THE PENNANT RACE

Back in the olden days, we drove in big, heavy cars that rode low to the ground. These cars did huge damage when they ran into things, and guzzled gas grotesquely. When the gas lines showed up it became difficult to keep these dinosaurs on the road. Old ways gave way to innovation.

Man, the good old days were sure the good old days. No matter the era you came of age, certain things were both vital and abundant: girls (God love ’em), cold beer and cars. Those were the main reasons we went out and got jobs back in the day, even in my time when the minimum wage (for the first job I ever worked) was $1.44 an hour.

Didn’t buy a lot of gas.

It was colder then, and that’s the truth. I spent a big part of my childhood in Saskatchewan and can say that the coldest days of my life were as a kid. I’d have killed for global warming in Maidstone about 1974.

Not all the things from the olden days are good, as proven by the advent of smaller, more efficient vehicles. Innovation and new ways of thinking about things are important because if we don’t adjust for size (as shown by the big vehicles of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s) we’re doomed to waste energy and punish the future.

THE STANLEY CUP

 

How do we apply this to the Stanley? It goes like this: when I was a kid, there were very few truly great hockey players who didn’t win a SC. Norm Ullman is the most famous I recall, and that was due to the incredible depth in Detroit during the early 1950s. Otherwise, if you were good enough to hang around for a decade or so of the original 6, your name is probably on the Cup,

Back in the 1960s NHL rosters were five or so fewer than today, and of course there were 6 teams. So, the entire NHL consisted of about 110 players on any given night. Fast forward to today, and 30 NHL teams employ 23 roster players, or 690 slots.

Winning the Stanley Cup today compared to the original 6 is obviously more difficult. 8 wins got you glory in 1967, now 16 W’s are required. And qualifying for the post-season is difficult too, so the odds are decreased again.

And yet, you’ll hear people say "well he never won a Stanley" as a reason to keep someone like Mark Howe out of the Hall. Cruel, cruel rules that have not been adjusted for the changes that came along after 1967.

THE SOLUTION–PENNANTS!

It’s my belief that the NHL now–at 30 teams–should recognize and reward the two clubs who get to the finals each season. If we did this as a matter of course, worthy men wouldn’t be outside the Hockey Hall of Fame. So much importance is placed on winning a Stanley that it’s beyond reasonable to ask all HOFers to win one before fading into the distance.

Although imperfect, a pennant win would be a much better "line in the sand" compared to the rules of decades ago. Just like that gas guzzler rolling down the highway burning off the GNP of Peru every 80 miles, the old timey "never won a Stanley" is out of date, out of time, out of reason.

Since the 1967 expansion, here are the pennant winners with those still in the race for this season in bold: 

  1. Montreal (11): ’68, ’69, ’71, ’73, ’76-’79, ’86, ’89, ’93
  2. Philadelphia (8): ’74, ’75, ’76, ’80, ’85, ’87, ’97, ’10
  3. Boston (8): ’70, ’72, ’74, ’77, ’78, ’88, ’90, ’11
  4. Edmonton (7): ’83, ’84, ’85, ’87, ’88, ’90, ’06
  5. Detroit (6): ’95, ’97, ’98, ’02, ’08, ’09
  6. New York Islanders (5): ’80, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’84
  7. Chicago (4): ’71, ’73, ’92, ’10
  8. Dallas (4): ’81, ’91, ’99, ’00
  9. New Jersey (4): ’95, ’00, ’01, ’03
  10. Pittsburgh (4): ’91, ’92, ’08, ’09
  11. Calgary (3): ’86, ’89, ’04
  12. New York Rangers (3): ’72, ’79, ’94
  13. St. Louis (3): ’68, ’69, ’70
  14. Vancouver (3): ’82, ’94, ’11
  15. Anaheim (2): ’03, ’07
  16. Buffalo (2): ’75, ’99
  17. Carolina (2): ’02, ’06
  18. Colorado (2): ’96, ’01
  19. Florida (1): ’96
  20. Los Angeles (1): ’93
  21. Ottawa (1): ’07
  22. Tampa Bay (1): ’04
  23. Washington (1): ’98
  24. Atlanta
  25. Columbus
  26. Minnesota
  27. Nashville
  28. Phoenix
  29. San Jose
  30. Toronto

If we allow for two pennant winners per season (ala baseball), then a player like Ryan Smyth or Jarome Iginla or Mark Howe receives the credit well earned for going so deep in the run. It also has the added benefit of listing Toronto 30th due to alpha order.

Frankly, I don’t see a negative.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

NHL pennants are never going to happen, but it’s a good idea whose time has come.

  • Toro

    I love this idea. I always hated the idea the team who finished second is forgotten. Basically, each conference champ has beaten out 14 other teams, consisting of the best hockey players in the world to get into a showdown with the other champion.

    IMO (and many others), the oilers lost in ’06 because of Roloson’s injury. A healthy Roloson equals a much different result. Should Smyth be kept out of the hall because of a freak injury and solid Carolina team?

    Great off season Article. You are right, nothing will change.

  • Toro

    I agree with Hemmertime , you do get a trophy for being conference champs, plus the whole needing a cup to be in the hof is old school ,it’s not neccesary to win a cup to get in anymore.

      • Toro

        It did take Mark Howe forever to get in…but he did get in, and I can imagine how many great hockey players in the future there will be who don’t win a stanley cup during there career that deserve to be in the hall, so the hof will have to look at the players career achievements rather then wether or not he won a stanley cup.

  • Truth

    I don’t know a lot about the whole online watching of hockey games. What are the chances a guy could watch the rest of the Oil Kings game on the net? Or even the Barons game? How does one do this?

    Edit: I agree LT, Penants would be a great idea, being the best of the Conference should mean something. I heard a stat recently something along the lines of Vancouver playing a ridiculous amount of non-playoff teams and winning those and under/close to .500 against playoff teams this season. The playoffs are where it counts.

  • Truth

    Are you serious? They already get a trophy for winning the conference. Maybe you forgot because no players even want to touch it. How is a pennant any different than a trophy? They’re both an award given for winning your conference.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Mark Howe was the all time playoff point leader in the WHA. A great player whose prime years were spent in Houston. He deserves to be in the hall even without a cup(Stanley not Avco). If cup wins is an important criteron to induction, why is Klowe not in? I think he should be.

    Because of conference trophys and the President’s trophy I don’t like the idea of additional pennants. Where does it end? Maybe participation trophys for everyone like mini-mites.

  • Reg Dunlop

    If there was an anti-hall of fame for administrators KLowe would be a 1st ballot inductee. But he still should be in the real hall as a player. He was a vital cog in 6 cup wins. Thoughs, anyone?

  • Correct me if I’m wrong but all you guys ragging on “theres already a trophy we dont need a penant” are missing the point. I dont think (not wanting to put words in LTs mouth) that this was about needing a pennant but more that how we view teams and players should really be about more than just SC wins.

  • kdunbar

    We already have this with the Clarence Campbell Trophy and the Prince of Wales Trophy?

    Changing the trophies to pennants won’t change anything.

    That being said I agree with Beaker.

  • @gongshow

    Its called the Hockey Hall of Fame…World Championships, A Gold Medal, Very Good Hockey Career, plus a “Good Citizen”-ship award (given by Gongshow) should equate to a HOF induction. I am not saying that Smyth is a first ballet HOF-er but eventually.

  • Oilertown

    When you really look at that it really puts into prospective how lucky we have been to have as many as we do compared with some teams that have been in the league a lot longer.

  • Oilertown

    Yes, but Ernie Banks is still renowned as one of the greatest baseball players to never win a World Series. Few people care if he won a pennant or not. To many observers, pennants don’t matter.

    The mark against NHL players who have never won a Stanley Cup would continue because any other team-based awards would be considered consolation prizes. However, I think this mark has become less detrimental over time now that there are more and more players who fall into the never-won-a-Cup category.

    Besides, this isn’t kindergarten. Do we really need to give gold stars and participation ribbons to grown men just because you pity the ones that just came up short? Half the teams who win the conference trophies won’t even touch them and giving them a pennant is just plain patronizing.

    I don’t agree with this idea, but you can have a gold star for effort!

  • Oilertown

    LT said : Really? It took Mark Howe forever.

    ————————–

    It also took Glen Anderson forever, he had numbers AND 6 cups.

    Ryan Smyth will not be going to the HOF unless they want to become an even bigger joke than they already are.

  • Oilertown

    @Truth

    For the WHL and AHL games, they have pay-per-view options that are legit and (at least for the WHL) high-quality. This is the same tech that the NHL uses for its online broadcasts.

    whl.neulion.com/whl
    ahl.neulion.com/ahl

    I know its not free and all but its is legit and legal.

    Before anyone gets on me for being a legal stiff – I use similiar sites that Lowetide mentioned to watch NHL playoff games since the NHL hasn’t figured out that cable cutters cant watch things on NBCCN in US (jackasses!)