Every year when the Hockey Hall of Fame committee convenes to vote, hockey fans and media members speak of their deeds as if they were sitting at a long table in a dark house with lightning striking all around, like in a horror movie.
Jokes aside, hockey is one of the few sports that does not allow full disclosure of Hall of Fame voting. Baseball is at the forefront of this modernized development, announcing exactly what percentage of the vote each nominee garners, before announcing which ones reached the coveted 75% mark, allowing them access as a member.
But as much as hockey fans beg the Hall of Fame committee to release their full results each year, hockey might have good reason to keep it quiet (although they probably have no knowledge of the following).
Recent published research by economist David Becker of the University of Alabama-Birmingham discusses status and the effects of status on premature death. Their definition of status was classified as being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. They then looked at the statistics of players who had “narrow losses” – getting between 50 and 75% of the vote. Namely, guys who were so close to reaching the high status of the Hall of Fame, but barely missing out on the fun.
According to the research they did of every instance of this from 1946 until now, players that were elected to the Hall lived on average 10% longer than those who received between 50 and 75% of the vote at least once, and were never elected. In addition, a player’s life expectancy decreased by 3% for every occurrence of a “narrow loss.”
This idea stems from the psychological idea that human nature strives to reach some sort of status. And although not reaching that status can be painful, failing while being so close to status can be traumatic. It creates perpetual anxiety, leading to health issues (mainly heart attacks, which are the main cause of these players’ deaths), and a generally worse slate of health for the remainder of their lives.
Now this is far from saying that the actual act of not making it into the Hall of Fame means you are going to die. But research on human nature shows that, indeed, achieving high status is often a subconscious lifelong goal of most people. Reaching that status leads to better mental health, and ultimately a more fulfilling life.
So next time you criticize the Hockey Hall of Fame for not releasing their full results, just remember that they are doing us all a favor. They are ensuring that the Eric Lindros’, Brendan Shanahans, Boris Mikhailovs, and Phil Housely’s stay with us just a little bit longer.
Because I mean, come on, if the announced results followed Becker’s research, we would have lost Guy Carbonneau long ago. And you don’t want to have to deal with Montreal fans after an outrage like that.
Alan Bass, a former writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of "The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever." You can contact him at [email protected], or on Twitter at @NHL_AlanBass.