The Hockey Hall of Fame officially welcomed six new members Monday night at the annual induction ceremony in Toronto. As per tradition, there were speeches, highlights, and the unveiling of each member’s plaque.
What there was not was any kind of formal emphasis on specific teams. That’s because, unlike baseball’s Hall of Fame, the hockey version doesn’t associate each new member with one team. Cooperstown inducts each player wearing a cap of the team he’s most associated with, which can lead to plenty of debate.
Hockey doesn’t do that. But what if we did?
It wouldn’t be an especially tough question for this year’s four player inductees; Dominik Hasek would go in as a Sabre, Peter Forsberg as an Av, Rob Blake as a King, and Mike Modano as a Star. But other years, it wouldn’t have been such an easy call. Some of hockey’s greatest stars split their prime years between two or more teams, and choosing just one franchise to induct a player under would lead to all sorts of arguments, hyperbole, and hurt feelings.
That sounds like fun, so let’s give it a try. Let’s reimagine the Hockey Hall of Fame under Cooperstown rules: Each player has to go in as a representative of one team, and one team only.
First, let’s get a few of the easier ones out of the way. Consider this a pregame stretch:
Brendan Shanahan: Red Wings
He played the majority of his 21-year career elsewhere, but the three Stanley Cups in Detroit make this one an easy call.
Doug Gilmour: Maple Leafs
He spent more time in Toronto than anywhere else and had his best seasons there; that’s enough to trump the Cup he won in Calgary.
Dino Ciccarelli: North Stars
He moved around a lot, but he scored three times as many goals with Minnesota as anywhere else.
Al MacInnis: Flames
A tougher call than I expected; he played 10 years in St. Louis and won his only Norris there. But his offensive totals (and Stanley Cup) from his 13 years in Calgary tip the scales.
Paul Coffey: Oilers
Played just seven of his 21 seasons in Edmonton, but they were his best.
Pat LaFontaine: Islanders
A tougher call than you’d think, since his crazy 1992-93 in Buffalo was his signature season. But injuries just limited his games played as a Sabre too much.
Wayne Gretzky: Oilers
Now that we’re all warmed up, let’s move on to some tougher cases. Here are eight Hockey Hall of Famers who’d be tougher to nail down.
Patrick Roy: Canadiens or Avalanche?
Roy played 10 full seasons in Montreal to just seven in Colorado, with one season split between the two. But in terms of games played, it’s much closer, at just a 53 percent–to–47 percent edge for the Canadiens. And that’s for the regular season; in the playoffs, Roy actually played 133 games in Colorado to 114 in Montreal.
He split his four Stanley Cups between the two teams. Roy’s numbers in Colorado were significantly better than in Montreal, with his six best seasons in terms of GAA all coming as an Av. But that’s a function of the high-flying ’80s and early ’90s versus the dead puck decade that followed; adjusted for era, his numbers with both teams largely even out.
Perhaps the best argument for the Avalanche is that those were the years that Roy seemed to go from “very good goaltender” to “all-time great” in the eyes of most fans. But that’s because it was the second half of his career, when he started passing milestones and breaking records. As good as he was in Colorado, he was objectively better in Montreal — he won all three of his Vezinas there, and was a postseason first- or second-team All-Star five times, compared to just once in Colorado.
The verdict: Roy goes into the Hall as a Hab, in a decision that wasn’t as close as I thought it would be. By the way, Roy himself was asked about this when he was inducted, and dodged the question.
Brad Park: Rangers or Bruins?
Park isn’t as well known to the current generation of fans as fellow ’70s blueliners like Bobby Orr or Denis Potvin. In fact, that’s a big part of his legacy — he was the runner-up for the Norris Trophy six times over nine seasons without ever winning, the first four to Orr and the last two to Potvin.
With the exception of two years with the Wings, he split his career between the Rangers and Bruins. And it was just about as even a split as you could imagine. He played seven full seasons with each team, plus one year split between them. And his productivity with each team was eerily similar. Via Hockey-Reference.com, here were Park’s per-game averages with each team:
Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty close.
The verdict: The Rangers. They drafted and developed him, and he earned the majority of his All-Star selections (and Norris second-place finishes) in New York.