The Hockey Hall of Fame just Tweeted out the 2019 inductees and there was definitely a surprise or two in the bunch that had people wondering if politics came into play.
Hayley Wickenheiser, in her first year of eligibility, was the only person that was a lock to get in given her status as an icon of women’s ice hockey. In 79 international games, Wickenheiser recorded 58 goals and 88 assists for 146 points. She won four Olympic gold medals, seven world championship golds, one Olympic silver and six world championship silvers. For over two decades, Wickenheiser was Canadian hockey and her contributions to the women’s game are myriad.
Sergei Zubov made the cut in his seventh year of eligibility and will join the Hall in November. I’m from the school of thought that you’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re not. But some years are going to be star-heavy and a worthy NHL player has to wait because only four male players can get inducted each year. This is what happened to Zubov, one of the top pucking-moving defensemen of the last 25 years. Since he became eligible, Niedermayer, Chelios, Blake, Pronger, Lidstrom, and Housley were all inducted. He basically had to wait his turn but that doesn’t make him any less deserving (though there’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t have gotten in back in 2016 when only three players were inducted and one of them was Rogie Vachon).
Jim Rutherford and Jerry York are certainly deserving of going in as Builders. Rutherford has been around forever and is the only GM to win Cups with multiple teams in the Expansion Era. York is the winningest coach in college hockey history (1067 wins) and is one of three coaches to lead two different schools to a National Title.
Given that the bulk of his career was in the ’70s, I wasn’t familiar with Vaclav Nedomansky. But being the first athlete to defect from an Eastern European communist country (Czechoslovakia) to play pro hockey in North America took a tremendous amount of balls so even if that’s all he did (it wasn’t), he deserves to get in. Should’ve already happened.
After 15 years of being passed over, longtime Montreal Canadien Guy Carbonneau was deemed worthy of hockey’s highest honor. One of the best defensive forwards of his time, Carbonneau won the Selke three times and three Stanley Cups. But he wasn’t necessarily a guy that screamed “Hall of Famer” (unlike, say, Alexander Mogilny). If he was waiting for his turn like Zubov was, he would’ve gotten in well before this year. His selection in 2019 makes you wonder why he wasn’t chosen in any of the seven classes during his eligibility that featured only two or three male inductees. 2010 is a particularly curious year because only male player (Dino Ciccarelli) was inducted. That’s eight separate times he could’ve been voted in and not taken the place of another deserving player but the Selection Committee chose not to. How wasn’t he a HHOFer in 2010 when there were three open slots but he was this year? Hey, maybe it was a voting anomaly or a flaw of the eligibility system in place or locusts. But “weak class” is a weak reason. The only thing that has really changed in his 16 years of eligibility has been the Selection Committee.
One other quirky note:
A coincidence, I’m sure.