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Cold Hard Rants: The Shame of the Hall of Fame

Is the Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony too bland?

Sitting at home tonight, slightly perturbed that the start of Monday Night Football is delayed on TSN (but not at all unhappy that I missed the ESPN pregame blather), I watched the last few minutes of the 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. To a man, all of the inductees seemed to speak well enough, the crowd witnessing the ceremony was both subdued and emotional as appropriate, and the night seemed to be typical for a Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony; that is dull, uninspiring, and bland.

I don’t blame the inductees that the event is boring, it’s an impossibility that it would be anything other than boring given the sanitized atmosphere that plays host to the event.  What I do not comprehend is why the powers that be at the Hockey Hall of Fame have done nothing to change that atmosphere.  The best way to demonstrate the dullness of the Hockey Hall of Fame induction is to compare it to that of the three other major sports.

In the case of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, you have the scene every summer of legions of fans descending upon Canton to witness firsth and the inductions of their team’s favorite player.  Whether it be Bills fans showing up to salute owner Ralph Wilson and Thurman Thomas, or Steelers fans showing up en masse to pay respects to Rod Woodson, the Pro Football Hall of Fame does the induction ceremony properly by bringing players close to their fans in a mutual outpouring of respect and thanks.  The scenes created by having the players give their speeches outdoors in front of the throngs of fans leaves an indelible impression that the Hockey Hall of Fame fails to even remotely emulate. To a lesser extent the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusets also provide remembrances of this kind (even if the only reason the basketball induction was memorable this year was because of a petty, vindictive and mean spirited induction speech from Michael Jordan.)

The biggest shame of the current Hockey Hall of Fame inductions is because the readymade solution is just sitting right there, waiting for someone to implement.  If the goal is to remove the bland from the current recipe and add in some spice (or at the very least some No-Doze), the answer lies in removing the event from Toronto. Toronto is a very nice city and has a lot going for it, but it’s a boring hockey town.  The true hockey fans have been priced out of the marketplace and as we see every Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada corporate suits don’t make noise.  If they don’t cheer on Saturday night, why would they start to cheer at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony?

When and where to hold the ceremony you ask?  The answer is one that will bring the NHL superstars that much closer to the people who fully appreciate their feats.  The answer will bring the inductees the roaring crowd they deserve, hanging on their every word, eager and thrilled to salute them wildly.  The answer is a throwback to how most of us began to play this game, on local ice rinks, in small towns from coast to coast to coast.  The answer is to hold the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the same town, on the same weekend, that CBC conducts its annual salute to hockey, Hockey Day in Canada.  Can you imagine the reaction in Salmon Arm, British Columbia if the Hockey Hall of Fame was to hold its induction ceremony for Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman etc. at the same time that they were privileged to be the home base for Hockey Day in Canada?  Very soon, as Hockey Day in Canada/the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony moves from town to town in this great country, the roaring crowds and overwhelming reaction would too become a staple of the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It is upon the backs of these great hockey legends that the answers lie to why we love this sport so very much.  To continually subject them to an event that could charitably be considered as a medical remedy for insomnia is an inglorious salute to their accomplishments.  A little outside the box thinking could doubly serve as a cure for this problem, while simultaneously bringing the Hockey Hall of Fame to a new audience.  Let’s move beyond Toronto, the inductees deserve that little.

For, I am Drew Mindell. Follow me on Twitter at ColdHardRanter.

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