On June 28th, 2007 the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce the induction class of 2007. Induction will take place on November 12th, 2007 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Only 4 people in the players category can be admitted at one time. And there is no shortage of candidates for the 4 positions.
Mark Messier is the only "lock" as a for-sure enshrinee. Other first year candidates include Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Igor Larionov, Adam Oates, and Ron Francis. Claude Lemieux is a slightly more controversial first time candidate, though definitely worthy of consideration.
Previously overlooked candidates include Pavel Bure, Glenn Anderson, Doug Gilmour, Dino Ciccarelli, Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter and in the long shot category, just because I believe they belongs there, Sergei Makarov and Mark Howe.
So you can see the problem here: Too many deserving members and only 4 positions. My money is on Messier, Stevens, Larionov, and Francis.
I originally gave Bure the nod over Francis, thinking Francis flew too far under the radar and Bure would get a political nod to be included with Larionov to appease the international crowds. But Francis did score 5 major individual trophies. And of course he was a big part of two Stanley Cups, and that should tip the scales in Francis' favor.
Also, the mainstream media is touting Al MacInnis with a slight edge over Stevens. "Chopper" can count on the highly respected Eric Duhatschek as his campaign manager. Duhatschek is a member of the selection committee.
The spotlight will be on Messier regardless, and Stevens makes the perfect bookend as hockey's other ultimate warrior. Larionov is as decorated as a hockey player can be, and he will get in because the Hall has made overtures recently about expanding its international content. They inducted Soviet great Valeri Kharlamov and just recently added Jan-Ake Edvinsson to the selection committee. The Swede was the General Secretary of the International Ice Hockey Federation for 21 years. His inclusion was definitely to gain his insight on the international game's evolution.
With his Toronto-centric spotlight, Gilmour will be overlooked in the interests of not trying to overshadow Messier. Perhaps Gilmour will headline next year along with more modest stars like Oates and MacInnis, and maybe Bure. Yes, the Hockey Hall of Fame can be this political.
It will be an interesting week at the Hall of Fame. You can never really know what to expect with the selection committee, as we've seen in recent years with Bernie Federko, Clark Gillies and Dick Duff.