The wait to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame finally is over for Pavel Bure and Adam Oates. But the lapse in judgment from the HHOF selection committee continues for Fred Shero, Pat Burns, Kevin Lowe, Eric Lindros, Steve Larmer and others.
Brendan Shanahan also will have to wait. He found out that Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin received the HHOF nod on their first try on Tuesday. But we can't see Shanahan waiting as long as the six years that elapsed before Bure was called to the Hall or the five years that Oates endured.
When the announcements were made there was immediate anger from those who believe that the late NHL coaches Shero and Burns have waited far too long for their HHOF day in the sun.
There also was disbelief that Sundin received the nod over Shanahan. There is little doubt that Sundin is a Hall of Famer. He was a consistent point-producing machine in his NHL career and won 2006 Olympic gold with Sweden.
But Shanahan scored goals, lots of goals. He also won championships. He, too, won Olympic gold in 2002 to go with three Stanley Cup titles, the 1991 Canada Cup championship and a World Cup of Hockey victory in 2004.
But that's the beauty for hockey fans around the world in late June. Usually, somebody feels slighted when the grey-haired men of the HHOF selection committee assemble to make their decisions. The debate always rages on. Who gets in and who doesn't is a better debate that the pending collective bargaining agreement, no?
Even Sundin appeared surprised at his inclusion in the first year he became eligible. "Are you serious?" was his reaction when the HHOF placed its call to him.
Whenever a small group is presented with the task of making a major decision, there will be agendas that get in the way of making the right choices. It's not difficult to connect the dots of those on this 18-member committee who might want to keep Shero or Burns from induction into the HHOF. Or for Shanahan for that matter.
Both Burns and Shero were hard-headed head coaches. They ruffled feathers. It's easy for us who had brushes with these two hockey lifers, who left the earth far too early, and simply see them for their success behind the bench.
Shero won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1973-74 and 1974-75, lost in the final the next year with the Flyers and again lost in the final with the New York Rangers in 1979. He also won another four championships at the minor pro level.
Burns was a three-time Jack Adams Award winner as NHL coach of the year and finally hit the pinnacle when he guided the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils to Stanley Cup success.
If, however, we're going to point out the faults of the HHOF selection committee, we need to emphasize the encouraging developments. The addition of hockey greats like Anders Hedberg, Igor Larionov and Peter Stastny to the HHOF selection committee will benefit those players worthy of HHOF honours from Europe. They no doubt had something to do with Bure finally getting in and Sundin not having to wait.
The inclusion of Oates, a late-bloomer who also was named the Washington Capitals head coach on Tuesday, gives the likes of Shero and Burns hope. We're not saying in Oates' case there was an agenda that kept him out. We're saying that sometimes a wrong can be righted.
Oates is one of those underdog success stories that are difficult to ignore. After an outstanding career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, it was Detroit Red Wings general manager Jim Devellano who gave this small, but gifted playmaker a shot as a free agent. He went on to brilliantly perform for 19 NHL seasons.
Now he also gets a chance to carry on as a rookie head coach of the Capitals after a successful stint as an assistant with the Devils.
"Obviously it's a fantastic day," Oates said. "I don't know if that has ever happened before. I gotta go out and play lotto."
Maybe someday the likes of Shero, Burns, Lowe, Lindros and Larmer have their numbers called, too.
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