Now that Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla has officially announced that he will officially announce his retirement next Monday, one crucial question about his legacy has been answered. Since Iginla didn’t play any hockey at any level last season, we now know that he will headline the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class.
And when he is inducted in that year, he’ll be standing beside another shoo-in Hall of Famer, Hayley Wickenheiser. And there could not be a more deserving and similar duo to be inducted in the same year. Both were prodigiously talented players who piled up hundreds of goals. Both possessed a combination of grace and physical attributes that made them almost impossible to stop. Both of them could be nasty pieces of work when the situation called for it. Both are Olympic heroes, Canadian hockey icons and Hall of Fame people.
(This, of course, is going on the assumption that Wickenheiser is indeed done with playing the game after entering medical school this summer. Wickenheiser would have been eligible in 2019, but statistics show she played one game with the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2016-17.)
Iginla is a shoo-in if ever there were one. More than 600 goals and 1,300 points gets him in on numbers alone, but it was always about so much more than the numbers with Iginla. And he won everything, and we mean everything, with the exception of a Stanley Cup. Two Memorial Cups with the Kamloops Blazers, a World Junior Championship and World Championship gold medal, two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup title. Add to that a scoring championship, two Rocket Richard Trophies and three first-team all-stars and you have an impeccable resume for enshrinement.
And had two controversial decisions gone the other way, Iginla’s case would be even stronger. The first was in 2002 when Iginla tied Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens in Hart Trophy voting, with Theodore breaking the tie by having more first-place votes. But it was discovered later that a Montreal writer had Iginla fifth on his MVP ballot, which turned out to be the difference in voting. The second was two years later when the Flames, leading the Stanley Cup final 3-2, got what appeared to be a goal from Martin Gelinas late in Game 6. Had the goal counted, it would have put the Flames ahead in the game and they likely would have won the Cup. Instead, the Tampa Bay Lightning won Game 6 in overtime and clinched the Stanley Cup with a victory on home ice in Game 7.
That, however, will not taint his status as one of the game’s all-time great players. And as an added bonus, Iginla just happened to be one of the game’s all-time great people, too. There are a lot of nice guys who were pretty good players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, but when you’re that elite in both those categories, it makes the decision a pretty simple one.
Wickenheiser’s resume is so full and glorious that it doesn’t even need to be mentioned here. She’s in. Full stop. Arguably the greatest women’s player to ever play the game, Wickenheiser had an impact on the sport that is almost impossible to quantify.
The only question remains: Who else will get the call in 2020? Well, there are two possibilities in Marian Hossa (good) and Shane Doan (on the bubble at best).
Hossa never scored 50 goals, had just one 100-point season, never finished higher than fifth in NHL scoring and was a second-team all-star only once in his career. But if he gets in, and he probably will, it will be for sustained excellence. In fact, only one retired player, Keith Tkachuk, has more goals than Hossa and is not in the Hall of Fame. And the difference between the two is Hossa was an elite two-way player who was as good at his own end of the ice as he was at the other. That and the three Stanley Cups in Chicago should be enough to get him inducted. He’s not a shoo-in, but he’s certainly above a bubble player.
If Doan were to be inducted, it would provide some nice symmetry with Iginla, who was picked four selections after Doan in the 1995 draft and with whom won two Memorial Cups in Kamloops. If Doan were to be inducted, it would be for the team success he had outside the NHL – two World Championships, two silvers and a World Cup title – and because, like Iginla, Wickenheiser and Hossa, he was also a Hall-of-Fame person off the ice. His numbers and NHL accomplishments aren’t with the other three, but he certainly wouldn’t diminish the group by being a part of it, either.
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