Should there be more Canadians in the IIHF Hall of Fame?
If there is a movement afoot to get more of international hockey's top performers recognized in the Hockey Hall of Fame, one would think that NHL stars should be included in the International Hall of Fame too. After all if North America's Hall of Fame should include hockey stars who never played in North America such as Valeri Kharlamov and Boris Mikhailov, should Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau be included in the International Hockey Hall of Fame? Either way some of the greatest hockey players of all time are being omitted, right?
The major difference between the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and the IIHF Hall of Fame is their respective mandates.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is supposedly the Hall of Fame of all Hockey. But it is run and funded by the National Hockey League and therefore mostly a National Hockey League Hall of Fame. Which would be fine if they advertised it as such, but they don't. They even have included a sprinkling of deserving international stars in Anatoli Tarasov, Vladislav Tretiak and to a lesser degree Viacheslav Fetisov. They need to consider other international stars and begin righting a few wrongs.
The IIHF Hall of Fame on the other hand is clearly for members who excelled in international competition, not on club teams. The IIHF doesn't care what you did for a club team, be it Moscow Dynamo or the Montreal Canadiens. It looks at international competitions such as world championships, Olympics and the Canada Cups among other tournaments.
Therefore clearly players like Richard and Beliveau are not eligible.
Most hockey fans probably didn't even know of the IIHF Hall of Fame. It wasn't formed until 1997, and doesn't yet have a home where exhibits honor the inductees. And most hockey fans today haven't even heard of more than 3 or 4 of Canada's inclusions in the IIHF Hall of Fame. They are:
1997 - Father David Bauer, Bob Lebel, Vic Lindquist, Seth Martin, Harry Sinden
1998 - Bill Hewitt, Marshall Johnston, Terry O'Malley, Harry Watson
1999 - Roger Bourbonnais, Derek Holmes, Fran Huck, Jack McLeod, Barry McKenzie
2000 - Wayne Gretzky
2001 - Dave King
2002 - Gordon Renwick
Now you have certainly heard of Gretzky and Sinden, though you probably know the latter more for his affiliation with the Boston Bruins. And most likely you know famed Canadian coaches King and Bauer. Marshall Johnston you may recognize as the former GM of the Ottawa Senators. The rest are a bunch of hockey players who devoted their life to representing Canada in international competition back mostly back in the 1960s.
But that's what it takes to be included in the IIHF Hall of Fame. Sinden and Johnston aren't there for their NHL affiliations but because they were dedicated Canadian national team players.
In most cases these players were nowhere near the best we could offer since the best played in the National Hockey League. It seems odd to include Roger Bourbonnais in a Hockey Hall of Fame and not Red Kelly, but the IIHF Hall of Fame has it dead right.
Essentially, Wayne Gretzky so far is the only Canadian NHLer so honored by the IIHF. He is not included because of all his NHL records, trophies and Stanley Cups. He is honored because he was a standout on Canadian national teams - he played in (and usually led all tournaments in scoring) 1 world junior championship, 1 world championship, 1 Olympics (as a player, he was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame prior to building the 2002 Canadian Olympian gold medal winning team) and 5 Canada Cup/World Cups.
Other players who are predominantly known as NHLers but included in the IIHF Hockey Hall of Famer are Finland's Jari Kurri, Sweden's Tomas Jonsson, Hakan Loob and Anders Hedberg, and Slovakia's Peter Stastny.
Will future Canadian NHLers be included in the IIHF Hall of Fame? Undoubtedly. All of the top players in the world now play in the NHL. Most will participate in World Junior Championships, Olympics and World Cups when presented with the opportunities. Many will play in World Championships at some point in there career, although they'd rather be competing in NHL playoffs. If they are at the Worlds' that means their NHL season finished much earlier than they wanted to.
Regardless of NHL success, one day we will likely the following see Canadian NHLers get serious consideration in the IIHF Hall of Fame based strictly, like Gretzky before them, on their international hockey resume.
Glenn Anderson - Played parts of 3 seasons with Canadian National team, played in the 1980 Olympics, played in 2 World Championships (including a silver medal in 1989 and 2 Canada Cups, both of which were championships.
Rob Blake - Played 5 World Championships (including 1 gold), 1 Olympics (including one gold), 1 World Cup. Still Active.
Sean Burke - Played 3 years with Canadian National Team, Played in 1 World Junior championships, 2 Olympics, 4 World championships, 1 Canada Cup. Still Active
Theo Fleury - Played 2 World junior championships, 2 World championships, 2 Canada Cup/World Cups, 2 Olympics. Still Active
Paul Henderson - He played in two international exhibition series - not full fledged IIHF events. That's why he's not included. But he did as much for Canadian international hockey as anyone.
Paul Kariya - Played in 2 world juniors, 3 worlds, 2 Olympics, Still Active.
Eric Lindros - Played parts of 3 years with Canadian National Team, played in 3 World Junior championships, 1 World championships, 3 Olympics and 2 Canada/World Cups. Still Active
Mario Lemieux - played in 1 world junior championship and 1 world championship. Was dominant force in 1987 Canada Cup and 2002 Olympics. Doesn't have the international resume of some of the others but he's too important to omit. Still Active
Mark Messier -Dominant force in 3 Canada Cups, also played in World Cup and 1 World championship. Failure to make 2 Canadian Olympic teams may hurt him. Still Active
James Patrick - Played one year with Canadian national team. Played in 2 World junior championships, 5 world championships and 1 Canada Cup. Still Active
Joe Sakic - Played in 1 world junior championships, 2 World championships, 1 World Cup and 2 Olympics. Still Active
Brad Schlegel - Only played in 48 NHL games, but had 6 seasons with Canadian National Team, 3 years representing Canada at the World Championships despite not being a NHLer and captained the 1992 Olympic Silver Medal winning Team Canada. Still Active (long time European professional player)
Steve Yzerman - Played in 1 world junior championship, 3 world championships, 2 Canada/World Cups, 2 Olympics. Still Active
Questionable honourees would include Ray Bourque (played in 3 Canada Cups, 1 Olympics), Paul Coffey (4 Canada/World Cups, 1 World championships), Grant Fuhr (2 Canada Cups, 1 World championships), Mike Gartner (1 world junior championships, 4 world championships and 2 Canada Cups), Dale Hawerchuk (1 World Juniors, 3 Worlds, 2 Canada Cups), Al MacInnis (2 Olympics, 1 World championships, 1 Canada Cup, Scott Stevens (4 World championships, 2 Canada Cup/World Cups, 1 Olympics)