainly comparable to, say, Pulford. Pulford played 1079 games, scoring 281 goals and 362 assists for 643 points. Henderson's played 707 NHL games and 360 WHA games for a total of 1067 games -- almost exactly Pulford's total. And Henderson counts 376 NHL/WHA goals and 384 assists for 760 points.
Advantage Henderson, surely.
Even if Paul Henderson had never suited up for a single NHL match, he should be eligible.
And not only eligible, but a member for the past several decades.
This won't be the most popular choice, but then Theo Fleury never gave a rat's behind about what people thought of him. He just wanted to play hockey and win.
For a guy to stand 5 foot 6 and play as hard and mean and productive as he did, well, he deserves a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fleury lasted more than 1,000 games in a big man's NHL; scored 455 goals, 633 assists. He also had 1,840 minutes in penalties. If he'd only stayed out of the penalty box more, he would have added to his point totals significantly. But that wasn't Fleury's way.
In the playoffs, he was just as effective, compiling 79 points in 77 games. Again, for a small guy, he always made an impact.
We all know what Fleury went through having now heard his story and how he fell into the wretched grasp of his former junior coach Graham James. Putting all that aside, Fleury, as an athlete, was the irresistible force you couldn't take your eyes off when he was on the ice. When he played, there was magic and mayhem.
Kind of like to see that again.
With due respect to editors (Yourk), mentors (MacGregor) and HHOF selectors (Duhatschek), the question ought to be: who would you take out?
Somewhere along the line, the shrine went from a place of excellence to a place of the very good. The formula seems to be: very good player + good guy = enshrinement.
No problem here if the '72 Summit Series is displayed prominently in the Hall. Ditto Team Canada, including Paul Henderson, along with his sticks, sweaters, pucks, etc. But Henderson the professional player?
Henderson may compare favourably to Bob Pulford, but is the latter truly deserving? He averaged 0.6 points per game over his career, meaning he was a 50-point guy over an 82-game season. Henderson was a 60-point guy. Dick Duff, another HHOF member, was a 45-point guy. Is that truly excellence? Were these players so dominant in other areas that we ought to overlook pedestrian offensive numbers?
The selections standards should be higher, something closer to baseball's HOF, where very good players either don't make it, or hope for a lean class of first-year eligibles to make their case.
Roy, Roy, Roy. What are we going to do with you?
By definition, The Hockey Hall of Fame is for those who were among the best for their entire careers, not those who had a good month, albeit in the most famous hockey series ever played. I realize the folks on the selection committee often play fast and loose with that definition but no one can argue that if you remove his exploits in the Summit Series from the equation, Paul Henderson doesn't even make an induction discussion.
Henderson is welcome to be part of an exhibit dedicated to the Summit Series. I believe there is one in the Hall, although to be honest I haven't been there in some time so I could be mistaken. I'm sure the e-mailers will correct me shortly.
In the meantime, allow me to put forward my own candidate - goaltender Lorne Chabot. The Montreal native did not have a long career by today's standards (11 seasons from 1926-37, 411 regular-season games) although it was an excellent one.
Chabot won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie in 1935 and he won two Stanley Cups, in 1928 with the New York Rangers and in 1932 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But that admittedly sparse list of hardware does not tell the story of his career.
Here is a much better indicator: in the 411 regular-season games Chabot played, he had 72 shutouts. Think about it. In 17.5 per cent of the games he played, Chabot earned a shutout.
The top two shutout artists in NHL history are Martin Brodeur (112) and Terry Sawchuk (103). But Brodeur has, so far, only registered a shutout in 10.3 per cent of his games and Sawchuk earned a blank in 10.6 per cent.
Sawchuk, of course, is already in the Hall of Fame while Brodeur is a lock once his career is over. Two contemporaries of Chabot, Alec Connell and Tiny Thompson had similar numbers to Chabot, including their percentage of shutouts. They are both in the Hall of Fame.
In 1998, The Hockey News produced a list of the 100 best hockey players ever and Chabot was placed at 84. He is the only player on the list who remains snubbed by the Hall.
Chabot suffered from severe health problems after he retired, including arthritis, which may be why his career ended at the age of 36. He was only 46 when he died in 1946 from nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys.
Some years ago, The Canadian Press did a story on Chabot's exclusion and it noted his family was "told by hockey historians that Chabot was not inducted many years ago due to his involvement in an attempt to establish a players' union in the 1930s."