- Last Updated: 5:42 AM, June 24, 2012
- Posted: 12:31 AM, June 24, 2012
PITTSBURGH — When the Hall of Fame selection committee meets Tuesday in Toronto, it will be time — well past time, actually — for the 18-member board to select Fred Shero for induction.
If not, it will be time — well past time, actually — for one of these members to come forward, break the shackles of secrecy under which the committee operates, and explain the arguments to the rest of the hockey world that would have been used to deny entry to the Hall to one of the most successful and influential coaches in NHL history.
We have been through this before, and more than once, in this space — year after year in fact, while the fact is simply this:
The exclusion of Shero — who coached consecutive Stanley Cup winners in Philadelphia in 1974-75 in the franchise’s seventh and eighth seasons in the NHL; who was the first NHL coach to hire a full-time assistant; who was the first NHL coach to visit the Soviet Union and incorporate systems he learned watching the Red Army practice; who would scribble the types of inspirational sayings on the blackboard that are now inscribed on the walls of NHL teams’ locker rooms; whose Flyers beat the Red Army on Jan. 11, 1976, when victory seemed so important to the Western Hemisphere; and who finished his coaching career with a .612 winning percentage and four trips to the finals in nine full seasons behind the bench — is inexcusable.
There must be agendas at play here in order to deny Freddie the Fog his rightful place — petty ones, at that. Without sunlight on the process, without accountability of the voters, there only is this evident truth: Blocking Shero’s entry into the Hall of Fame is a reflection on the committee and on the process, not on the coach or his career.
There’s a segment of hockey society that might believe Shero unworthy because of his role in inventing the Broad Street Bullies — who pillaged, plundered and took no prisoners in cutting a swath through the NHL in the mid-70s (and who, by the way, are glorified by the league’s marketing department at every opportunity).
There’s a terrific book by Todd Denault, “The Greatest Game: The Montreal Canadiens, the Red Army, and The Night that Saved Hockey,” that tells the story of not only the 1975 Christmas Eve 3-3 tie between the Canadiens and the Red Army, but posits that the Canadiens saved the NHL from the Flyers and their thuggish ways with the sweep of Philadelphia (minus the injured Bernie Parent) in the 1976 Finals.
ButIf it is Shero’s association with the Broad Street Bullies is that is deemed so offensive by a high enough percentage of the 18-person committee to keep the coach out of the Hall of Fame, then why was Philadelphia owner Ed Snider enshrined in 1988, when the memory of such wanton behavior was fresh in everyone’s mind?
Why was Keith Allen, the general manager of those teams, enshrined in 1992? (By the way, Allen’s official bio on the Hall of Fame’s website includes this priceless line: “... helped build the violent, controversial, but ultimately successful Broad Street Bullies and to this day remains in the organization as a vice-president.)
Out damn spot!
Why then was Bobby Clarke, not only the Flyers’ captain but the guy who broke Valery Kharlamov’s ankle with a, uh, let’s call it, a “violent, controversial, but ultimately successful” slash in Game 6 of the 1972 Summit Series against the USSR, enshrined in 1987?
So let’s recap:
The owner of the Broad Street Bullies: Hall of Fame.
The general manager of the Broad Street Bullies: Hall of Fame.
The captain of the Broad Street Bullies: Hall of Fame.
The coach of the Broad Street Bullies: Not.
Why not? Please: why not?
Shero was never part of the good old boys club, never was a politician. Had few cronies. Marched to the beat of his own drummer. Had a relatively short NHL career due largely to a disease he could not beat.
But he was one of the great coaches in the history of the league, one of the most successful and one of the most innovative.
He had a Hall of Fame career behind the bench. Shame on the Hall of Fame selection committee if Freddie is not properly recognized in the voting on Tuesday.
* Brendan Shanahan, whose 1996 acquisition remade the Red Wings from underachieving lightweights into all-time multiple Cup champions, and the transcendent Joe Sakic are locks for first ballot election into the Hall.
Mats Sundin is a possibility in his first year of eligibility. It’s probably too much to expect election of Anders Hedberg, Pavel Bure or Alexander Mogilny, all of whom are deserving of the honor.
* So the charge of East Coast bias against the media: How about Jonathan Quick receiving just 21 top-three votes from NHL general managers in the balloting for the Vezina while Henrik Lundqvist went 30-for-30?
Hockey Night in Canada refuses to believe Stephane Auger has retired until the show hears it from Alexandre Burrows.Follow @NYPostsports