TAMPA — On Monday night, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure and Adam Oates were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I had a chance to play 20 years, got to lift the Stanley Cup twice and was able to play for my country and win a Gold Medal,” said Sakic. “But this is the greatest honour I’ve ever received.”
Sakic is certainly deserving of the honour and congratulations to him.
However, because my friend old Ed Sweeney, can’t really do it anymore, I would, once again, like to take up the gauntlet.
Every year, as the new inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame are feted, I like to continue with Mr. Sweeney’s tradition and write an open letter on his behalf in an effort to alert Bill Hay or Jim Gregory or Harry Sinden or somebody on the Hall of Fame selection committee, to the fact that to the hockey historians in this part of Canada, the Toronto-based Hall is still a sad Eastern/American joke.
For more than a decade, Sweeney kept a list of five men, coaches, builders and players who should be in the Hall, but for reasons he could just never understand, had been consistently ignored by the people who made the Hall’s final selections.
Sweeney is an old baseball player and bowling champion (he used to set pins at Billy Mosienko Lanes in Winnipeg’s North End) who has always had that deep, abiding love for hockey that only a Canadian can have. He’s the former curator of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and was, for a long time, an active member of the Canadian Association for Hockey Research.
This year, I have taken it upon myself to offer up Mr. Sweeney’s annual letter to the Hall, a letter that includes the names of five people who should be in the Hall, but have been left out for reasons I simply don’t want to consider.
Here, once again, is “Sweeney’s List”…
Robert “Butch Goring: He played 16 years with L.A., Boston and the New York Islanders. Was a Masterton, Lady Byng and Conn Smythe Trophy winner and helped the Islanders win four Stanley Cups in the early 1980s. “If Clark Gillies is in the Hall, then Butch Goring should be in the Hall,” said Sweeney. There is an outstanding profile of Goring at
Murray Murdoch: The NHL’s original Ironman, Murdoch played 11 years with the New York Rangers from 1926-27 to 1936-37, won two Stanley Cups and never missed a game. There is a tremendous profile of Murdoch at http://www.newyorkrangers.com/tradition/bio.asp?Player=Murdoch
Billy Reay: “Most people don’t believe me when I tell them Billy Reay is NOT in the Hall of Fame,” Sweeney always said. Reay retired as one of only two players to win a Memorial Cup, an Allan Cup and a Stanley Cup (with the Canadiens) and after retiring as a player he went on to coach the Chicago Blackhawks. He left coaching in 1976 with 598 wins — at the time, the second most in NHL history.
Lorne Chabot: Port Arthur’s “Old Bulwarks” won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers and had 73 shutouts in his career back when the NHL was in its infancy. There is a fine profile of Chabot at
John Ferguson: “Even if you don’t count the fact, he was the best fighter in the NHL and a pretty good player during his time, John has to be in the Hall as a builder,” said Sweeney. “He was assistant GM with Team Canada ’72 and then GM of the Rangers. He built the Winnipeg Jets and had a lot to do with building the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks of today.”
I hope someone out there in the big Eastern city will remember Goring, Murdoch, Chabot, Reay and Ferguson. One of the Hall’s 18 selection committee members can nominate a candidate and perhaps this is the year they’ll remember true greatness.
On behalf of Ed Sweeney, I hope that this is year the Hall’s gatekeepers will think about the things that make a Hall of Fame great, not just popular.