Kevin Lowe

Iginla headlines 2020 Hall class as 4th Black player elected

Jarome Iginla headlines the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2020 after being elected Wednesday in his first year of eligibility.

Iginla will be the fourth Black player inducted after Grant Fuhr, women’s hockey pioneer Angela James and Willie O’Ree. Iginla and Fuhr are the only Black NHL players enshrined for their on-ice accomplishments, while O’Ree was chosen in the builder category in 2018 for breaking the league’s color barrier 60 years earlier.

The longtime Calgary Flames captain was the first Black player to lead the NHL in goals and points and was the first Black athlete in any sport to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. A first-generation Canadian whose father is Nigerian and mother is American, Iginla owns arguably the biggest assist in Canada’s history of international hockey. He passed the puck to Sidney Crosby for Crosby’s “golden goal” at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Iginla is joined in the 2020 class by winger Marian Hossa, defensemen Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson, Canadian women’s star Kim St. Pierre and longtime general manager Ken Holland.

In addition to two Olympic gold medals in three appearances, Iginla won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy twice as the NHL’s top goal-scorer and in 2003 won the Art Ross Trophy for the most points and Ted Lindsay Award as MVP voted by fellow players. He also won the Canadian junior Memorial Cup twice and world juniors, world championship and World Cup of Hockey once each.

A power forward on the wing with a prolific scoring touch, Iginla had 625 goals and 675 assists for 1,300 points in 1,554 regular-season NHL games for the Flames, Avalanche, Penguins and Kings. He had 68 points in 81 playoff games and most notably led Calgary to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2004.

“This selection is hard to believe and makes me reflect and look back on my career,” Iginla said. “I was always just trying to make the NHL and this recognition means a lot to me and my family.”

Hossa was also elected in his first year of eligibility and joins 2015 inductee Chris Pronger as the only players to go into the hall while still under contract. Like Pronger, Hossa qualified because he hasn’t played in three years and retired in 2018 because of a skin disorder.

A skilled, two-way winger, Hossa won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, 2013 and 2015. He reached the final two other times, had 149 points in 205 playoff games and finished with 1,134 points in 1,309 games with the Senators, Thrashers, Penguins, Red Wings and Blackhawks.

Lowe and Wilson had to wait much longer to get in after retiring in the 1990s. Holland made it in the builder category after winning the Cup three times with Detroit, and St. Pierre will be the seventh woman in the hall.

The 18-member selection committee voted remotely for the first time because of travel difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Those living in the Toronto area met in a conference room to determine the inductees, who got congratulatory calls from chairman of the board Lanny McDonald.

It’s unclear if the hall will hold its traditional in-person induction ceremony in November. The NHL is still working on trying to resume its season after suspending play in March, with the playoffs potentially extending into October and delaying the start of next season until December or January.

Hall of Fame waits for Lowe, Wilson come to an end

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The waits for were long for both Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson. But after receiving Wednesday phone calls from Lanny MacDonald, the two longtime NHL defensemen are Hall of Famers.

Lowe, eligible since 2001, and Wilson, eligible since 1996, were announced as part of the 2020 class along with Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kim St. Pierre, and Ken Holland.

“It’s not only that you have to get 14 of 18 votes, but it’s also sometimes who you may be up against when you’re up that year,” said MacDonald, the Hall’s Chairman. “Sometimes, it’s timing. Regardless of if they go in like Marian and Jarome, it’s richly deserved.”

When Lowe saw MacDonald was calling, he figured it wasn’t say he didn’t get in. 

“It’s all surreal for me,” he said.

Lowe is the seventh player from those great 1980s Oilers teams to make it to the Hall of Fame. After watching Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey get inducted, he never thought he would join that group.

“I’ve never seen myself as a Hall of Famer,” Lowe said. “For me, the Hall of Fame was Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier. Although I know there are players of my ilk in the Hall of Fame and it’s a place for everyone, I don’t want to say I was disappointed in the years I didn’t get selected, but I certainly understood you have to put up more points, win awards. 

“My dream was always to win Stanley Cups and the Hall of Fame was something I never dreamed about.”

Lowe finished his NHL career with six Stanley Cup rings between the Oilers and Rangers. In 1,254 games he scored 84 times and recorded 431 points. Internationally, he represented Canada at the 1982 World Championship and the 1984 Canada Cup.

[2020 HHOF class: Iginla, Hossa, Wilson, St-Pierre, Lowe, Holland]

Wilson had the longer wait and since retiring has made an impact as Sharks general manager for nearly two decades. He’s going into the Hall of Fame in the player category, a day he didn’t think was coming.

“It was an unexpected call,” he said.  

Wilson played 16 NHL seasons, finishing with 237 goals and 827 points. He’s the Blackhawks all-time leader in goals and points by a defenseman and led the their blue liners in scoring for 10 seasons. His 0.81 points-per-game average is ninth all-time among defenseman who played at least 650 games.

Individually, Wilson was voted a 1981-82 First Team All-Star and won the Norris Trophy in 1982. He was also a finalist for the award four other times. Like Lowe, he was on Canada’s blue line for the 1984 Canada Cup.

“This game has been so good to me, and all the things I’ve been fortunate to do and the journey I’ve been on, it was very unexpected,” he said.

“It’s worth the wait. That’s an understatement.”

The 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony is tentatively set to take place Monday, Nov. 16 in Toronto.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class: Iginla, Hossa, Wilson, St-Pierre, Lowe, Holland

2020 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Iginla Lowe St-Pierre Wilson Hossa
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The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 2020 class of inductees on Wednesday. The 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class includes: Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland.

Yes, this means that both Iginla and Hossa are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Kim St-Pierre represents the sole woman inducted in this class (as many as two can be added each go-around), while Holland is being inducted under the “builder” category.

Inevitably, people will discuss snubs. Many will point to Daniel Alfredsson and Alexander Mogilny. There are plenty of women who are deserving, too, including Jennifer Botterill.

Both Iginla and Hossa make Hockey Hall of Fame on first (2020) ballot

No surprise with Jarome Iginla

Iginla spent 1,219 of his 1,554 NHL games as a member of the Flames. After breaking into the league in 1996, “Iggy” went on to score 625 goals, record 1,300 points, win two Rocket Richard Trophies, the King Clancy, the Art Ross, and the Ted Lindsay Award. The winger was a six-time All-Star.

Iginla managed two 50-goal seasons, and passed the 40-goal mark on four occasions. The power forward also distinguished himself before reaching the NHL, winning two Memorial Cups with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. On the international scene, he represented Canada at various levels, winning two World Junior Championships, one World Championship, one World Cup of Hockey, and two Olympic gold medals. Iginla set up Sidney Crosby‘s “golden goal” in overtime during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Marian Hossa recognized as a two-way star

Hossa joins Iginla as a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer.

Hossa won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, and was a playoff fixture, becoming the first NHL player to reach three consecutive Stanley Cup Final series with three different teams. So you might also consider his playoff production (149 points in 205 games) while noting his regular season accolades (525 goals and 1,134 points in 1,309 contests).

Hossa represented Slovakia at the World Championships eight times, Olympic Games four times, and played in two World Cup of Hockey tournaments — once for his home country and the other for Team Europe. In addition to those Stanley Cup victories, Hossa also won a Memorial Cup.

One knock against Hossa was a lack of individual awards, but success followed the two-way star.

[MORE: Who the PHT staff would have inducted into the 2020 HHOF]

Kim St-Pierre adds another deserving woman to HHOF

There are a lot of gold medals in St-Pierre’s trophy case.

Inside you’ll find three from the Olympics, five from the World Championships, and one from the Four Nations Cup. The netminder played 83 times for Canada, helping them win 64 times with 29 shutouts. She earned best goalie honors at the 2002 Olympics, as well World Championships in 2001 and 2004. St-Pierre also won the Clarkson Cup twice with Montreal Stars of the CWHL, and was named the league’s top goaltender two seasons in a row.

Wilson and Lowe get into Hockey Hall of Fame after long waits

Doug Wilson an easy case

Wilson scored 237 goals, 827 points as a defenseman, winning the 1982 Norris Trophy during his impressive and underrated career.

The current Sharks GM was an eight-time All-Star, and won Canada Cup gold. His name has sprung up in Hall of Fame discussions over the last few years, even after having been on the ballot for over two decades. He played during an era dominated by Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, but examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. He finished his career in the top 20 in points by a defenseman and top 10 in points per game.

[MORE: Hall of Fame waits for Lowe, Wilson come to an end]

A fun piece of trivia via Sean McIndoe of The Athletic (sub required) that bolsters his case: “Here’s the complete list of players who both won a Norris Trophy (peak) and finished in the top 25 all-time in defenseman scoring (longevity), but haven’t been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Doug Wilson, and that’s it.”

As a side note, Wilson is putting together a decent Hockey Hall of Fame case with his GM work, alone.

Kevin Lowe’s best case — his trophy case

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson laid out defensive defenseman Kevin Lowe’s Hall of Fame case: he was the “conscience” of the Gretzky-era Oilers. Overall, Lowe won five Stanley Cups with Edmonton, and then one more with the Rangers.

“You look at Kevin’s Stanley Cups, the leadership on our team, the respect of all the players … that certainly would give me all sorts of statistical and psychological information to be in the Hall,” Glen Sather said. “You don’t have to pile up points to be a great player.

Lowe’s offensive stats won’t impress, but people stumped for his responsible game. It finally worked.

Lowe also served as a “builder” with the Oilers. Many would agree that it’s probably not the first point you’d argue for when saying Lowe deserved to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, though.

Ken Holland rounds out 2020 Hall of Fame class as a builder

The timing felt a bit surprising for Holland to be inducted as a builder. But, in the grand scheme of things, it was probably a matter of time.

The Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups with Holland in prominent positions (one as assistant GM, three as GM). The Red Wings also won 10 Central Division titles with Holland at the helm, not to mention four Presidents’ Trophies.

Holland can still add to his resume if he can bring Connor McDavid and the Oilers to additional glories, too.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Hossa, other 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame debates

Marian Hossa 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame debates Lowe hockey links PHT Morning Skate
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

2020 Hockey Hall of Fame debates, links, information

• A compelling argument for why Marian Hossa should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. For what it’s worth, Hossa made my imaginary one, so there are definitely pro-Hossa sides to those Hockey Hall of Fame debates. [NBC Sports Chicago]

• Speaking of Hall of Fame arguments, Jim Matheson lays out the case for Kevin Lowe. “Not being able to fit your Stanley Cup rings on just one hand” isn’t a bad argument. Then again, how many Lowe-like defensemen might have achieved similar team accomplishments on the same rosters as Wayne Gretzky and/or Mark Messier? How many of those Oilers (and in many cases, brief-Rangers) should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Either way, it’s one of those prototypical HHOF debates. [Edmonton Journal]

• Oh, in case you missed it, PHT’s Sean Leahy broke down who might make up the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class. Good stuff, especially if you want to brush up for the announcements. (Or, maybe get ready to be angry? Do people still get angry about this stuff if it’s not about their own candidacy?) [PHT]

COVID-19 and NHL hub city talk, other hockey links

• Five questions with NBC’s Mike “Doc” Emrick. Emrick answers questions about his upcoming book, the possible return to play, and … announcing a windshield wiper replacement? [NHL.com]

• As you likely know, the NHL announced that 11 players tested positive for COVID-19, with reports indicating that Auston Matthews was one of them. Just about any hopeful hub city must recognize that. Interesting stuff on how Vancouver’s desire could be tested. [The Province]

• Golden Knights GM George McPhee talks up the strengths Vegas presents as a potential hub city. The expansive hotels certainly bump things up for players who might feel a little bottled up living in a “bubble” setup. [Sportsnet]

• Again and again, it’s worth noting that Kevyn Adams faces serious challenges as Sabres GM. Adams will need to show that inexperience isn’t an issue. That could really be tough when it comes to rebuilding a scouting department after it was absolutely gutted. [The Hockey News]

• While discussing Seth Jones likely being healthy for the Columbus Blue Jackets, I also wondered about his actual value vs. his perceived value. “J Fresh” takes a deep dive and backs up some of my doubts. Neither of us are arguing that Jones is “bad.” Instead, the question is whether or not Jones is truly elite. [J Fresh]

• Jets players talk to Scott Billeck about how weird it might be to play in arenas without fans. [Winnipeg Sun]

• Why the Flyers should feel good about their goalies heading into the return. [Pucker Up Sports]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Brian Burke, Mike O’Connell feud over claims about Joe Thornton trade talks

Burke, O'Connell feud over Thornton trade
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Hockey fans have fond memories of Brian Burke’s feud with Kevin Lowe, and now it seems we have a sequel. Burke and former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell are in a war of words over alleged Joe Thornton trade talks. The biggest winners? Us.

Consider it a very short three act play or … boxing match, maybe more appropriately?

Round 1: Burke recalls trying to bring Thornton to the Ducks, “babysitting” O’Connell

Burke provided refreshingly candid answers to fan questions during an April 2 Twitter Q&A. The thread is worth your time, as Burke discusses the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Phil Kessel, Roberto Luongo, and Gary Bettman.

But it was a two-part bit about Burke trying to bring Thornton to the Ducks that got the ball rolling.

Burke explained that he’s “still bitter” that the Ducks didn’t land Thornton, and believes he offered O’Connell a better deal than the Bruins ultimately received from the Sharks.

Most fascinatingly, Burke even gave specifics about what he was willing to offer. Now, one can speculate about who would have been in the Ducks top five in 2005. Would Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry possibly been available for Thornton?

But either way … wow.

As a reminder, the Bruins ended up receiving Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart for Thornton. As Bruins fans would like to forget, Thornton continued to be a star for the Sharks, including winning the 2005-06 Hart Trophy.

[PHT Time Machine: The Eric Lindros trade that didn’t happen.]

Round 2: O’Connell says Burke’s Thornton claims were a “fabrication”

Things got juicier between O’Connell and Burke on Tuesday.

O’Connell told The Athletic’s Joe McDonald (sub required) that Burke’s hypothetical offer didn’t happen, and that the details were a “fabrication.”

“The details surrounding this story are fabricated and I can confirm that no such offer was made to me as I never informed Anaheim of my intentions to trade Joe Thornton,” O’Connell said. “Unfortunately, certain personalities never let the truth get in the way of their ultimate goal, self-promotion.”

Whew! (Shakes hand to indicate serious heat emanating from this rivalry.)

Round 3: Feud sizzles to a new level as Burke counters

Not to be outdone, Burke responded to O’Connell’s claims in a fiery appearance on ESPN on Ice with Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski. Burke made a key point by noting that current Ducks GM Bob Murray was in Burke’s office when he made the offer(s).

Burke also revived memories of wanting to battle Kevin Lowe in a fabled barn over the Dustin Penner offer sheet, saying “I wish we were in the same room, if you’re calling me a liar.” You really need to hear the entire clip, which Wyshynski posted:

*Ponders putting on oven mitts, this is all too hot to handle*

So obviously, this is a he-said, Burkie-said situation. We can only take each hockey executive’s word for it, and one could even argue that Murray might feel loyal to Burke.

But, considering the specifics of Burke’s claims, it seems feasible that the Ducks made some sort of offer for Thornton.

Theories

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

It’s also crucial to realize how much a person’s memory can be altered by time. This happened in 2005, and sometimes the seeds of trades are planted far before a deal is consummated. It’s possible that O’Connell flat-out doesn’t remember Burke’s offer(s).

Not only has time passed, but O’Connell also took a ton of heat for the trade. McDonald notes this anonymous reaction from a Bruins player at the time of the trade:

“Are you kidding me? We traded Joe Thornton for three guys who can’t tie their skates.”

The Bruins fired O’Connell in March of 2006, and the Thornton trade undoubtedly served as a catalyst. Such events can leave you a bit scarred, and maybe even prompt you to forget certain details. Maybe phrasing like “babysitting” bothered O’Connell, even if I took it to mean that Burke was checking up on the situation quite often.

Or maybe O’Connell is right in claiming that Burke is making those Thornton trade claims with the “ultimate goal” of “self-promotion?”

One thing’s clear: this is fun

We can only really guess, and perhaps spend this coronavirus quarantine time imagining “What if?” scenarios. Could Thornton have pushed the Ducks into mini-dynasty status, as this was during their Chris Pronger – Scott Niedermayer era? Would the Bruins have landed blue chips rather than “guys who can’t tie their skates?”

(That’s totally unfair to Primeau, Sturm, and Stuart, as they all had lengthy NHL careers. Though I admit I have not received definitive proof of how adept they are with laces.)

The one thing we do know is that Thornton landed with the Sharks and had a great run. And that O’Connell (currently director of pro development for the Los Angeles Kings) and Burke (Sportsnet personality) probably aren’t best buds.

Hey, it’s a lot more fun than talking about escrow though, right?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.