December 19, 2009

IIHF HHOF Inducts 5, No Canadians, Again

The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced the 2010 Hall of Fame inductees.

Dieter Hegen of Germany, Arturs Irbe of Latvia, Vladimir Krutov of Russia, female player Riikka Nieminen of Finland and builder Rickard Fagerlund of Sweden will be honoured in 2010. American Lou Vairo was named as recipient of the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to international hockey.

Congratulations goes out to all the worthy honourees, especially Krutov. Krutov should be remembered as one of the top 5 players in the world during the 1980s, not as the overweight, overwhelmed, shadow of his former self during a failed crossover attempt to the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks.

I am disappointed the discrimination against Canadians at the IIHF Hall of Fame continues to exist. This particular Hall of Fame is specifically to honour players for their play in IIHF events, such as World Championships and Olympics. The IIHF has expanded the definition for players and builders who contributed to the growth of hockey in European countries, especially the lesser powers.

Canadians are not so nearly well recognized. Why? The IIHF has had a long history of bias against Canada. Perhaps they are retaliating against the actual Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto which has been incredibly slow in inducting international greats.

The IIHF has rightly inducted 14 Canadians as players. It is absolutely awesome that they have honoured the likes of Roger Bourbonnais and Terry O'Malley and Seth Martin. But they refuse to honour modern stars, likely because so many of the obvious candidates competed internationally in IIHF events, but rather NHL international events such as the Canada Cups and World Cups.

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are the only two exceptions. For the most part their greatest international moments came in the Canada Cups. The IIHF inducted them to cash in on their names, but refuse to induct other great Team Canada legends like Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, or maybe even the man whose famous goal ignited an unsatiable passion for international hockey in Canada, Paul Henderson?

If they want to continue to snub the Canada Cup tournaments, then they could look at Canadians who embraced IIHF events like Eric Lindros, Sean Burke, Randy Gregg, Glenn Anderson, Theo Fleury, Joe Sakic, James Patrick, Cassie Campbell and I would even suggest Brad Schlegel. How about Jacques Plante, who embraced Switzlerland as his home late in life, as a builder?

I love that IIHF honours the top players from Europe. It's time they start honouring more Canadians.

Slap Shots: If I were a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame selection committee, I would be arguing for the inclusion of Dr. Blake Watson as either a player or a builder. Watson was a Canadian (a member of the 1931 World Championship team, too) who really introduced the game to Austria. He went to Vienna to study medicine. The game was in its infancy in Austria, but Watson's on ice artistry soon became legendary. Now Austria has yet to become much of a power in the hockey world, although six Austrians have played in the NHL in the past few seasons. But Watson's legacy remains to this day. He's a pretty interesting story, including eventually become a Hollywood famous doctor. You can read all about it here.

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