As a fan it was nice to see the stellar representation of hockey royalty Saturday night at the ACC as part of the Hall of Fame weekend.
It is breathtaking to consider how much of the NHL’s history assembles for these events. Even better when you’re old enough to appreciate it.
Ted Lindsey, Vladislav Tretiak, Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe and others comprised a greeting line of greats as HOF inductees Mark Howe, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and Doug Gilmour were welcomed to that exclusive club. The fact that the latter three were ex-Leafs made it all the more special with Gilmour naturally getting the most thunderous greeting as a former captain.
No one who’s been a long-time suffering Leaf follower can ever forget Gilmour’s heroics during the ’93 playoffs, a little less so during the 1994 run. “Dougie” cemented his legendary status with stories of surviving the battle by using an IV drip to combat exhaustion and fight another day, another hoped for victory. You just can’t forget those few blessed weeks of that wonderful Toronto spring of 1993 where the Leafs came within one win and a bad call from a dream match-up that would have set up a repeat of the ’67 Stanley Cup final with the Canadiens.
Gilmour was a borderline call by many for being inducted into the HHOF. His career numbers (1,414 points in 1,474 games; 450G, 964A) averaging nearly a point per game. His Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989 got him into the HOF conversation but it took 8 years after his retirement to finally get the call.
So winning definitely counts.
Can you imagine what a toothless Doug Gilmour raising the Cup after beating the Montreal Canadiens in a 1993 final would have meant to Toronto? An iconic image that would have etched itself permanently in the city’s sports psyche; a moment of joy for a luckless, stumbling franchise and likely a first year induction into the Hall of Fame for Gilmour.
But that’s just dreaming in technicolour. The reality is on career numbers alone, No. 93 gets the Hall pass but only barely.
A few others with similar career stats are still waiting. It’s a tough decision and always hotly debated as who deserves to be in the Hall when it comes to “borderline” cases. Some would argue Gilmour should have been a shoe-in from the get-go; others would argue close, but no cigar.
The key I think is what constitutes “fame” in the Hall of Fame. Statistics and longevity doesn’t make a player an automatic choice. Plus, players are selected by an insider committee of long time hockey lifers, not current sports journalists, coaches or GM’s. That can make for some controversial choices. Remember Gil Stein who was briefly president of the league in 1992 but un-nominated himself as an inductee because he was accused of manipulating the vote in his favour.
Sometimes legends are made in just a few brilliant weeks, casting a city under a sublime spell. Gilmour was the talisman for those ’93 Leafs that allowed fans to briefly glimpse what might have been for this Stanley Cup drought-ravaged franchise. For that and the relatively short period where he was a bonafide all-star for the Maple Leafs, Gilmour deserves to be in HHOF.