By Sarah Kwak, SI.com
Before we begin to anoint the NHL’s future -- starting promptly at 7:15 p.m. on Friday with the selection of Steve Stamkos as the first pick of the 2008 draft -- it’s imperative to celebrate the league’s past. And in the case of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s newest class, announced this afternoon, this means remembering yet again the 2004-05 lockout.
The 17-member selection committee deliberated over a very familiar list -- namely those they snubbed last year since there were no new players eligible for this year’s class, thanks to the one-season interruption of play -- and ultimately chose a pair of forwards with plenty of achievements to their long careers: Igor Larionov (above) and Glenn Anderson.
Three-time Stanley Cup winner Larionov, who centered the Russian Five for the Detroit Red Wings during the 1990s, was a no-brainer to receive the honor this year after he failed to make the cut for the Class of 2007, one that included Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Mark Messier and Scott Stevens. The two-time Olympic gold medalist with the 1984 and ’88 Soviet teams, certainly has the numbers to back up his case: 644 points in 921 games during a fantastic 16-year NHL career. His induction will be another step toward recognizing the internationality of the league.
Larionov becomes just the fifth Russian to be enshrined in Toronto, joining former teammate Slava Fetisov, the Red Wings defenseman who was inducted in 2001. It isn't Larionov’s first Hall of Fame nod, though. The forward was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame earlier this year, in a class that included NHL superstar Mario Lemieux and the first three women (Geraldine Heaney and Angela James of Canada and Cammi Granato of Team USA).
Also earning a place in the Hall is Anderson, the former Edmonton Oiler who won six Stanley Cups, collected 1,099 points from 1980 to ’96 and went overlooked every year since 1999. Five players from the dynastic Oilers team -- Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, and Paul Coffey -- had already been inducted in the past.
"I guess the big question I don't have to answer anymore is 'why aren't you in?'" Anderson said in a conference call.
Along with Larionov and Anderson, the late Ed Chynoweth, the long-time president of the WHL and CHL, and former linesman Ray Scapinello also will be enshrined.
Among those who were eligible this year who didn't make the cut are fellow Russian Pavel Bure, whose 437 goals are more impressive given that his career was often dampened by injury, and forwards Adam Oates and Doug Gilmour. These players will likely have to wait quite awhile before they’re given much thought again. The Class of 2009 will be stacked with Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. It would come as no surprise if they were getting fitted for rings already.
What do you think of the committee's taps for Toronto?