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.

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13 Responses to "HHOF"

  1. Big T says:

    LT, you are just a tremendous writer. And the improvement from when you first opend this site is amazing to. Don’t get me wrong, you were great back then to, but you are at another level now… Bill James-ian.

    Please, keep up the good work.


  2. James Mirtle says:


    This discussion came up on the desk last week, and one of the guys is from Saskatchewan, near Foam Lake. And when Federko’s name came up, as it always does, he said “What the hell’s wrong with Bernie Federko?”

    No one had a good answer for that.

  3. Bruce says:

    Great post, LT, and I’m really looking forward to your series. As one who has actively followed the NHL for 45 of its 90 seasons and maintained a lifelong interest in the game’s rich history, I have always held a particular interest in the HHoF.

    I’ll echo Mirtle that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Bernie Federko, a personal favourite who scored about a million points for me in my keeper hockey pool. (OK, more like a thousand, but he just kept pouring them in, year after year, in his understated, classy way.)

    There’s no harm in using inductees as comparables, e.g. “If Joe Mullen is in the Hall, then why isn’t Glenn Anderson?” That said, even those considered borderline cases by many — Gillies, Duff, Federko, Lafontaine, Neely — were great hockey players who deserve a high level of respect, even if its arguable that they deserve that level. In the end if comes down to opinions, and in the case of the Hall voting committee 14 concurrent opinions out of 18 will suffice, but nothing less will do. There will always be borderline cases and controversial decisions will be debated by those of us who care. There is no reason, however, for such discussions to be disrepectful … at least, not until Dino Ciccarelli’s name comes up :).

  4. Bruce says:

    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!).

    Connecting the dots … the amazing fact is that Mister Hockey finished in the top five in league scoring EVERY YEAR from 1949-50 to 1968-69. 20 years in a row in the top five! To me that’s the most amazing record in any sport of longevity at the elite level.

  5. Dennis says:

    I love it when LT talks about young people:)


    I picture Lain as an absolute hellraiser when he was a young fella, but now he’s turned into a finger-wagger. It makes me think that maybe, one day, I’ll grow up too:)

    Honestly, Lain, the HOF of any sport, and all the talk therein, bores the absolute fuck out of me. It’s strange given how many hours of the week I spend obsessing over sport in general, but the idea of who was great, or greater, it really doesn’t inspire any passion on my behalf at all. Maybe that will change as I get older, I don’t know.

    That being said, I’d read just about anything you wrote, and even though this space isn’t “real”, I honestly look forward to the weekends because I know that’s when you really start to crank out a lot of stuff.

    OK, that’s enough ass-kissing for now. I’ll go back to lying in the weeds and waiting for you to say something unrealistic and “fan”y about Smid;)

  6. Slipper says:

    What about Mike Bossy as an inner circles hall of famer? Was he too much of a pussy? Because he was easily the second most prolific goal scorer of all time, and showed no real signs of tapering off until his back was hurt.

  7. Art Vandelay says:

    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.
    You made coffee come out of my nose.
    Love your historical perspective. If newspaper editors had any sense (debatable) they’d bring you on board for their online edition, at the very least. You’re a better writer than most of the clowns I ever worked with.

  8. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: You are so mellow on Sundays. 🙂

    I figure Smid=Norris by next Christmas.


  9. Dennis says:

    Lain, just keep mixing in some old timey Expos and music talk, and that should keep me at least half-civil;)

    But, yes, hard to believe that John Maccinnon draws a cheque from the propaganda sheets, yet Lain doesn;t.

  10. IceDragoon says:


    But a paycheque may add an uncomfortable accountability.

    I count my blessings.

    Gordon Howe is the first hockey player to steal my heart. Even on an old black & white, he was one helluva ride.


  11. Lowetide says:

    Did someone say accountability? I’m out. 🙂

  12. Ribs says:

    the idea of who was great, or greater, it really doesn’t inspire any passion on my behalf at all.

    I’m with you Dennis. I enjoy reading or hearing stories of players from the past but I just can’t fathom caring about what order they are remembered by.

    The Hockey Hall of Fame should have every player in it as far as I’m concerned.
    Why not?

  13. Rube Foster says:

    Ribs and Dennis,
    You can probably tell that guys like me and Bruce live for LT’s historical comps. I mean it’s one thing to compare Lindros in his prime to Howe – most people can wrap their heads around that stuff and have probably heard it before. But when LT starts throwing out material that makes people draw a link between a guy like Al Arbour and Jan Heyda that takes the whole “comp game” to a differnt level.
    I think this practice helps young fans connect the dots to names from the past they may have heard of and maybe wondered were those guys any good? What were those old farts like? It’s a whole historical connect the dots kind a thing that I’m an obvious sucker for. Anyone who knows Bill James’ work understands that he is the master and inventor of the historical comp in Baseball. I’m not familiar with anyone who has taken Hockey comps to the Bill James level, but would suggest that our man LT is in the ballpark.
    Dennis, maybe you’re right, when you get to be an old guy this stuff might seem more relevant. After you’ve watched the game for over twenty years or so you start seeing patterns in qualities of some of the players you like, hence comps like Middleton – Hemsky.
    In the meantime enjoy tracking the progress of Laddy “Bubla” Smid.

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