Friday, November 12, 2021

Every Hockey Hall of Fame induction class, ranked

The class of 2020 will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this weekend. That’s a little weird, because as you may be aware, it’s 2021. But with COVID meaning no induction ceremony last year, leading to no new class this year, we’re playing catchup on what will be the 68th class in the Hall’s history.

It goes without saying that 68 classes is way too many to rank. It also goes without saying that we’re going to do it anyway.

After some back and forth, I decided to focus the ranking on NHL players only. It’s true that, as we’re often reminded, it’s the Hockey Hall of Fame, and not just the NHL Hall of Fame. But I really don’t think anyone wants to get into ranking the various owners, executives and hangers-on that have gone in as builders and officials. To keep things apples-to-apples, that means we’ll also pass over the long list of early players from other leagues that you’ve almost certainly never heard of, a few players who were inducted solely for their international achievements, and the way-to-low number of women inducted since 2010.

This will take forever and I will regret it almost immediately. Worst to best, let’s do this.

68. Class of 1949

NHL players inducted: Art Ross

We’ll start with some controversy, as there’s some question over whether there even was a class of 1949. The HHOF web site lists Ross and pre-NHL star Dan Bain with the 1945 inductees, but most other sources including hockey-reference say they went in separately. We’ll go with that, which makes Ross and his three NHL games and one point an easy pick for this spot. (That’s right, the guy who the scoring title is named after only had one career NHL point.)

67. Class of 2010

NHL players inducted: Dino Ciccarelli

This was an important and historic class, because it featured the first two women players, Cammi Granato and Angela James. But while they were joined by Jim Devellano and Doc Seaman as builders, the only NHL player was Ciccarelli, whose lack of any hardware in his 19-year career makes him one of the names most often cited as an undeserving inductee. He’d already waited almost a decade; it probably would have been better to hold off and let the women have the spotlight to themselves.

66. Class of 1968

NHL players inducted: Bill Cowley

After inducting a ton of players through most of the 1960s, the Hall slowed down late in the decade. Cowley was a good playmaker who won two Harts in the 1940s, but it’s asking a lot for him to carry a class all on his own.

65. Class of 2008

NHL players inducted: Glenn Anderson, Igor Larionov

Larionov is mostly in for his international work, so from our NHL perspective this is pretty much the Anderson show, meaning a sniper in the greatest offensive era ever who fell short of 500 goals. He’d been eligible for almost a decade at this point, but without any new candidates thanks to the 2005 lockout, the committee found their chance to get him in.

64. Class of 1952

NHL players inducted: Nels Stewart, Bill Cook, Mickey MacKay

A cautionary tale for the Sedins, as Bill would have to wait 43 years to be joined by his brother. My favorite part of this class is that it includes two non-NHL players who were both named “Moose”.

63. Class of 1974

NHL players inducted: Dickie Moore, Art Coulter, Billy Burch, Carl Voss

Coulter, Voss and Burch were all from the pre-Original Six era, leaving Moore as the only name most fans would have remembered at the time.

62. Class of 2019

NHL players inducted: Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Guy Carbonneau

Zubov had been a borderline case for years, and seeing him go in was fine. But Nedomansky’s selection came out of nowhere, even as his international resume made a solid case. And the Carbonneau pick was just a miss, one that’s set the stage for a generation of terrible “Well if Guy is in, then what about…” arguments.

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