It took 65 years for the Hockey Hall of Fame to induct a woman into its ranks. So, I guess that I shouldn’t be totally shocked that the committee charged with selecting the inductees this year decided to make former Bruins head coach Pat Burns wait at least another year.
There’s no telling how long Burns has left to wait. His declining health since beginning his third battle with cancer has been well-documented. But that didn’t stop the clandestine HHOF committee from ignoring Burns’ condition, plus his three Jack Adams Trophy victories as coach of the year (including one with Boston) and his ’03 Stanley Cup, when it came time to pick a person or two for the builders’ category.
Outrage over the slight to Burns has been rampant among media members in print, online and on Twitter. The fan reaction to some tweets has been angry as well. Of course, we’ll never know what the committee’s reasoning for showing little heart toward a great man battling terminal cancer because members of that committee are forbidden from talking about the process. Baseball voters are allowed to print their Hall-of-Fame ballots in their publications. The Basketball Hall of Fame pretty much just lets everyone in. The Hockey Hall of Fame is some sort of real-life version of “Fight Club” that more often than not leaves people in the sport and outside of the meeting room scratching their heads. Annually, a handful of media members will write columns demanding the HHOF revamp the selection process and bring transparency into the equation. That’s probably never going to happen because the 18-member committee seems to enjoy the controversy and the focus on their secret dealings, like a 3-year-old keeping a secret that turns out to just be jibberish the kid was using just to get attention.
All we’re left with for explanation are quotes like this one from Bill Torrey, a committee members, to Chris Botta of FanHouse.
“For anyone to think that our thoughts were not with Pat Burns is unfair,” said Torrey. “Committee members are not allowed to speak about the process and give specific details on the voting, but I want to make clear that Pat was certainly on our minds.”
An old-school, curmudgeonly coach of the first degree in his days behind the bench, the former cop Burns wouldn’t want to be voted into the Hall of Fame based on any sympathy. But a great leader of men with a track record few can match and a grasp of history that brought him to Las Vegas last summer to present Claude Julien with the Jack Adams — just as Don Cherry had presented Burns more than a decade earlier — would want to be able to join the legends of the game in hockey’s hallowed shrine while he can still appreciate it and can thank all those that helped him achieve his goals.
Alas, should Burns be able to make an acceptance speech somewhere down the road, he’ll be able to thank the selection committee: for nothing. Pat Burns is a Hockey Hall of Famer, regardless of what some secret committee has to say. Hopefully he knows that.