It’s nice to see the Hockey Hall of Fame did the right thing and ended the debate concerning the induction of women into its hallowed institution.
Of course they belong. But those who bemoan the fact only two women will be inducted per year compared to up to four men, get a grip. First of all, the player pool for women is currently about 1/100th the size of the pool for men, so to have 50 percent representation is entirely fair. And the Hall will revisit the issue every five years to make amendments if they’re needed.
Now we can get on to the much more interesting debate – who will get in and who won’t? Suddenly, the women’s game will be thrust into a controversial spotlight and there will undoubtedly be rancorous discourse over players inducted and left out. And that’s a good thing.
When former American star Cammi Granato learned of the news Tuesday, she didn’t begin thinking about the possibility until others brought it up to her.
“People were talking to me about it and texting me and I was saying, ‘Me? It just doesn’t seem real, it doesn’t seem possible,’ ” Granato said.
Not only is it possible, it’s almost a shoo-in that Granato will be among the first players inducted in 2010. You would think the Hall would want its first two inductees to be from the USA and Canada and Granato, whose lengthy career accomplishments include being captain of the first-ever women’s team to win a gold medal at the Olympics, would be a natural.
Which leads us then to our first controversy. If the other player is from Canada, which one gets chosen, Angela James, Geraldine Heaney or Cassie Campbell?
Do you choose James, a pioneer of the game who was often referred to as “the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey?” James was a phenom from an early age and was a star for Canada’s first two titles in the Women’s World Championship and Canada’s terrible and political decision to keep her off the Olympic team in 1998 might have cost it the gold medal. Certainly when Canada was down 2-1 to the USA in the waning moments of the gold medal game, it could have used a scorer of James’ ability.
Or do you go with Heaney, the most accomplished offensive defenseman – yes, they are referred to as defensemen – in Canada’s history? Heaney, twice named the top defenseman at the World Championship, was with Canada for its silver in 1998 and gold in 2002.
Or do you take Campbell, whose desire and determination far surpassed her talent level, played both forward and defense and was the face of women’s hockey? Campbell, of course, was captain for both of Canada’s gold medal-winning teams.
And what to do about the real pioneers of the game, the ones who played as far back as the turn of the century? How are their accomplishments measured against modern-day players?
Suffice it to say the male-dominated selection committee faces a formidable task, but that’s a good thing. Luckily there are no female versions of Bob Pulford and Dick Duff for them to induct.
But there will be no shortage of candidates over the next couple of years. Here are some of them, in alphabetical order. Because induction rules for women will be the same as for men, some such as Danielle Goyette, Vicky Sunohara and Manon Rheaume have not been included because they will not have been retired for three years in 2010:
Karen Bye (USA): Bye was the prototype power forward in women’s hockey. She led all goal-scorers in the 1998 Olympics and played collegiately both at the University of New Hampshire and Concordia University.
Shirley Cameron (Canada): A superstar of women’s hockey in the 1970s and ‘80s, Cameron led the Edmonton Chimos to 16 national titles. When she couldn’t get time off from Canada Post one year to play in the nationals, she called in sick, but was suspended by her boss when he saw her picture in the newspaper.
Nancy Drolet (Canada): One of the greatest clutch scorers in women’s hockey history, Drolet scored the game-winner in two Women’s World Championships. In the final in 1997 against the United States, she scored all three goals, including the overtime winner.
Elizabeth Graham (Canada): A goalie for Queen’s University, Graham is credited with being the first goaltender ever to wear facial protection. She first donned a mask in 1927, three years before Clint Benedict.
Katie King (USA): King scored a mind-boggling 123 goals in college and has played in six World Women’s Championships. She has gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals.
Sari Krooks (Finland): Krooks was a European trailblazer who came to Canada and played collegiately and in women’s leagues to improve her game. She won a bronze for Finland in 1998.
Hazel McCallion (Canada): Currently the mayor of Mississauga, Ont., McCallion is one of the game’s pioneers. She was a star in the late 1920s in Quebec and was one of the first women to play professionally, earning five dollars per game in a three-team Montreal women’s league.
Riika Nieminen (Finland): One of the best offensive players Finland has ever produced, Nieminen was the top point producer at the 1998 Olympics and is seventh all-time in World Women’s Championship scoring.
Hilda Ranscombe (Canada): A star in the 1930s, Ranscombe was the best player on a Preston Rivulettes team that lost just two of 350 games. She led the Rivulettes to six national championships.
France St-Louis (Canada): The Bob Gainey of women’s hockey, St-Louis is one of the best defensive forwards ever to play the game. She was a star in the Quebec women’s league and was the league’s top scorer as a 38-year-old in 1997.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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