Friday Five: Wickenheiser deserving of rare honour from Hockey Canada
It’s a Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend edition of the Friday Five:
1. Hockey Canada should retire Wickenheiser’s No. 22
Hayley Wickenheiser has been called the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey. It would be fitting then to bestow an honour on her that has only been given to Gretzky at the NHL level: Wickenheiser’s No. 22 should never been worn again by a Canadian woman on the international stage.
The idea had not previously been raised, but it’s one that Hockey Canada plans to discuss after Wickenheiser becomes the seventh woman inducted into the Hall this weekend.
“We will now that we have had a number of ladies enter the Hall in the last few years,” Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said this week. “Certainly worthy of discussion.”
It makes sense to start with Wickenheiser, Canada’s all-time leader in games played (276), goals (168), assists (211) and points (379).
“I would totally support starting with Wick, absolutely, 100 per cent,” fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Danielle Goyette said Friday. “If you think about women’s hockey, you think of Wick and that’s a name that’s known around the world - not just in Canada.”
Goyette said Wickenheiser is “one of the players that took women’s hockey in Canada to the next level,” beginning with when she burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old with the national women’s team. She was a pioneer in every sense of the word, pushing the limit, playing in a men’s professional league in Finland and going to development camp with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
“She wanted to be the best and she wanted to prove it to you that she was the best,” Goyette said. “She did anything in her power to get better. She took it to the limit. Not a lot of people are willing to put themselves out there and I have a lot of respect for that.”
What Goyette learned about Wickenheiser later in her career, coaching her for four years at the Univ. of Calgary from 2010-2015 after being her teammate on Team Canada, was just how much pressure Wickenheiser put on herself.
“A lot of people would say she was difficult to coach,” Goyette said. “I didn’t find that. She wanted to win so badly that the hardest thing to do would be to keep her from losing control of herself when we were losing.”
No one has worn Wickenheiser’s No. 22 since she retired in 2016, just in the same that no one has worn Jayna Hefford’s No. 16 since she skated away. The number hasn’t technically been “unavailable,” but it’s time for Hockey Canada to officially make that the case – even if it means opening up higher, untraditional jersey numbers that have been forbidden by the program.
Unlike the NHL, where it’s a customary honour for Hall of Famers, the international scene is where these women have made a name for themselves - and it’s time they are given that ultimate distinction.
“This is certainly deserved,” Goyette said. “You think about the national team, that is our home for such a long time. Everything you do, you put toward playing for your country. We don’t make millions, but we’re passionate, and we do it because of that passion to play for our country. Something like that would last forever.”
2. Active locks for the Hall of Fame: Forwards
Sticking with the Hall of Fame theme, it’s always fun to think about greatness in our midst. Which of today’s active NHL players will be Hockey Hall of Fame bound? What follows is one man’s list of locks - the stone-cold, mortal lock variety - as definite, undebatable future selections for hockey’s hallowed Hall.
These players, broken down by position, could stop playing today and be on their way to the Hall:
Patrice Bergeron: For 10 straight seasons, Bergeron has been voted among the top five defensive forwards in the game - and he took home the Selke Trophy four times. He has been one of the best possession players since before Corsi was a thing, helping the Bruins to one Cup and two other Final appearances. His .76 points per game in the playoffs make him no slouch at the other end, either.
Sidney Crosby: It’s almost like Crosby had ‘Hall of Fame’ stamped on his helmet before setting foot on NHL ice, and he’s lived up to all the hype. The NHL’s active leader in points per game (1.28) by a wide margin has done it all. Three Stanley Cups, two Olympic golds, the Golden Goal, back-to-back Conn Smythes, two Harts and two Ted Lindsays. Just wow.
Patrick Kane: When it’s all said and done, Kane could be the best American-born player of all-time. He’ll certainly be in the conversation, after becoming the first American to win the Hart and Art Ross in the same season (2015-16). Oh yeah, three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, a Calder and better than a point per game (1.04) in his career. Pretty, pretty good.
Evgeni Malkin: Remember that time Malkin wasn’t named to the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players? Oops. Mr. 101 has a Hart, a Ted Lindsay, two Art Ross trophies, a Conn Smythe, a Calder, and two 100-point seasons to go with his three Stanley Cups. He is owed an apology.
Connor McDavid: Yes, even after 308 games. McDavid’s career could end today and he would belong in the Hall. He’s playing the game at a different speed limit. McDavid has two scoring titles, two Ted Lindsays and one Hart Trophy – all before his 22nd birthday. There is only one other player in NHL history who can match that resume: Wayne Gretzky.
Alex Ovechkin: He is definitely the greatest goal scorer of his generation – but maybe also of all-time. The Great Eight is pushing to pace the NHL in scoring for a record ninth time and is on target for a ninth 50-goal season, tying for most ever. He also has three Harts, three Lindsays, and a Calder to go with his exhilarating Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe.
Joe Thornton: The only forward on this list to be traded, ‘Jumbo’ is way more than just a compiler. He’s one of the great playmakers ever with 1,071 assists and counting (eighth all-time). Thornton has thrice led the league in assists with 96, 92 and 67-helper campaigns. His Hart Trophy from 2005-06 makes him an almost sure bet.
Jonathan Toews: What Captain Serious lacks in stats, he makes up for in rings as the face of the Blackhawks’ dynasty from 2010 through 2015. Toews might not have the gaudy season totals, but he’s got a Selke as a complete, 200-foot player, and a Conn Smythe to show for his run as one of the great leaders of his generation.
On the verge: Ryan Getzlaf, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares.
3. Active locks for the Hall of Fame: Defencemen
Brent Burns: In some ways, Burns took the position back to its roots as a rover, putting up numbers on the blueline that hadn’t been seen in a generation. His back-to-back 27- and 29-goal seasons in 2015-16 and 2016-17 were throwbacks, earning him that Norris in 2017, and he has been a finalist on two other occasions.
Zdeno Chara: Over a span of 10 seasons, Chara was voted one of the NHL’s top three defencemen an impressive six times. He captured that elusive Norris Trophy in 2008-09. Since then, he’s guided the Bruins to a Stanley Cup and two other Finals, and has spent more than two decades as one of the most feared players in the NHL.
Drew Doughty: Two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, one Norris Trophy and very few questions about Doughty’s prowess in his own end. Doughty is one of the few defencemen in history whose point-per-game production goes up in the postseason (0.61) from the regular season (0.55). Doughty has also been very durable for the Kings, missing just 16 games in 12 seasons.
Erik Karlsson: Every two-time Norris Trophy winner in history, all 11 of them, to precede Karlsson and Duncan Keith are enshrined in the Hall. This silky smooth Swede should follow suit. Karlsson is a four-time, first-team all-star in the end-of-season awards, making him one of the two best in the game that given season.
Duncan Keith: The two-time Norris Trophy winner has been a model of consistency in his 15-year career with nine seasons of 40 or more points. He averaged north of 29 minutes per night during Chicago’s three Stanley Cup runs, and led the 2015 playoffs in assists, the same year he was awarded the Conn Smythe.
Shea Weber: Owner of one of the most feared shots in the NHL, Weber has been selected four times as one of the top-four defencemen in end-of-season all-star voting. He has been a finalist for the Norris three times, landed in the top five in five different seasons. Weber has also reinvented himself after a serious ankle surgery, proving his value again in Montreal.
On the verge: Victor Hedman, Kris Letang.
4. Active locks for the Hall of Fame: Goaltenders
Henrik Lundqvist: King Henrik has just one Vezina, but few have done it better for longer: Eleven 30-win seasons (it would’ve have been 12 straight if not for that 48-game lockout-shortened season when he collected 24), seven seasons with a save percentage of .920 or better. Lundqvist is sixth all-time in wins and climbing.
Marc-Andre Fleury: By the time he’s finished, Fleury could be second only to Martin Brodeur in all-time wins. The 2003 No. 1 overall pick helped reboot a franchise in Pittsburgh and build one from the ground up in Vegas. He’s never won a Vezina, but he was the backbone to Pittsburgh’s Cup in 2009, did more than half of the lifting in 2017 for Matt Murray, and then got Vegas back in 2018 for what was his third straight Final.
Carey Price: For more than a decade, Price has been widely recognized as the best in the world at his position. With supporting numbers, that alone might be enough to get in. Then add this: Price is one of just five goaltenders to win the Hart Trophy in the NHL’s modern era – and one of just three to win the Ted Lindsay.
On the verge: Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne.
5. Active locks for the Builder Category
Mike Babcock: Among NHL coaches with 1,000 games behind the bench, only one has a higher career points percentage than Babcock (.610) - and that would be William “Scotty” Bowman (.657). Babcock has exactly 700 wins, one Stanley Cup, and two Olympic gold medals - steadying Canada’s rudder in the pressure-cooker that was Vancouver in 2010.
Ken Hitchcock: The first coach to bring a Stanley Cup to the Sun Belt, Hitch has spent parts of 23 seasons behind an NHL bench. He won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 2012, has a career .599 points percentage, and is fifth all-time in games coached.
Ken Holland: During Holland’s tenure from 1997-2019, the Red Wings won more regular season and postseason games than any other team. Holland’s name is etched on the Stanley Cup four times, to go with four Presidents’ Trophies and a reputation as one of the game’s great grinders, with a willingness to dig in and spend time at the rink scouting.
David Poile: Poile is the winningest GM in NHL history, on the job for 38 consecutive years. Poile might get knocked for not capturing a Stanley Cup in that span, but think about the definition. Few meet that “Builder” criteria like Poile, starting with next to nothing in Washington before literally building the Nashville Predators from the ground up in 1997.
Joel Quenneville: Coach ‘Q’ is second to Bowman in two key categories: second in games coached (1,655) and second in wins (899). His three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks aren’t bad, either, sitting behind just Bowman, Al Arbour and Glen Sather for most by a coach in the expansion era. His moustache won’t get him any votes, but that is pretty legendary, too.
Barry Trotz: Trotz could pass Hitchcock for third all-time in wins this season, 26 back now. Think about how many more Trotz would have by now if those early Predators teams had a bit more talent or a bit bigger budget back then. The two-time Jack Adams winner reached the pinnacle with the Caps in 2018, but he has solidified his reputation as one of the greats with his work on Long Island.
On the verge: Dean Lombardi, Doug Wilson.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli