Inner Circle, Hall of Fame

Guys my age are starting to realize that the generations before us have been richly rewarded and then some when it comes to the HHOF. I think we can see where this is headed: with every Dick Duff and Bob Pulford there is going to be a few more Clark Gillies from his era and eventually (if the right guys make it to the selection committee) we’ll see Rene Robert, Gary Bergman and Nick Libett make Hockey’s Hall.

The day I spent at the HHOF was a truly enjoyable one, they had a very nice goalie display with some tremendous photos and the Orr stuff was fabulous. However, it’s an open question as to whether or not I’ll return in the next 30 years or so because frankly the “line in the sand” appears to be getting even worse.

Hockey’s Hall has never managed to spark the imagination the way baseball’s has, for several reasons: baseball is very stats oriented, so that when Steve Carlton won his 300th game or Stretch McCovey slammed number 500 everyone knew they’d make Cooperstown. Also, unlike baseball, the ridiculous selection process which allows guys who played in the same era to elect their friends into the Hall seems to be getting worse (imagine).

Baseball has plenty of guys who had massive counting numbers that will never ever reach the Hall of Fame. Rusty Staub (a childhood favorite) played almost 3,000 games and had 2,700 hits but no one ever suggested him for Cooperstown. If hockey’s braintrust ran baseball, Staub would be in the Hall of Fame and they’d be talking up the entire 1987 Minnesota Twins infield.

Where then SHOULD we place the line in the sand? Previously on this blog (2006) I made an attempt to filter the HHOF based on numbers, All-Star appearances, Awards won, etc. with mixed results.

The problem I believe comes down to definition. Bob Pulford and Dick Duff made the Hall due partly (mostly?) to their presence on some very famous hockey teams (Stanley winners in Toronto and Montreal). Hell that entire 1967 Leafs team will get in as soon as they can all remember how to spell Autry Erickson.

So, if we’re to improve the HHOF criteria for an “internet inner circle”, what criteria should be used? All Star Appearances? Awards won? Counting numbers? Number of times impacting a playoff run?

Or are we doomed to picking favorites like the dummies who voted Duff into the Hall of Fame. If that is the case, one day we can all look forward to honoring Bobby Holik as a member once Martin Brodeur and Scott Niedermayer are named to the selection committee.

The only really strong work I’ve seen on the subject in the last number of years is from The Puck Stops Here. I’d add some very interesting posts over the years from Tyler at MC79 that led me to believe that Kelly Hrudey may well have better HOF credentials than some more famous goalies (like Grant Fuhr).

It’s a subject I’d like to tackle again, but with the statistical limitations we have (in looking back) for those players who began their careers in the 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s, how do we effectively make better judgements than the old boys network at the HHOF and justify them credibly?

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6 Responses to "Inner Circle, Hall of Fame"

  1. oilswell says:

    I’ve made this comment before in your pages but I figure if you’re able to recycle this topic, I can recycle my response! ;)

    I toured the HHOF too and it was not only highly interesting but it expanded my appreciation of hockey. I admit the crazy international jersey displays didn’t really do anything for me, but there is some famous hockey outside the NHL. Some of it is even pro hockey. Some of it is even mens hockey. Some of it is even good hockey.

    In my estimation, it does not need to be HHOAEP: Hockey Hall of Alltime Elite Players. The “F” stands for “Fame”. I think there is an argument there for guys like Eddie Shack to be inducted (he apparently had a song about him hit #1 in the charts). Tiger Williams might even be within range.

  2. mc79hockey says:

    Was Dick Duff really that famous oilswell? Maybe he was but I’m pretty well versed in hockey history and I’d never heard of the guy.

    The insistence on taking in four guys a year kind of kills them, IMO. You don’t see MLB doing that. If you’re going to do that every year…there’s going to be a few Dick Duff’s and Clarke GIllies.

  3. Pleasure Motors says:

    In my estimation, it does not need to be HHOAEP: Hockey Hall of Alltime Elite Players. The “F” stands for “Fame”.

    If we’re going to use that argument, though, I expect Todd Bertuzzi to make it in on the first ballot. Seriously, though, saying it’s for the “famous” is a bit disingenuous: we call it the House of Parliament, but it’s actually more of a hall, and I don’t think anyone lives there full-time.

    I think the spirit of the thing is honouring elite players, and I agree with Tyler in that part of the problem is the mandatory number inducted each year.

    Ideally it should be numbers based, I think, though of course you’d need to make some adjustments on the era (the equivalent of the “+” stats in baseball). However far away we are from even stat junkies having reliable measure for those things, though, we’re probably a half century before someone uses them as hall criteria. Nepotism works pretty well for the Oilers, though, so why shouldn’t it work for the hall?

  4. oilswell says:

    mc: so Dick Duff doesn’t make it according to the fame criteria too? I agree, but my debate was on the criteria used, not how it is being applied.

    The 4-per rule may indeed be a problem. I know the issue is “slow” years, but for giggles: on average over the long run, how many players per year do you think typically merit inclusion? Is 400 every century too much?

    pm: way to seize on the irrelevant specifics and avoid the actual point ;) Let us ignore the name. And Bertuzzi is a knockout counter argument only if one is resolutely unwilling to be even a little subtle. Which I am not.

    Just to clarify the proposal, obviously elite performance must be a vital component for inclusion in the player category. However the mere fact that there are other categories (e.g. builder) should give one pause to think of the overall purpose of the hall, which is more along the lines of honoring notworthy and memorable achievements and game heritage.

    Back to the “fame” word, and quoting from Wikipedia: Whilst it was the first to be designated “Hall of Fame” — the word “fame” was employed with the intention of transmitting the value-laden meaning that is very close to the word “renown” (rather than today’s more common meaning of “celebrity” (Rubin, 1997, p.14).

  5. Lowetide says:

    oilswell: Can’t we have both? Perhaps a HOF where Paul Henderson and Todd Bertuzzi and Dick Duff and Clark Gillies and Claire Alexander can roam free, and then an “Inner Circle” where the elite level men are honored.

    First thing that has to be done imo is fixing the original 6. An example: name 6 goalies who were starters in the 1950s who are NOT in the HHOF.

  6. The Puck Stops Here says:

    There is no rule that four players per year get inducted into the Hall. The rule (which is at best an informal tradition – and could be changed if there was some reason to change it) is that no more than 4 players per year get inducted.

    This year we had 5 inductions (4 players Francis, Messier, MacInnis and Stevens and builder Jim Gregory). Last year we had 2 player inductions among the 4 inductees (Roy and Duff along with builders Harley Hotchkiss and Herb Brooks).

    There is no 4 per year rule (at least not as described in the comments here)

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