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THN.com Blog: Hockey Hall of Fame needs a publicity refresher

In 1998, the year Rogie Vachon and two others were nominated, but not inducted, for the HHOF, names of players who didn't make the cut were no longer announced.

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In 1998, the year Rogie Vachon and two others were nominated, but not inducted, for the HHOF, names of players who didn't make the cut were no longer announced.

The Hockey Hall of Fame should take a lesson from the National Baseball Hall of Fame on marketing and publicity 101.

The crystal-clear transparency in annual voting results at the Baseball Hall of Fame should be the envy of its hockey cousin.

Baseball Hall induction voting results are there for the public to consume. From Goose Gossage’s induction on his ninth attempt this year all the way back to Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth being among five inductees in 1936. Check it out at baseballhalloffame.org

The media and public eat it up, every year, almost ad nauseum. For weeks leading up to the vote and for days afterwards, fans and sports journalists go to town on who deserves to get in, who almost got in and why the numbers unfolded as they did. It’s terrific publicity for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

And publicity is great business.

Meanwhile, at the Hockey Hall of Fame, the bylaws rule. Members of the selection committee cannot discuss the logic behind their decisions. The Hockey Hall has a bylaw not to release the names of nominated candidates or voting results. Just the winners.

So what happens? Most media outlets speculate on the candidates a day or two beforehand, then report the results when they’re announced on a conference call. Big whoop.

The Hockey Hall doesn’t have a clue what it’s missing by not being more transparent. Diehard hockey fans love speculating and number crunching. They eat up the first round of the televised NHL draft, the build up and crescendo of the trading deadline, the stats and stories behind the nightly action.

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Do you think TSN or Sportsnet or Hockey Night in Canada wouldn’t love a one-hour show counting down the results of the induction vote? Just imagine it. From a brief sketch of the long shots to a panel debate on the just-misses to a celebration profile of the fortunate few?

Instead the Hockey Hall is caught in a causality loop of ritual, protocol and bylaw. As a result, no one needs to be held accountable.

It wasn’t always this way. The Hockey Hall also used to announce the names of nominated players who didn’t receive the 75 percent approval from the selection committee. It didn’t give us numbers, but that’s asking a lot from an old boys network.

Then in 1998 when Peter Stastny and Michel Goulet were inducted and Rogie Vachon, Vic Hadfield and Bill White turned down, the Hall decided to change its policy. Selection committee chairman Jim Gregory said one of the three who didn’t get in complained that it was an embarrassment their name was dragged through the mud as an unsuccessful nominee. An honor to even be considered among the pantheon of greats? No. Rather an embarrassment to not get there.

Shockingly, the Hall cow-towed. So ever thereafter only the successful candidates were trumpeted…and no need to post the numbers, please.

Heaven forbid, that might generate some publicity.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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