The original prognostications for the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees were that only two players, Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan, were virtual locks for enshrinement. So, when Jim Gregory, co-Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame, announced that there would be four players inducted in the class of 2012, I jumped to the conclusion that two of them would be the aforementioned players while one of the others would have to be Eric Lindros. I was wrong times two.
When all was said and done, not only was Shanahan not inducted, but Lindros was once again passed over. Both deserved to be inducted in the class of 2012. While I could easily make the case for both players here, I will focus solely on making a case for Lindros’ induction.
First, the list of attributes a player must posses to be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame, “Playing ability, sportsmanship, character and their contribution to the team or teams and to the game of hockey in general.”
Playing ability, Lindros had that in spades. While he never played a full 82 game schedule during his career, he was a point-a-game player during his first nine years in the NHL. When he finished his injury shortened career he had played a total of 760 regular season games, scoring 865 points during that time, ranking him 19th all-time. The only Hall of Fame eligible player with a higher points per game average that is not already in the Hall is Kent Nilsson, who played 553 games in the NHL.
For those of you that say he didn’t play enough games, don’t forget that Cam Neely entered that Hall after an injury-plagued career that lasted only 726 games.
Speaking of Neely, he’s a good player to launch us into the contribution to the team or game of hockey argument. Both Neely and Lindros were the preeminent power forwards of their time. They could fight, they could score, they could hit, they were skilled players with the body and mindset of enforcers. They were feared players when they hit the ice. Both contributed to the game and changed the game.
Sure there were power forwards before Neely and Lindros and there will be power forwards in the future, but will there ever be a player that, when healthy, was as feared as Lindros?
Some will call into question sportsmanship, that Lindros was known as a whiner. To that, I have to laugh. Being a whiner is enough to keep you out of the Hockey Hall of Fame? Well, if that’s the case, someone better get on over to Yonge Street and take down the plaque of the player that was arrested for assault (yes, it was during a game, but still, it was not a hockey play) and indecent exposure.
The NHL made a big mistake in keeping Lindros, the only modern day eligible Hart Trophy winner who is not already in the Hall, on the outside for at least another year.