Monday, June 30, 2008

Let Doug Gilmour into the Hall

The Hockey Hall of Fame is guilty of false advertising and criminal stupidity

For all the issues that judges and politicians erroneously imagine to be concerns of the state -- secondhand smoke, bicycle helmets and the like -- there is at least one area in which even the most libertarian Canadian may welcome the intervention of a higher power. To wit, the Hockey Hall of Fame has booted its 2008 inductions so badly that it may be time to call in the authorities.

This year offered a rare opportunity for the perennially problematic Hall to reverse some of its earlier blunders. Due to the 2004-05 NHL lock-out, no new players were eligible for induction in 2008 (players become eligible three years after retirement). This left the Hall's selection committee with four open spots for such deserving and previously overlooked stars as Doug Gilmour (1,414 career regular-season points), Adam Oates (15th all-time in NHL scoring), Dino Ciccarelli (608 career goals) and Glenn Anderson (six Stanley Cups).

While Anderson was handed his overdue invitation to the Hall, Gilmour, Oates and Ciccarelli were shut out. Instead, the committee went with Igor Larionov (644 NHL career points, less than half as many as Gilmour or Oates), former Western Hockey League executive Ed Chynoweth, and NHL linesman Ray Scapinello.

If the courts were to become involved there are any number of charges that might be brought, from false advertising (the place does have "Fame" in its title -- is there some universe in which officials and executives are better known than the former captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs?) to criminal stupidity.

Comparing the careers and point quantities of those players who got in with those who did not is an excursion into madness. Take Gilmour as just one example: For a year or so during the 1993-94 season, he was touted in many quarters as the best hockey player in the world. Was there one day, or even a single game, when the same was said of Anderson or Larionov? Moreover, Gilmour's career included captaincies of two Original Six teams (Toronto and Chicago), a Stanley Cup, a Canada Cup and the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward for the 1992-93 season.

Gilmour's regular season and playoff point totals surpass Anderson's by hundreds and utterly dwarf those of Larionov. Once upon a time, 400 goals meant automatic entry to the Hall; Gilmour managed to rack up 450, plus 964 assists that testify to his playmakinggreatness. The man scored a point a game for 20 seasons, yet he is somehow unworthy to have his picture hanging next to Clark Gillies' (694 career points in 958 games, inducted in 2002).

It is possible to create an all-star team of recent Hall of Fame rejects that could rival any roster of inductees. For example, a top line of Gilmour centring Pavel Bure and Claude Lemieux, with Phil Housley and Kevin Lowe on defence and Mike Richter in goal (all in their prime, obviously) would be more than a handful for any combination of Marios, Gordies and Waynes you want to name (to say nothing of how they would fare against a team of Larry Murphys and Rod Langways).

Of course, the Hall of Fame is not the only national institution that routinely shuns hockey stars. While any CBC gadfly who ever did a puppet show on the public dime gets written up in Who's Who or admitted to the Order of Canada, few hockey players are afforded such honours.

We can and should do better for Canada's peacetime heroes. It may not be time to send in the Mounties, but someone should deputize Don Cherry (also overlooked by the Hall of Fame) to straighten things out.