If there is a common complaint about the Hockey Hall of Fame it is that it is too easy to get inducted.
It is hockey's hall of the very good, not just the truly great. Recent inductions of the likes of Bernie Federko, Clark Gillies, Dick Duff, Rod Langway and some even say Cam Neely have done nothing to stop such suggestions of leniency.
So perhaps the National Hockey League is taking an interesting step in honouring the truly great of the greats with it's newest award.
At the 2008 NHL Awards show the NHL, nicely keeping the new award top secret, named Gordie Howe as the inaugural winner of the NHL Lifetime Achievement award. As Jason Kay of The Hockey News suggests, the NHL did it right with Mr. Hockey, although I still think it would have been nice to name the award after him.
Now comes the question - who else gets this award? There are quite a few deserving candidates, and the best part is they are all truly hockey's best of the best. After a number of years this award might be seen as important as the Hockey Hall of Fame, assuming they keep it more exclusive of course. Like the Academy Awards, this lifetime award should only have one winner every year.
Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Clarke and Bob Gainey immediately sprung into my mind, but let's be a bit more realistic. These guys are relatively young. We need to honor a few other greats who, sadly, may not be with us much longer.
In 2009 the player who should be enshrined has to be Jean Beliveau. Beliveau is hockey's most elegant figure, both when he graced the ice and since he left it. He turns 78 later this year, and has had some serious health problems. We need to ensure Beliveau is duly honoured while we have the chance.
Brian Costello of The Hockey News has already started campaigning for 82 year old Ted Lindsay. It will be interesting to see how the NHL handles that one, as Lindsay was the driving force behind the original formation of the players association and therefore was vilified by the NHL powers that be. Bobby Hull, 69, is in a similar boat for his defection to the WHA.
Scotty Bowman, almost 76, is another obvious candidate. While little is known about this lifetime achievement award, I'm sure there is no reason why a non-player can not get it.
Then there is Howie Meeker, who turns 86 later this year. He was a good player and coach, a great and innovative broadcaster and hockey icon. He's faded away in recent years, but in my books Howie is an obvious honouree. Somehow I think the NHL will not get to him in time.
Who do you think should be honoured with the NHL's Lifetime Achievement award in upcoming seasons? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.