Pronger Eligibility Shapes 2015 HHOF Class
The Hockey Hall of Fame has cleared the way for veteran blue liner Chris Pronger to enter the sports greatest pantheon.
While the politics of whether Pronger’s eligibility is right or just – as he remains on the LTIR and perhaps more significantly on the Flyers pay roll – it does appear to have made the selection committee’s job a little easier when they meet at the end of June.
As reported by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s general voting members chose to alter bylaws to make allowances for players in situations similar Pronger’s – here’s how LeBrun explained the change:
Within new bylaw No. 26, the key section reads: “a person is not eligible for election in the player category if he or she has played in a professional or international hockey game (which terms shall not be considered to include games played only or primarily for charitable or recreational purposes, or for any other limited purpose that the Chair of the Board of Directors determines, in his or her discretion, should not disqualify for nomination a person otherwise eligible) during any of the three (3) playing seasons immediately prior to his or her election.”
Pronger has not played since November 2011, due to post-concussion related health issues; making him eligible for induction ‘now’, despite being contracted to the Flyers until 2017.
A Stanley Cup winner with Anaheim in 2007, Pronger also won the Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy in 2000 and became an integral part of both the 2006 Edmonton Oilers and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers sides that reached the Stanley Cup Final.
A veteran of 1,167 NHL games (and a further 173 playoff games), the Ontario native also won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2002 and 2010; and is considered by many to be a lock to go in to the Hockey Hall of Fame at the first time of asking.
With the door now open for Pronger to be inducted this year, he joins fellow blue liner Nicklas Lidstrom on the list of players all but guaranteed to be enshrined alongside the sports biggest names.
Lidstrom is only one of three defencemen to win the Norris Trophy seven times, along with Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey, and won four Stanley Cups during a 20-year career with the Detroit Red Wings.
The 44-year old was also part of the Swedish team that won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, as well as the 1991 World Championship winning side – securing his place in the prestigious ‘Triple Gold Club’.
Lidstrom also won the Conn Smythe in 2002 and has been pegged as a first ballot entrant to the Hockey Hall of Fame since his retirement in 2012.
Beyond the two blue liners, the class of 2015 becomes less clear – with a number of strong candidates eligible this year.
Russian legend Sergei Fedorov may have the strongest case of any of the other potential inductees to join Pronger and Lidstrom in the Hall of Fame.
After winning silver at the World Junior Championships in 1988, Fedorov helped both the junior and senior sides secure gold 12 months later. A second World Championship gold followed in 1990, before Fedorov defected and joined Detroit – scoring 31 goals and 79 points in his first season with the Red Wings.
Regarded as one of the best skaters in the history of the game; in 1994 Fedorov won the Hart Trophy (becoming the first European-trained player to do so), the Frank J Selke Trophy and The Lester B. Pearson Award, after scoring 56 goals and 120 points.
The Pskov native went on to play in 1,248 NHL games for Detroit, Anaheim, Columbus and Washington, scoring 483 goals and 1,179 points and winning three Stanley Cups during his time with the Red Wings – including back-to-back Cups in 1995 and 1996, a year in which he also won his second Selke Trophy.
Fedorov signed for KHL outfit Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2009, leaving the NHL as the record holder for most points in overtime (27), as well as being the first Russian player to reach 1,000 NHL points and setting the record for most goals by a Russian-born player (483).
A gold medal winner at the 2008 World Championships as well, Fedorov is now General Manager of CSKA Moscow – whom he also represented at the 2013 Spengler Cup. Icing in 2 games (scoring 1 goal), he stated intentions to make a full comeback – but the idea did not bear fruit.
Once regarded as the best player in the world, Fedorov seems to be on most pundits list of likely entrants this year – and two of his countrymen may also be in the frame.
Former linemate Alexander Mogilny was also part of the gold medal winning World Junior and World Championship sides in 1989, as well as being a gold medal winner at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
In 990 NHL games, Mogilny scored 1,032 points – including scoring 76 goals in 77 games for Buffalo during the 1992/93 season. A Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey in 2000, he went to the Finals again in 2001 and was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2003.
It’s the international success of Soviet legend Sergei Makarov that make his case for the Hockey Hall of Fame somewhat intriguing.
Makarov did not play in the NHL until 1989, when he won the Calder Trophy as a 31-year old; registering 86 points for Calgary that year. By that time, the Chelyabinsk native already had two Olympic gold medals, seven World Championship golds and two World Junior gold medals to his name.
Inducted in to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2001, Makarov was part of the revered KLM line – which also included 2008 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Igor Larionov. The winger secured an eight World Championship gold in 1990, and played in 424 NHL games for Calgary, San Jose and briefly Dallas. He also won nine Soviet scoring titles during his time with CSKA Moscow in the 1980s.
Former Anaheim winger Paul Kariya also has a strong case to be included in the Hockey Hall of Fame this year.
The 40-year old averaged a point per game during his NHL career – icing in 989 games for the Ducks, Avs, Predators and Blues – and was an elite performer during one of the most notoriously goal-shy eras in NHL history.
Winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s most outstanding player in 1993, Kariya scored 300 goals and 669 points in just 609 appearances for the Mighty Ducks, as he and line mate Teemuu Selanne became cult heroes for the fledgling franchise’s fans.
A member of the 2002 gold medal winning Canadian Olympic team, Kariya served as team captain for 8 years and helped the club reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2003 – where he was infamously knocked unconscious by New Jersey Captain Scott Stevens, one of a number of serious concussions he sustained during his career.
The Vancouver native joined Colorado as an unrestricted free agent the following summer, re-uniting with Selanne in a bid to secure a Stanley Cup. But the high powered Avalanche fell short of expectations; with Kariya missing 31 games through injury.
The winger used the 2004/05 lockout as an opportunity to heal; returning to the ice with Nashville, where he scored 57-goals and 161 points in two full seasons before moving to St Louis as a free agent.
A moderately successful first year in Missouri failed to translate in to further success however, as hip problems limited Kariya to just 11 games in 2008/09; with a middling return of 43 points in 75 games the following year.
Winner of World Championship and World Junior gold, Kariya was rumours to be in talks with Anaheim during the summer of 2010, but instead the former Maine Black Bears star opted to sit out the season due to post-concussion symptoms – which eventually lead to his retirement in June 2011.
Like Kariya, Eric Lindros career was curtailed by injury, and the former Flyers’ centre has been a somewhat divisive figure in Hall of Fame debates.
Many see the inclusion of Cam Neely and Pavel Bure as ‘case studies’ for short, but highly successful careers being honoured – and though Lindros was limited to 760 games because of injuries, he averaged 1.14 points per game during that time – 14th all-time among players with 700 games.
Lindros won the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy in 1995, and help Philadelphia reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1997 – finishing his career with 57 points in 53 playoff games.
A member of the 2002 Team Canada side that won gold in Salt Lake City, the Ontario native was sometimes seen to be abrasive – a factor many believe hold his ‘candidacy’ back, much like Jeremy Roenick; who is one of only three Americans to score at least 500 goals but is well known for his outspoken views, which can often distract from what was a very respectable career (1,216 points, 1,363 career).
With Roenick unlikely to find his way past many of the other candidates, and a seeming lack of interest in inducting Phil Housely, American interests in the 2015 class lay largely at the feet of Angela Ruggiero.
Ruggiero holds the record for games played for the US national team (men’s or women’s) and is a four-time Olympic medallist, including gold in 1998. She also won the World Championship on four occasions.
Already a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and IIHF Hall of Fame; this is her first year of eligibility, and Ruggiero (along with any other female player) would be exempt from the committee’s limitation of four male players per class – making her an almost guaranteed selection.
Mark Recchi and Dave Andreychuk have also garnered some consideration based on their scoring acumen.
Recchi compiled 1,533 points (12th all-time) over a career that spanned more than two decades and yielded three Cup rings. Of the top 27 scorers in NHL history, Recchi is the only one eligible for the Hall of Fame who has not yet been inducted.
Andreychuk’s 640 goals place him 14th on the all-time list, making he and Recchi the only Hall eligible members of the NHL’s top 30 goal scorers to not be immortalised; though neither sports a major individual honour or outstanding international resume to help boost their chances.
Netminder Chris Osgood also remains a divisive figure. His 401 wins put him 10th all-time, and he won three Stanley Cups with Detroit – two as starter – but many feel he was the benefactor of being on some of the best Red Wings sides of the modern era, rather than a stand out contributor to those teams.
Curtis Joseph is also eligible, has more wins than Osgood (and losses…) but was never a Vezina Trophy or Stanley Cup winner – making his chances of inclusion extremely small.
Other long shots include Keith Tkachuk, Bernie Nicholls, Conn Smythe winner Ron Hextall and Cup winner Tom Barrasso – though many lack the ‘oomph’ to overhaul the front runners.
On the face of it; Lidstrom, Pronger and Fedorov seem locked in – who gets the fourth spot remains a passionate, and often subjective debate.