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Why the Hall Not?

October 28, 2023, 10:53 AM ET [6 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Let's be totally honest here: When it comes to certain things in hockey, there's been massive progress in terms of making the game more global. When it comes to other things -- Hockey Hall of Fame selections being one such area, hiring NHL officials and promotions to supervisory and executive positions being another -- there is still a lot of work to be done. To put it bluntly, non-Canadians have a pretty steep uphill climb.

I've addressed the officiating aspect in past blogs, especially as concerns the lack of American supervisors and the half-hearted (at best) attempts to hire top European officials and put them in position to succeed over here rather than fail and go home. Today, I want to talk about the Hockey Hall of Fame.

You cannot, with a straight face, tell me that Jeremy Roenick would still not be in the "big" Hall if he were a Canadian. It's not even about political correctness. It's about the politics of the Hall itself. A comparable Canadian player -- 1,363 games played, 513 career goals, 1,216 points, two 50-goal seasons, four seasons of 40-plus goals, three seasons of 100-plus points, played with speed and physicality, 122 playoff points in 154 playoff games -- would have been enshrined in Toronto years ago, even if he was as outspoken and "sometimes controversial" (as is often said) as J.R. was.

In fact, if you talk to his NHL alumni peers, Roenick is on many of their lists of someone they'd choose for their team if they had one big game to win.

Meanwhile, if Stan Fischler had been born and raised in Canada rather than be an outspoken Brooklynite (and latter-life resident of Israel), you can be damn sure he'd have been an Elmer Ferguson Award winner-- the hockey writers' win of the Hall -- years ago. That honor has been around 39 years with a host of worthy honorees but not including Stan even to this day is a joke.

Stan's name (along with his late wife, Shirley) is synonymous with hockey writing: historical works, biographies, pull=no-punches editorials, works for kids and adults, you name it. By far, he was the most prolific author of hockey-related books in the United States. To two generations of fans, both in written content and television broadcasting, he was an especially recognizable name for anyone who followed the New York Islanders. But his knowledge of the NHL itself and of the history and evolution of the sport makes him a national treasure for anyone who has followed the game.

I am well aware that Stan's outspokenness and his refusal to treat the league powers-that-be, the owners or the players' union directors as sacred cows has made him some powerful enemies in our sport. But he's absolutely fearless in that regard; always has been and always will be.

Actually, when Larry Brooks got the Elmer Ferguson Award -- as something of a latter-day version of Stan -- I had hopes that the door might finally open for Fischler. But he's still waiting at age 91. He may downplay it, but I know it would mean a lot to him. I am proud to call Stan my friend.

Officials in the Hall? My grandfather Bill Stewart was not only the first American to coach a team to the Stanley Cup championship (1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks), he also refereed in four Stanley Cup Final series. He's in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame but his legacy deserves posthumous induction in the "big" Hall, too.

There are other officials who belong, too. Philosophical and personal differences with the powers-that-be in the NHL should not continue to keep Kerry Fraser out of the Hall any more than being a "maverick coach" justified the selection committee keeping out Fred Shero until 23 years after his passing. Fraser, by the way, is a Canadian but has lived for many years in the south Jersey area. However, I think it's strictly Fraser's vocal objections to the way officials today are taught, supervised and managed as well as personal differences with some of the decision makers that keep him out of the big Hall. I feel some kinship with Kerry in that regard. Calling it as you see it off the ice comes at a price.

It's not just Americans. Europeans still have those invisible walls and glass ceilings. So, too, do First Nations figures. I think it should be a no-brainer, for example, that Alexander Mogilny and Reggie Leach have the credentials to belong. In the latter case, apart from his 40 to 60 goal seasons and Stanley Cup playoff record 19 goals, Order of Canada honoree Leach could alternatively go in as a Builder on the basis for how he's positively affected the lives of scores of young First Nation hockey players (and non-players alike). The latter is the basis on how Willie O'Ree -- finally and deservingly -- earned his enshrinement in Toronto.

That's all I have to say about that. Next time around, I'm going to discuss how the pandemic related changes to NCAA Division 1 eligibility rules have had some unintentional effects across all levels of collegiate hockey.


A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of
being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
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