This is Gordon Howe, who some say was the greatest hockey player who ever laced on skates. He was inducted into the HHOF in 1972, and then proceeded to re-enter the game and hang around until the 80s.
By any definition, Gordie Howe qualifies. Inner circle, HHOF. If in the inner circle of the HHOF there was enough room for only four names, I’d put Howe, Orr, Gretzky and Lemieux.
If 10 people visit this site today, probably 8 of them would agree on those 4 (although I notice with the passage of time Mario seems to be fading in people’s eyes. Peculiar) if they had an interest.
The thing about Gordie is that even if you never saw him play, the numbers are so ridiculous that it’s impossible to argue he wasn’t a dominant player from about 1949 to maybe 1969.
That’s a 20-year stay in the wheelhouse of a sport. Incredible. In 49-50, Howe finished third in league scoring, second in goals. In 68-69, he finished third in league scoring, fifth in goals (at age 40 on a team that missed the playoffs!).
One of my first stops everyday is James Mirtle’s site (link to the right) because he offers an informed, fresh opinion. The other day, while posting on the HHOF he had an outstanding point: One aside to all of this Lindros for the Hall business: Unfortunately, whenever these sorts of discussions come up, they always come with swipes at players who have already been inducted, and I don’t think they necessarily have to.
Mirtle goes on to mention that when we talk about Bernie Federko being a marginal HHOFer who made the grade, it taints their image for no good reason. It’s a lazy way to make a point. The TOUGH way to make the point is to identify what a very good HHOF would look like.
Starting today (later), I’m going to begin a 30-post HHOF series that begins in 1967 and attempts to identify HHOFers based on rookie seasons. So, the 1967 edition will have Jacques Lemaire and Mickey Redmond as candidates, with the idea that each season of rookies is a unique “set” moving forward. It’s stolen from Bill James (there’s a shock) and does imo give us a nice starting point. I chose 1967-97 rookie seasons because those are the years with which I am most familiar.
One final note: Mirtle said something else in his column noted above: It’s really a shame that the only time we now hear the names of former stars like Bernie Federko and Clark Gilles is in this context, as these players are no less heroes in their hometowns and are respected NHL alumni.
That is so true. An example: Years ago, I worked at CKCK Radio in Regina. They had a contest each year for the most active community (fund raising, community spirit, etc) and one year the town of Foam Lake, SK won the Town of Renown award. It was my job to drive to Foam Lake and give the plaque to the community while saying a few words. Foam Lake is typical of small town Saskatchewan, lots of hard working people who are genuinely interested in others and quick to welcome you and lend a hand. If your car ever breaks down and you don’t have a pot to do anything in, you’d do well to have it happen in places like Foam Lake, SK.
Anyway, this is the period of time where Federko is active but not at the peak of his game. I’ll say 1989. Pretty much ALL events in small town Canada happen at the rink. It’s central, everyone grew up there, all the potluck’s are there and we all freeze our feet watching the town kids play hockey there.
Young people may not know this now (maybe they do), but a picture of the Queen was in most rinks, and usually it was a pretty big picture. To give you an idea about how well thought of Bernie Federko was, let me describe the first thing I saw when entering the Foam Lake arena.
HUGE clock. Monster photo of Queen Elizabeth on the left, I mean a big photo. On the right, a slightly bigger photo of Bernie Federko.
Mirtle’s words are well taken, and so are the thoughts of the people of Foam Lake. Before we get too full of ourselves on issues we take to be important, we would do well to remember the impact these people have had on their communities.