Fixing the Hockey Hall of Fame selection process

There’s a way to induct more women into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but not with the current system that’s in place

Monday’s announcement of the 2017 inductees for the Hockey Hall of Fame was met with much anticipation and trepidation, if you’re a fan of women’s hockey.

Seven new members were informed that they would be included in this year’s HHOF class, and just one of those was a woman- Danielle Goyette, a former member of Canada’s national team and tremendously deserving of the nomination. But the issues surrounding women’s hockey and the HHOF are many, and this year’s class is yet another example of how the selection process does a disservice to women who deserve to go in the HHOF.

The problem is that the selection process, as it stands right now, doesn’t work for women’s hockey. It’s not what it was built for, and trying to select women’s hockey players for the HOF with the current selection committee is haphazard at best and downright insulting at worst. There’s not a single woman on the selection committee, and the group as a whole knows next to nothing about women’s hockey history.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that, according to the HHOF rules, it doesn’t have to. According to the HHOF website, the qualifications for the committee include:

• be generally, but not necessarily exclusively, composed of former hockey players, former coaches of hockey teams, former referees or linesman for hockey leagues or associations, current or former senior executives of hockey teams or hockey leagues or associations and present or former members of the media who cover or covered the game of hockey.

• be broadly representative of areas throughout the world where hockey is popular.

• have among its membership individuals knowledgeable of the various players eras from which candidates may be nominated;

• have among its membership an individual or individuals knowledgeable of international hockey; and

• have among its membership an individual or individuals knowledgeable of amateur hockey.

Unless you’re classifying women’s hockey as amateur (which, no) or only counting international hockey (likely, but it shouldn’t stop there), there’s not a requirement that someone knowledgeable about women’s hockey in particular be on the committee. And that is the crux of the issue.

Committee members include giants in men’s hockey like Scotty Bowman, Brian Burke, Bob McKenzie, and Luc Robitaille, among others, but while they’re extremely knowledgeable about men’s hockey, there’s not a single person who has anything beyond a cursory knowledge about women’s hockey.

The first woman wasn’t inducted into the HHOF until 2010, when both Angela James and Cammi Granato made it. Including Goyette, there are now five women in the Hall, all players. For context, there are now 272 male players in the Hall, and that doesn’t include the builders and referees.

There’s a number of ways to fix the process so that deserving women players, builders and referees can be inducted, but it means seriously shaking up the system that’s in place now. Here are just a few ideas.

Different committee members

The problem starts with the committee members who do the nominating. 18 members (all men) rotate in and out six at a time. Per the HHOF:

Six members of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee shall continue to be appointed annually for terms of 3 years each so that each year, the terms of 6 members expire and the terms of 6 newly appointed or reappointed members commence. Members of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee whose terms expire may be reappointed for a further term.

First and foremost, the committee needs to be revamped. That could mean expanding it from 18 members to potentially 24 so that it includes members of the hockey community who are knowledgeable about the women’s game. Tessa Bonhomme, Cassie Campbell-Pascal, Melody Davidson, Katie Crowley-King and Brenda Andress immediately jump to mind as potential candidates, that that’s just scratching the surface.

If the committee doesn’t want to expand, then as members are rotated out, some of them need to be replaced by women’s hockey experts, and a bylaw needs to be added to the HHOF’s rules to ensure that there is at least one person who has knowledge of the women’s game.

Don’t want to expand or replace? Create an entirely new committee strictly for women nominees. However it gets done, there need to be more people involved in nominating who are heavily involved in women’s hockey at the international, collegiate or professional level.

Allow more women to be nominated

Currently, the rule that’s in place allows just two women, maximum, to be inducted each year. Inductions for the men’s players max out at four, and besides the fact that women’s hockey only gets half of the picks, those two spots have never been properly utilized; beside the first induction in 2010 of Granato and James, there haven’t been two women in the same HHOF draft class since.

That’s an problem by itself- there could be at least 16 women in the HHOF already, and instead there are just five. But the bigger issue lies in the fact that men are allowed four players in the Hall, and women get just two. On top of that, there hasn’t been a woman builder or referee inducted ever, which could allow for greats like Fran Rider to take their rightful place in the HHOF.

At the very, very least, the cap should be bumped up from two players to four for women. Women’s hockey has some serious catching up to do in the Hall, and that doesn’t happen unless there are more slots for deserving players to make the cut. Not only do there need to be four slots, those four slots need to be filled  every year, at least for the next several years. There are plenty of players and builders who deserve to be inducted, and we’d be happy to help choose them.

Create a veteran category

This has been done in the past, but one of our writers, Kirsten Whelan, brought up the idea again of a veteran’s category being instated for women’s hockey specifically.

Per the HHOF:

The Veteran Player Category was established in 1988 to provide a vehicle for players who may have been overlooked and whose chances for election would be limited when placed on the same ballot with contemporary players.

For a lot of whcky players, “contemporary” started after 1998, when women’s ice hockey was first introduced to the Olympics. But if you were an older member of that team, or your playing career ended before the Olympics, it would be significantly harder to earn your way into the HHOF.

If a veteran category was added for players from before the 1998 or 2002 Olympics in addition to four regular women’s hockey nominees, it would not only provide an avenue for older players to not have to compete with more modern players, but it also helps increase the number of women in the HHOF in general.

The veteran category wouldn’t even have to be permanent- allow two spots for five or ten years, just something to increase membership.

However you slice it, something has to change in the HHOF selection process when it comes to women’s hockey. Have an idea you think would help? Tell us in the comments or tweet it at us.