TORONTO – Ray Shero wasn’t waiting by the phone. Too many recent years passed without the Hockey Hall of Fame calling about inducting his father.
The Pittsburgh Penguins general manager was playing football on a beach with his children in Hilton Head, S.C., on Tuesday when the call finally came. His father, former Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero, will go into the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2013, some 23 years after his death.
“I know there was a lot of people that have been going to bat for him more and more it seems … It just hadn’t happened,” Shero said. “Better late than never.”
Fred Shero won two Stanley Cups with the Flyers when they were an expansion team, but his impact on the game got him in as part of the builder category. He was the first coach to integrate systems, a playbook and hire a full-time assistant.
“I look at the contributions I think that he made for the game, I think of the innovations,” Ray Shero said. “If you talk to the players that played for him, it was coming from them, not me, how much he was ahead of his time and really got into the Soviet way of hockey way before (any other NHL team).”
Fred Shero hired Mike Nykoluk as an assistant in 1972 and became a pioneer in the way he approached hockey. Winning back-to-back Cups in 1974 and 1975 and beating the Soviet Red Army team in the 1976 Super Series made for quite the resume behind the bench.
Until now it hadn’t been enough. People around hockey have asked Ray Shero what year his father was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the answer of never struck many as a surprise.
The Flyers have campaigned for Fred Shero’s candidacy, well after he died in 1990. Ray Shero was impressed at the “swing” it took to get his father 14 out of 18 votes on the selection committee.
“I am thrilled to hear that Fred Shero was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Flyers owner Ed Snider said in a statement. “There’s no sense looking back as to why it didn’t happen sooner, because today’s a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame.”
Snider said in a phone interview Monday that Shero should get more credit for Philadelphia’s long-term success as organization. That began with Snider and GM Keith Allen giving Shero a chance after years coaching such minor-league teams as the St. Paul Saints, Buffalo Bisons and Omaha Knights.
Throughout his coaching career, Fred (The Fog) Shero was known for inspirational sayings he wrote on chalk boards, like “Win today, we walk together forever” the day the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup.
“He had these ways of getting to players. Maybe now it might be a text message or something, but back then it was a written word on the blackboard or he’d write something and put it in a player’s glove and the guy would get it before practice and make him think about something,” Ray Shero said. “That was his way of motivating or having the players think. From talking to a lot of those players that played for him, they still have a lot of those sayings and they still carry them with them. Having an impact on the game or on people, I think that’s what it’s all about, and I think he’s done that.”