Other than the obvious, no-brainer inclusion of Hayley Wickenhesier, the most recent class of the Hockey Hall of Fame left some things to be desired.
There was Sergei Zubov, the former Dallas Stars defenceman who put up some staggering numbers but only made one end-of-season all-star team and didn’t win any individual awards (he finished third for the Norris Trophy as best defenceman once).
He was joined by Guy Carbonneau in something of a head-scratching decision from the shadowy cabal that is the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Carbonneau was known as a solid player during his years in the league, and while he did take home three Selke Trophies as the NHL’s top defensive forward, seeing him immortalized as one of hockey’s all-time greats is a tad puzzling.
Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and Boston College coach Jerry York also made it in as builders.
And while most of those names aren’t exactly household names, they’re still well known to hockey fans.
The same can’t really be said for the sixth inductee, former Czech forward Vaclav Nedomansky.
Nedomansky became the first athlete from a communist country to defect in 1974 when he joined the Toronto Toros of the WHA. He then went on to spend seven seasons in the NHL. Of course, this is the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Nedomansky is being honoured for his work before arriving in North America and, of course, for actually arriving in North America.
So while it seems a little weird for the committee to induct Nedomansky at this precise moment, it does seem to pave the way for a player who took a similar path to the league.
Alex Mogilny was the first player to come over to the NHL from what was then the Soviet Union in 1989. His journey inspired a whole host of Russian players of his generation like Pavel Bure and Sergei Fedorov to also make the leap.
And once he did arrive, he dominated to the tune of 1032 points in 990 games. Those are big numbers—in fact, many would say they are Hall of Fame numbers. (Of the eligible players that have reached 1000 points and haven’t made into the Hall of Fame, none have played fewer games than Mogilny.)
Bure and Fedorov are both in the Hall already, though the former took more than a few years to actually get in. Bure retired in 2003 and then was inducted into the Hall in 2012. His point totals (779 in 702 games) are usually considered secondary to his impact on the game—no one in North America had seen a player like Bure before he arrived and blew the top off the NHL.
But Mogilny has already waited longer than the Russian Rocket. He retired in 2006 and has been waiting for the call since. He only won one individual award (the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship in 2003), but has a Stanley Cup title to his name, as well as numerous high-scoring seasons.
Many of those came with the Vancouver Canucks (and with Bure at his side) after coming over in a 1995 trade with the Buffalo Sabres. Though the team was often near the bottom of the standings during his tenure, Mogilny wasn’t to blame. He led Vancouver in scoring twice and put up big numbers even through injury-ravaged years.
He would eventually be traded to New Jersey (where he won the Cup) in a deal that sent Brendan Morrison the other way.
Now that Nedomansky has made it into the Hall, expect Mogilny to get the call, even though the optics on that are a little annoying. But don’t think there will be any clarity coming from the clandestine Hall of Fame selection committee.
The Vancouver Canucks teams Mogilny played on back in the day certainly weren’t world-beaters, but he’s still remembered as one of the franchise’s more popular players, and rightfully so. It’s just a shame the club was in no shape to be a contender during his time.
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