NHL Awards voting shows Hockey Hall of Fame selection process needs to change

Adam Proteau
NHL Awards (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

When you watch the NHL Awards tonight, pay attention to one particular aspect: the voting process. It’s transparent – the league releases ballot results after each season’s awards have been presented – and the two candidates in each category who don’t win aren’t devastated or humiliated.

Now contrast that with the voting procedure that decides who will and won’t be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. That process makes a papal conclave look like a friendly show-of-hands vote between friends. Every year, the HHOF’s induction committee meets in secret to debate the pros and cons of each candidate – and every year, the public gets no explanation as to why particular choices were made.

Why? Well, the explanation usually goes, players who didn’t make the cut would be embarrassed and upset by being pointed to as unworthy of the honor. But if that’s the case, why does the NHL announce three finalists for each of its individual awards? Surely there’s a letdown for those who don’t win, yet somehow they’re able to soldier on in life.

In other words, this excuse is completely baseless.

Releasing the voting results for the HHOF would put that organization in line with the baseball HOF, which makes public its voting results every year. That fosters debate and discussion among fans, something that’s undeniably good for the sport.

So why not the Hockey Hall of Fame? The granddaddy of empty explanations applies: tradition. This is how it’s always been done, and if it’s at the expense of rationality and fan approval, so be it. Even when new faces are added to the HHOF’s selection committee, the process stays the same.

That’s a gigantic shame, because this is an easy fix. Players in line for HHOF consideration have nothing to be upset about if they don’t get in, because simply being considered for it is an indication they were an above-average athlete.

If you don’t believe that’s true, just look at the NHL Awards tonight. No tears will be shed by those who don’t take home a trophy. The celebration is bigger than any one person or player. And the sooner the HHOF selection committee accepts that and opens up its process, the better the hockey world will be.