Paul Henderson, who scored three consecutive game-winning goals - including the dramatic winner with 34 seconds left in Game 8 - in the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union was once more passed over in Hockey Hall of Fame inductions this week.
Paul Henderson, embraced by Yvan Cournoyer, celebrates his dramatic goal with 34 seconds left in Game 8 of the 1972 Canada-Soviet Union hockey series. Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak looks on. Photo by Frank Lennon, Toronto Star.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, there wasn't a media outcry or even a story, that I saw anyway, on Henderson not being named to the Hall. It's likely the media, overall, is tired of discussing whether Henderson should be in the Hall.
Interestingly, though, Henderson was in May of this year inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. So if the IIHF recognizes him - and Henderson is truly famous, much more so than many inductees who are in for statistical reasons but wouldn't be recognized if they walked down the street - and if Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, why isn't Henderson?
Paul Henderson, flanked by IIHF president Rene Fasel, left, and 1972 Soviet Union team goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak, is inducted at the IIHF Hall of Fame at the world hockey championship in Stockholm Sweden on May 19, 2013. The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot
I've written about this periodically over the years and my views haven't changed. So, instead of rehashing things (well, I guess I am), here's a sampling of my opinion on the subject from 1997 and 2002 not always specific to Henderson but to halls of fame in general, from my time as sports editor/columnist at the Waterloo Region Record.
From 1997:Dictionary definition of fame: The condition of being known to many people.
Paul Henderson, apparently, isn't known well enough to Hockey Hall of Fame selectors.
But Gene Hart, former broadcast voice of the Philadelphia Flyers, is.
No disrespect to Hart, but c'mon. The voice of a 1967 expansion team gets in, joining a pile of journalists, referees, linesmen and builders -- including Harold Ballard (granted, he's famous). But Henderson, the guy who scored probably the most dramatic goal in hockey history, gets passed over?
Henderson wasn't really that great an NHL player, the naysayers suggest. Maybe not great, but he was no stiff. Henderson had two 30-goal seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored 236 goals and 241 assists in 707 NHL games. He was good enough to play several full seasons in the six-team NHL -- a claim few players in the bloated NHL of today could have made -- where he notched back-to-back 20 goal seasons. And, bottom line, he was good enough to play for Team Canada 1972, for whom he scored three consecutive game-winning goals.
It's all about the Hall of Fame criteria and how people define fame. Too often, halls of fame become halls of statistics, or halls of longevity. No problem. Build a Hall of Achievement for those reaching certain numerical benchmarks and a Hall a of Legends for the likes of Orr, Howe, Hull, Richard, Lemieux and Gretzky.
And put Paul Henderson where he belongs -- in the Hall of Fame.
Another from 1997:Supposedly selfless athletes spend their careers pretending to be different from average humans when they suggest they are indifferent to their statistics and personal accomplishments.
Yet when they are "slighted" in Hall of Fame elections, these same former athletes are quick to trot out those numbers as evidence that they should be inducted.
Witness the interminable analysis over why Phil Niekro entered the baseball hall of fame the other day while Don Sutton didn't. (Editor's note from 2013: Sutton eventually, in 1998, was voted into the baseball hall).
The problem lies in the definition of fame. Beyond those who transcend their games -- Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Pele to name a few -- it's a nebulous concept, especially in a comparative analysis of two relatively equal candidates whose equality is in turn based on a subjective premise.
So it's time to simplify things, dispense with the Hall of Fame concept altogether and replace it with a Hall of Achievement. If numbers are used to fuel the post-selection arguments, then numbers shall settle the debate. Admission to the new Hall would be based on defined statistical criteria. The Ladies Professional Golf Association currently employs such a format.
If these criteria are met, the athlete is in. If not, forget it, unless you want to add various statistical tiers.
Exceptions to the statistical benchmarks would only be considered in the case of an athlete who displayed obvious brilliance but whose career was cut short by injury.
Only in this way will we be rid of the politicized Hall of Fame process in all sports. It's a voting process that is cheapened by cronyism or by voters/writers holding grudges against players who may have treated them poorly.
And it's a process that is annually followed by all manner of whiny, wasted and, essentially, irrelevant analysis. It's time for a change to a pure numbers game.
And from 2002:The ladies have a better idea. The Ladies Professional Golf Association, that is. At least with respect to the Hall of Fame issue which, typically in every sport, annually becomes a bar-room argument over whether inductees are deserving of the honour.
Clark Gillies, for example. Decent player, as was Rod Langway and Bernie Federko. But hockey hall of famers? A lot of people don't seem to think so.
And if you use the dictionary definition of fame -- the condition of being known to many people -- those people would be right. To hockey people, this year's inductees are known, but even those three players aren't as well-known as the coach, Roger Neilson, who was inducted along with them on Monday in Toronto.
Real fame belongs to only a few, whether it be in hockey -- Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux come to mind -- or in life. The Rocket is no longer with us, but when he walked down the street, as is the case with the other fab five named above, a lot of people both in and outside hockey knew him. These are athletes who transcended their game, and there aren't many of those in any sport.
Such simply can't be said for Monday's inductees, save perhaps the innovative Neilson, and that is no slight on them or their achievements.
But that's exactly the point, and where we bring the LPGA back into this discussion. The ladies golf tour admits its hall of famers based on a points system awarded for winning tournaments, with more weight given to majors than your run-of-the-mill moneymaker.
The only thing the LPGA does incorrectly is call it the hall of fame instead of what it should be dubbed -- a hall of achievement. Do that, and then certain numerical benchmarks can be officially brought to bear, so there is no question as to who should be in or out. Special dispensation could be made for athletes who displayed obvious brilliance in both performance and point totals but whose careers were cut short by injury. Somebody like Bobby Orr, for example.
Baseball is one sport which thinks its hall is the most difficult to enter and that may be true. But the baseball journalists, and those covering other sports, are also sometimes plagued by cronyism or grudges held against players who may have treated them poorly. Changing to a statistics-based achievement approach would, if nothing else, put an end to such nonsense while diffusing a trend that sees some athletes hang around too long in an effort to reach what have become in essence unofficial statistics-based standards like 300 victories for a baseball pitcher. Don Sutton, the former Los Angeles Dodger and California Angel pitcher, was guilty of this.
Well, if a guy hangs around for 20 or more years at an average of 15 wins per, does that make him a hall of famer? Not in this rectangle.
But he could be a member of a hall of achievement. Or durability. So why not just make it official, end the annual post-induction debates and have all halls of fame follow the LPGA model?
Just make sure you call them halls of achievement, not fame.