By Allan Muir
Congrats on the new gig! Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not bad for a kid from The Hammer.
I'm sure you'll be telling people that you've got some big shoes to fill. Your predecessor, Bill Hay, had a decent run of it since taking the reins in 1999. He oversaw $50 million worth of expansion and renovation to the current Hall location, which is awesome, by the way. I took my kids for their first visit last summer. Not a week goes by without them asking if we can go again this year, so good job, everyone!
Hay also made it easier for women to gain entry to the Hall by setting up a unique category so they wouldn't have to compete with men for votes. Of course, it took him until 2010 to make that happen, but hey, progress is progress, right?
And that's really what I want to talk to you about. Progress. Change has occurred at a fairly glacial pace around the Hall. I think you have a chance to address that.
Now as I understand it, most of your time will be spent shaking hands and
shaking people down for funds soliciting donations. Not the most glamorous aspect of the job, but a necessary evil when you're running a massive not-for-profit like the HOF.
I'm guessing it'll be your abilities in that area that will determine how highly you're regarded by the board of directors, so good luck there. But what hockey fans care about is the integrity of the Hall itself.
The thing about you is, you're a leader. A great leader. Change requires great leadership. See where I'm going here? It's time for some serious reform around those parts.
First thing you need to do is increase the number of voters. Currently there are 18, 14 of whom must support a candidate to grant admission to the Hall. That tight gap makes it too easy for a small bloc to prevent someone from gaining admission for any perceived flaw or slight. More to the point, it gets a little too incestuous, too tightly knit. Open it up a bit, decentralize the voting power and get some new blood in there.
What's the right number? I don't know, maybe 25? 50? I'll leave that up to you. You don't want to be like baseball where everybody but the popcorn vendors chime in, but there are experienced voices out there that could contribute to the process. More of them need to be heard.
And when you get around to adding those voices, how about breaking up the old boys club a bit? Yes, the NHL is and always should be the primary focus of the Hall. But it's the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame. You've allowed women in as honored members. Now how about a couple of women on the selection committee? A few more European voices wouldn't hurt, either, judging by the absence of players like Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov and Sven Tumba in the Great Hall.
And while we're on about members, maybe you could have a talk with the guys about the builders category. I'm sure there's a reason why everyone who's ever been a part-owner of the Calgary Flames is in while legendary coaches like Pat Burns, Fred Shero and Mike Keenan have been snubbed time and again, but it needs to be addressed. And seriously: Don Cherry. It's time.
And then there's the process. It's a little too...Canadian. I get that you want to spare everyone the potential for embarrassment or hurt feelings, but it's 2013. Do we really need to keep the names of the nominees confidential? Same with the voting. A little transparency would go a long way to maintaining the integrity of the institution.
I'm not too crazy about the one member-one nomination rule, either, or the four-player maximum rule. If Martin Brodeur, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Daniel Alfredsson and Jarome Iginla all decided to retire this summer, is it reasonable that one of them has to wait a year to get that spiffy jacket? Of course not. Honor the players who belong, when they belong.
Speaking of that, it might be worth easing up on the "we'll get around to you eventually" honorees like Mark Howe, Dino Cicarelli and Dick Duff, among others. If a player doesn't pass muster in the first year or two, there's probably a good reason for it. You want to create a Veteran's Committee to re-examine the accomplishments of players, say, 25 years after their retirement, that'd be great. Time has a way of altering perspectives that could prove valuable. But inducting guys like these five or 10 years after they became eligible feels more like a political gesture than an honor. And that kind of cheapens the whole affair.
Look, I know it's not an easy job, and everyone has different opinions about who does and doesn't belong in the Hall. Reforming the selection process will require bold leadership. And that's why you're the man for the job, Pat.