Czech it out! Dominik Hasek achieves Hall of Fame first

Ken Campbell
Hasek

You go to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s website and you look under the category of inductees by place of birth. You look for the Czech Republic and you don’t even see the country listed. You think there must be some kind of mistake until you realize that Dominik Hasek is the first Czech player ever to be inducted.

Jaromir Jagr will, of course, follow Hasek three years after he finally decides to retire, but it’s incredible to think that of all the great Czech players who have played the game, Hasek will be the first to achieve Hall of Fame immortality. Even if the Hall of Fame decides not to induct any more women into the hall for the next decade – and with this group anything is possible – there will be more women (three) than Czech players (two) in the Hall of Fame for the foreseeable future. (Stan Mikita, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, but grew up in Canada, is in the Hall, but is considered Slovak by birth. So is Peter Stastny, who starred many years for the Czechoslovak national team.) Read more

Hey Hockey Hall of Fame: Induct Pat Burns. NOW

Pat Burns (Lou Capozzola /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The Hockey Hall of Fame’s annual induction announcement is slated for 3 p.m. Monday afternoon – and, as usual, there will be a debate over the players who made the cut and the ones who didn’t. But there’s one debate, about one prominent hockey figure who still hasn’t been honored by the HHOF, that was over long ago – and one injustice that deserves to be corrected today.

Pat Burns should be in the Hall of Fame. No doubt, full stop, end of story.

The fact is, Burns should’ve been inducted as a builder before lung cancer took his life in November of 2010. He won more Jack Adams Trophies (three) as the NHL’s best coach than anyone in history. He coached three Original Six franchises; amassed a 501-353-151-14 record; is currently seventh all-time in playoff games coached (149) and tied with Mike Babcock for ninth all-time in playoff coaching wins (78) and won a Stanley Cup in New Jersey. If previous bouts with colon and liver cancer hadn’t forced him out of action in 2004, Burns would have even more impressive credentials.

This it was why it was such a black mark on the HHOF’s reputation when Burns passed away without being honored. It’s bad enough the organization’s selection committee operates with zero transparency when there’s consensus on an HHOF candidate, but when there’s no valid explanation for keeping out someone respected as universally as Burns was, it borders on revolting.

The best thing the HHOF could’ve done was inducted Burns when he was still with us. Nearly four years later, they have rationalized ways to avoid doing so and it is just as indefensible as it was then. Read more

For Eric Lindros on Monday, will it be good news or bad news?

Brian Costello
2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

Is this the year the Hall of Fame selection committee forgives Eric Lindros and grants him a spot in hockey’s shrine?

We’ll find out Monday when the 18 members of the Hall’s selection committee meet and vote for this year’s inductees. In yesterday’s blog, we profiled the three first-year eligible candidates The Hockey News believes will get at least 14 affirmative votes – Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano.

Today, let’s look at some of the previously passed-over candidates. After all, seven of the past 12 inductees in the players category in the past four years had to wait at least one year before getting enshrined.

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Hasek, Forsberg, Modano will get Hall of Fame green light

Detroit Red Wings v Colorado Avalanche

Two of them are slam dunks and the other is a very good bet to make the Hall of Fame this year.

When the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee meets Monday to determine the class of 2014, they won’t have to debate for very long on Dominik Hasek and Peter Forsberg. They’ll be automatics. Mike Modano, on the other hand, might spur debate. He’ll need at least 14 affirmative votes from the 18 selection committee members to make the grade.

Here’s a brief look at the careers of these three first-year eligible candidates The Hockey News is projecting to gain Hall approval for 2014.

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Five more numbers the Montreal Canadiens should retire

Ken Campbell
Jacques Lemaire

You know your team has had a pretty good run when the Hockey Hall of Fame puts out a 240-page coffee table book solely dedicated to the players on your team it has honored over the years. So we’ll understand if the Montreal Canadiens are a little reticent to retire the numbers of all the legendary players they’ve had over the years. After all, Nos. 1 through 5, 7, 9, 10, 12,16, 18, 19, 23, 29 and 33 have already been retired.

More than 32 years after his career with the Canadiens ended, Guy Lapointe was the latest Canadien to have his number go up in the rafters of the Bell Center, where his No.5 will stand alongside Bernie Geoffrion’s. Nobody would argue that Lapointe deserves to be up among the Canadiens greats, particularly since the two other members of, ‘The Big Three’ of Serge Savard and Larry Robinson have already had their numbers retired.

The fact is, the Canadiens could retire the numbers of a couple of players a year and it would take them more than a decade before they ran out. There are still some glaring omissions in the group. Here are the top five, in order: Read more

Hall Monitor: When will Carbonneau’s defensive greatness be recognized?

Brian Costello
Guy Carbonneau

With the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee scheduled to get together next Monday to determine the 2014 induction class, let’s take a look at one worthy candidate who continues to get overlooked.

Guy Carbonneau never played on the top line, never scored 30 goals or 60 points in a season and was never called the best player in hockey by a Russian coach. Yet his playing attributes and individual awards so closely resemble those of Hall of Famer Bob Gainey, you have to wonder why Carbonneau keeps getting short shrift.

Carbonneau was largely a defensive specialist through most of his 18 seasons in the NHL, even though he had 134 goals and an astounding 323 points during his final two seasons for Chicoutimi in the Quebec League.

He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1979 at the tail end of their four-Cups-in-four-years dynasty. In order to make the grade, he had to sharpen his defensive play. His first seven seasons with the Canadiens were spent playing with and alongside defensive forward ace Gainey, called the most complete player in the game by Russian coach Anatoli Tarasov in 1979.

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What do P.K. Subban and Jean Beliveau have in common? Ask Bob Cole

Jean-Beliveau

When P.K. Subban pumped a point shot past Tuukka Rask in double overtime last night, he gave the Habs a 1-0 series lead in the team’s second round match-up with archrival Boston.

But he also put himself in some rather exclusive company. According to the Sportsnet Ticker, Subban is the first Canadiens player since Hall of Fame icon Jean Beliveau to score in double overtime in Boston. Beliveau pulled off the feat on April 24, 1969 and if you need confirmation of that fact, just ask Hockey Night in Canada’s Bob Cole: That game was his first NHL radio broadcast.

I recently interviewed Cole for a feature in the newest edition of The Hockey News magazine and he told me a funny story about that milestone:

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Backchecking: Grant Fuhr

Matt Larkin
Grant Fuhr

It’s a dark, frigid morning during Toronto’s cruelest winter in 20 years. Anyone awake is annoyed about it, unable or unwilling to string two sentences together. Except a Hall of Fame goaltender named Grant Fuhr, who saunters into the Westin Harbour Castle hotel lobby, fashionably late, with the cheerful Zen of a monk. Maybe it’s his surgically replaced knee, made of titanium, that keeps him from hurrying anywhere. “He sets off all the alarms at the airport,” says his fiancée, Lisa.

Or maybe Fuhr glides along with such tranquility because he simply has life all figured out.

What he’s about to do is daunting in theory. After years out of the public eye, he’s resurfacing to make about a dozen major media appearances in a row. Breakfast Television, TSN radio, and so on. He’s promoting a soon-to-be released autobiography. It’s a tell-all, meaning he’ll account his best days backstopping the Edmonton Oilers dynasty and his adventures in golf, but he’ll also face the harder parts of his life head on. That includes his battle with cocaine use, which led to a lengthy suspension during his playing career.

Some people would be jittery resurfacing to be thrust in the spotlight for 12 straight hours, but not Fuhr. He’s one of the sport’s all-time best money goalies, remember. He has five Stanley Cup rings and a Canada Cup. And when the camera or microphone is in his face, Fuhr, now 51, laps up the pressure, no problem. He answers questions on anything, from his playing days to Canada’s 2014 Olympic team, with such little hesitation that he’s, well, goalie-like in his reaction time. “This is fun,” he says. “I haven’t done this for years.”

Maybe Fuhr is so comfortable with the attention because he attracted so much of it during his career. He was a highly coveted goaltender coming out of junior, drafted eighth overall by the Oilers in 1981. An athletic netminder who modelled himself after Tony Esposito, he was a perfect fit on the most high-octane offense the game has ever known, because the team’s style was familiar to him. “I loved playing for a run-and-gun team,” he says. “I got lucky enough that when I was playing junior in Victoria, that was the first time I’d seen a run-and-gun team, so with junior and the training, my progression to the NHL was playing the same style of hockey. It was comfortable for me.”

Fuhr battled for time with Andy Moog, which he believes made him a better goalie, and became Edmonton’s primary starter for most of the 1980s, especially during the playoffs. Fuhr played a crucial role in four of the five Cups he won with Edmonton, including an incredible 1988 run in which he went 16-2 en route to the Oil’s fourth Cup in five years. Wayne Gretzky called Fuhr the greatest goalie in the history of the game,

Fuhr played in six All-Star Games, won the 1988 Vezina Trophy and was acrobatically sensational for Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup, too. But he wasn’t just a star for what he did on the ice. He’s not the first black player in NHL history, but he is the first black superstar. “You notice it more now,” Fuhr says. At the time you just treated yourself as a player, first and foremost.  Obviously with Willie O’Ree and Mike Marson, Billy Riley, Tony McKegney, all those guys playing ahead of me, you didn’t really think of it that way. So I just feel pretty fortunate to have ended up in a spot where I could be successful.”

He is also remembered for being suspended by the NHL for a year in 1990 for using cocaine throughout the mid to late 1980s. The league was aware Fuhr had been clean for a year, but punished him for conduct “dishonorable and against the welfare of the league.” He earned early reinstatement by February 1991 and played a key role in another deep Oiler playoff run. “My only hard feelings out of the whole thing was it was probably about two or three years late, but at the same time, you make a mistake and you’ve got to pay the price,” Fuhr says. “We were just young and got caught up with the wrong crowd. It was a young, dumb mistake.”

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