TAMPA, Fla. — Every year, for almost 20 years, my old friend Ed Sweeney sent a letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As this year’s new inductees to the Hall were feted on Monday, I have taken up Ed’s gauntlet. I have decided to take it upon myself to write an open letter on Mr. Sweeney’s behalf in hopes that it might alert Bill Hay or Jim Gregory or Harry Sinden or somebody on the Hall of Fame selection committee to the indisputable fact that to the hockey historians in the middle of Canada, the Toronto-based Hall is still a sad Eastern/American joke.
For more than two decades, Sweeney kept a list of five men, coaches, builders and players who should be in the Hall, but for reasons he could just never understand, had been consistently ignored by the people who made the Hall’s final selections.
Sweeney is an old baseball player and bowling champion (he used to set pins at Billy Mosienko Lanes in Winnipeg’s North End) who has always had that deep, abiding love for hockey that only a Canadian can have. He’s the former curator of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and was, for a long time, an active member of the Canadian Association for Hockey Research.
This year, I have taken it upon myself to offer up Mr. Sweeney’s annual letter to the Hall, a letter that includes the names of five people who should be in the Hall, but have been left out for reasons I simply don’t want to consider.Here, once again, is “Sweeney’s List”…
Robert “Butch Goring: He played 16 years with L.A., Boston and the New York Islanders. Was a Masterton, Lady Byng and Conn Smythe Trophy winner and helped the Islanders win four Stanley Cups in the early 1980s. “If Clark Gillies is in the Hall, then Butch Goring should be in the Hall,” said Sweeney. There is an outstanding profile of Goring at http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/SearchPlayer.jsp?player=12752
Murray Murdoch: The NHL’s original Ironman, Murdoch played 11 years with the New York Rangers from 1926-27 to 1936-37, won two Stanley Cups and never missed a game. There is a tremendous profile of Murdoch at http://www.newyorkrangers.com/tradition/bio.asp?Player=Murdoch
Billy Reay: “Most people don’t believe me when I tell them Billy Reay is NOT in the Hall of Fame,” Sweeney always said. Reay retired as one of only two players to win a Memorial Cup, an Allan Cup and a Stanley Cup (with the Canadiens) and after retiring as a player he went on to coach the Chicago Blackhawks. He left coaching in 1976 with 598 wins — at the time, the second most in NHL history. That horrendous hockey fraud, John A. Zeigler, is in the Hall, but Billy Reay isn’t. Those people on the selection committee should be ashamed of themselves.
Lorne Chabot: Port Arthur’s “Old Bulwarks” won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers and had 73 shutouts in his career back when the NHL was in its infancy. There is a fine profile of Chabot athttp://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/SearchPlayer.jsp?player=18462
John Ferguson: “Even if you don’t count the fact, he was the best fighter in the NHL and a pretty good player during his time, John has to be in the Hall as a builder,” said Sweeney. “He was assistant GM with Team Canada ’72 and then GM of the Rangers. He built the Winnipeg Jets and had a lot to do with building the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks of the early 2000s.” How is Jim Gregory in the Hockey Hall of Fame and not John Ferguson? That’s an abomination.
I hope someone out there in that big Eastern city who will remember Goring, Murdoch, Chabot, Reay and Ferguson. One of the Hall’s 18 selection committee members can nominate a candidate and perhaps this is the year they’ll remember true greatness.
On behalf of Ed Sweeney, I hope that this is the year the Hall’s gatekeepers will give their heads a shake.