The thing about awards or honors that are voted on, like induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, is that, aside from obvious first-ballot guys like Jarome Iginla, there is going to be debate. Not only among the 18 voters comprising the HHOF committee, where 14 voters must agree before a player is inducted, but among fans.
I’m not sure how much debate went into the decision to induct Kevin Lowe of the Edmonton Oilers into the HHOF Wednesday, or how many votes he got. What is obvious is there’s been plenty of back-and-forth between fans since he got the nod in his 20th year of eligibility with Iginla, Marian Hossa, Doug Wilson, Kim St-Pierre and Oiler GM Ken Holland, in the builder’s category.
There is no blueprint for what constitutes a HHOF player. No set number of games, goals, assists or points. There is no minimum requirement for Stanley Cup rings, medals in international play or individual awards. So, you get players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr alongside the likes of Bill Barber, Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau and Lowe, with a whole spectrum of players in between.
I wrote a few days ago that I didn’t see Lowe as a HHOF player. Many of you felt the same way before the 2020 inductees were announced and likely still do today. Like I wrote Monday, I’m not stunned or unhappy Lowe got in. It’s obvious some people are, given some of the online reactions to the vote I’ve read. That’s fair comment, Hell, the best quote coming out of Wednesday’s vote in that regard was from Lowe himself.
WHAT HE SAID
“I never saw myself as a Hall of Famer,” said Lowe, who won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers and a sixth as a member of the New York Rangers. “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 HHOF . . . I understood you had to put up more points, win awards. My dream was always to win Stanley Cups. The Hall of Fame was something I never dreamed about. Today, when I saw it was Lanny McDonald phoning me, I thought to myself, ‘Surely he’s not calling to tell me I didn’t get in.’ It’s all surreal for me.”
The thing is, it doesn’t matter what you or I think. What matters is what those on the committee — Jari Kurri, Bobby Clarke, Brian Burke, Igor Larionov, Luc Robitaille, Ron Francis, Mike Gartner, Anders Hedberg, David Poile, John Davidson, Mike Murphy, Mark Chipman, David Branch, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Michael Farber, Bob McKenzie, Pierre McGuire and Marc De Foy – think.
Lowe, as you’d expect, had plenty of support from his former teammates. Mark Messier summed it up this way: “The Edmonton Oilers are not what they became without Kevin Lowe. He was the adult in the room. One of the most competitive players I have ever played with and demanded players give more through his own sheer determination . . . what a teammate. What a winner. What an unbelievable ambassador for the organization.”
THE WAY I SEE IT
Even with accolades coming in from his teammates, many people characterize Lowe as just a good player on a great team. I tend to lean that way, although I’ve always thought him to be a very good player and somebody who competed at a level few do in terms of willingness to work, battle and quietly lead the way. Is that a great player? Not quite, in my books. A HHOF player? As of yesterday, the committee says yes.
The one thing I don’t buy is that Lowe’s work after his playing days were done as a coach, GM and POHO during some very lean years should diminish how his on-ice accomplishments are viewed. Lowe wasn’t on the ballot as a builder, so all the gnashing of teeth, moaning and groaning about his post-playing days and all the Old Boys Club blah, blah, blah is a bogus argument. It didn’t matter even a little bit yesterday and it doesn’t today.
Paul Coffey, who grabbed headlines with his skating and brilliant offensive talent with the Oilers on the way to his induction in the HHOF, said this about Lowe with Allan Mitchell on TSN 1260 this morning: “He just took me under his wing,” Coffey said about being drafted sixth overall in 1980, a year after Edmonton made Lowe its first-ever draft pick. “It was pretty cool. He knew who he was. He was very secure in his own skin. A great hockey player, a great leader and a massive, huge part of those teams.”
So, after 20 years of eligibility and much debate, into the HHOF goes Lowe. Soon to follow, his No. 4 jersey will be hoisted into the rafters at Rogers Place alongside the greats from the Boys on the Bus era. Congratulations, Kevin.