Hockey fans love to debate. And there are few debates more contentious than Hockey Hall of Fame inductions. How can Bernie Federko be included? Or Clark Gillies? Who is Dick Duff?
Even more contentious is the list of who is not included in the Hockey Hall of Fame. How could they overlook Brendan Shanahan or Rogie Vachon or Pat Burns? We all have our lists of players and builders who we believe should be in the Hall. My current list consists of Eric Lindros and builders James Creighton and Fran Rider.
For the most part, I'm happy with the Hockey Hall of Fame's induction standard right now. They may have lowered the bar for the forwards in recent years, but the standards for goaltenders and defensemen seem about right for me. But I know I am in the minority on that one.
Players like the expected - Vachon, Lindros, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Tom Barrasso and Jean Claude Tremblay. They often are brought up in the annual conversation. But Kullas also makes the cases for King Kong Korab, Murray Oliver, Andre Lacroix, Carol Vadnais and Alexei Yashin. Yes, Alexei Yashin. I have never heard anyone argue these players as Hockey Hall of Famers.
Shockingly, Kullas omits the one man who most often gets brought up in these induction controversies - Paul Henderson. Yet Bill Barilko, a hockey legend who rarely gets brought up in these debates, is sentimentally and prominently featured.
Kullas compared the statistics of all 6000+ players in NHL history. He narrowed down the list by finding non-Hall of Famers with similar statistics to Hall of Famers. He then offers brief cases as to why these players should also be included in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
It's a pretty simplistic approach. The author could have had a hit on his hands - or at least controversial top seller - if he definitively set his own bar for Hockey Hall of Fame inductions and then argued why certain players would make the grade and why select others most definitely would not. Instead he makes brief arguments as to why every player he mentions should be included
The biggest problem with this approach is the statistical comparison is too simplistic. It offers little context on the various eras in hockey history.
Kullas is bang on in his argument that there are not enough coaches in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but too many phony builders like owners. I like his argument for Viktor Tikhonov in particular, and would be willing to listen more intently to the case for Fred Shero, Pat Burns and Mike Keenan. I'll even throw Pat Quinn into the conversation.
He nicely includes a few token Soviet players - Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Sergei Makarov - but misses a lot of international pioneers. Strangely he also argues for Igor Larionov even though he was already inducted in 2008.
I also like his nod to women nominees, though he actually could have mentioned more here - Angela Ruggeiro, Bobbie Rosenfeld and Fran Rider come to mind first and foremost.
The book also looks at lot of recently retired and current players. Again, there are some glaring omissions from the conversation here, too, and some odd selections.
But that's okay. The author states in his introduction that he hopes the book stirs debate and conversations. It certainly will do that!
Access Denied is written by Kris Kullas. Impressively, Stan Fischler and Ron Wicks offer forewords and afterwords. The book is available from Frosted Forest Publishing for $30 plus shipping. The book is not available in stores, but Kullas is hoping to get it into rinks across Canada as a fundraising item for local minor hockey associations.