The Hockey Hall of Fame is keeping with tradition by voting on the next class of inductees at the end of June, but like everything else since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, things will be a little bit different.
The panel of 18 voters will meet virtually on June 23 and 24 to elect the Class of 2020, using a secure online ballot for the first time to maintain the high level of secrecy that the Hall of Fame is known for.
“The deliberations have a fluidity to them anyway… and it becomes even more different when you hold them virtually,” Jeff Denomme, the Hall’s president and CEO, told The Athletic. “For one thing, we don’t know how long these meetings will last. It’s always more conducive to hold them in person, so this is a first, and we’ll see how it goes.”
The voters can elect four male players and two female players, plus two builders or one builder and a referee. Before the voting takes place, here are six candidates the panel should consider.
Jarome Iginla | Right Wing
Jarome Iginla should be a lock to be elected in his first year of eligibility after he redefined the power forward position over his 20 years and more than 1,500 games in the NHL.
Iginla scored by muscling his way to the net and with his lethal one-timer. That combination resulted in 625 goals and 1,300 points over his NHL career, including 28 goals in at least 15 different seasons. He’s tied with Joe Sakic for 16th on the all-time goals list and his 101 game-winning goals are ninth.
The St. Albert, Alta., native was never afraid of the hard parts of the game either, throwing big hits and standing up for his teammates even though he was a star. At only six-foot-one, Iginla was far from the biggest player on the ice, but he always played like he was. His famous fight against Vincent Lecavalier in Game 3 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final is just one example of the passion Iginla brought to the game.
Iginla led the league in goals twice, points once and finished runner up for the Hart Trophy in 2002. That same year, he won the Pearson Award as the league MVP as voted by the players. The six-time all-star proved to be one of the premier leaders of his era by captaining the Calgary Flames for 10 seasons, including to within one win of the Stanley Cup in 2004. He also played an important role for Canada on two Olympic gold medal–winning teams, scoring two markers in the 2002 gold medal game and assisting on Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal in 2010.
“If it does happen, which I hope it does and I pray it does, it will be very, very special,” Iginla said of potentially joining the Hall of Fame in a recent interview on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. “It’s not something I was playing to try to get to, but it would be very, very special and a huge honour.”
Marian Hossa | Right Wing
Marian Hossa is another first-year eligible player who should get a lot of consideration by Hall of Fame voters. The three-time Stanley Cup champion was a power winger who used his defensive skills to create offence for his team.
Hossa was a force in the offensive zone, scoring 525 goals and 1,134 points in 1,309 games. After finishing as the runner-up for the Calder Trophy in his 15-goal rookie season, Hossa scored 29 goals in his second year and he would go on to score at least 22 goals in 15 of his 18 full seasons. From his debut in 1997-98 to his final season in 2016-17, Hossa ranks fourth in points — behind only Joe Thornton, Jaromir Jagr and Iginla.
Despite the impressive offensive stats, Hossa built up a reputation as a defensive forward. He leads all wingers in takeaways since the NHL began tracking the stat in 2005-06 with 748 and he was plus-245 for his career, which trails only Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk among all skaters over the same time period.
Hossa remains the only player in NHL history to reach the Stanley Cup Final in three straight years with three different teams, losing in 2008 and 2009 with Pittsburgh and Detroit before winning his first Cup in 2010 with Chicago.
Theoren Fleury | Right Wing
Theo Fleury battled major challenges both on and off the ice to become a champion in the NHL and on the international stage. Standing only five-foot-six, Fleury was an eighth-round pick by the Calgary Flames in 1987 and by 1989 was a key contributor for the Flames on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.
A speedy winger who wasn’t afraid to play bigger than his size, Fleury collected 1,088 points in 1,084 games over his 15-year career. That included two seasons where he finished with at least 100 points and three more where he had at least 85. The seven-time all-star managed to put up all those points despite sitting for 1,840 penalty minutes in his career.
Fleury represented Canada at the Olympics twice and won a gold medal in 2002. His most famous highlight was the overtime winner in Game 6 of the 1991 divisional semifinal series between Calgary and Edmonton. After intercepting a Mark Messier pass and breaking in to score, Fleury slid on his knees down the entire length of the ice, a celebration kids and adults still try to recreate to this day.
Fleury is a survivor of sexual abuse that he suffered as a teenager, committed by his former coach, Graham James — a trauma Fleury kept secret during his career. In his 2009 book, Playing With Fire, Fleury opened up about the abuse for the first time and said it led him down a path of drug and alcohol addiction.
In the years since he left hockey, Fleury has overcome those addictions and now is an advocate for sexual abuse victims.
Kevin Lowe | Defence
While the Edmonton Oilers of the ‘80s were full of flashy scorers, Kevin Lowe was the team’s defensive anchor. Lowe appeared in 1,254 games over 19 seasons, only missed the playoffs once and won six Stanley Cups, five with the Oilers and one with the Rangers.
It’s hard to quantify a defensive defenceman’s value to his team, especially one who played before puck possession statistics arrived in the NHL. But despite never scoring more than 46 points in any single season, Lowe was a seven-time all-star and finished his career with a plus-240 rating.
While stats don’t paint the full picture, Lowe’s former teammates certainly appreciated the role he played.
“Kevin Lowe should have his number retired in Edmonton and in my opinion he should be in the Hall of Fame,” Sportsnet broadcaster and Lowe’s former Oilers teammate Craig Simpson recently tweeted. “He was an incredible player, the best teammate and a driving force for 5 Cups in Edm, and a big part of his 6th in NY. HOF credentials.”
As a six-time champion, Lowe is in an exclusive club with Red Kelly, Bryan Trottier, Glenn Anderson and Mark Messier as the only players to win six Stanley Cups without playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Lowe is the only player in this group not in the Hall of Fame.
Julie Chu | Forward/ Defence
Julie Chu is one of the greatest offensive players in women’s hockey history both at the collegiate and international level.
Chu played four seasons as a forward at Harvard from 2003 to 2007 and graduated with honours in psychology while setting NCAA records for most career assists (197) and points (285). Her points record has since been broken but is still the third most by a women’s player in NCAA history.
Chu made her senior U.S. national team debut in 2000 as an 18-year-old and was the first Asian-American woman to crack the roster. Over the next 14 years, she represented her country in 155 games, scoring 40 goals and 124 points. Chu is one of three American women’s hockey players to appear in four Olympics, winning three silver medals and one bronze. She also won five gold medals and four silvers at the Women’s World Hockey Championships and three gold medals and seven silvers at the Four Nations Cup.
Chu joined the Montreal Stars (now known as Les Canadiennes) in the CWHL for the 2010-11 season. She switched to defence in the CWHL but kept her scoring up, picking up 93 points in 95 games over seven seasons while winning two Clarkson Cups.
Ken Hitchcock | Coach
Ken Hitchcock is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NHL history who had success with teams that were aggressive in all areas of the ice.
“When you have the puck, that’s for you. When you don’t have the puck, that’s for us,” Hitchcock said in 2018, describing his coaching philosophy to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector. “There’s no negotiation when the other team has the puck, no negotiation at all.”
The Edmonton native got his coaching start with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, leading the team to four WHL finals and two championship wins in his six seasons there. After three seasons as an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers and three more as head coach of the Dallas Stars‘ minor-league affiliate Kalamazoo Red Wings, Hitchcock got his first head coaching job in Dallas mid-way through the 1995-96 season.
Hitchcock would lead the Stars to two Presidents’ Trophy wins and two Stanley Cup Final appearances, including a win in 1999.
From there he had head coaching stops in Philadelphia, Columbus, St. Louis, Dallas again and Edmonton, which included two more Conference Finals appearances and the 2011-12 Jack Adams award. He is third all-time in wins by a coach with 849 and his teams made the playoffs in 14 of his 23 seasons.