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HHOF rumblings: Chris Pronger's eligibility, Pat Burns' wait and more

11/18/2014
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Hockey Class Of 2014 Inducted Into HOF

ESPN analysts Craig Custance and Pierre LeBrun wrap up the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night in Toronto.

TORONTO -- Nicklas Lidstrom will obviously be an automatic selection next year among the first-year players eligible for induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he could be joined by another all-world defenseman depending on the outcome of a meeting Tuesday.

A source told ESPN.com that when the Hockey Hall of Fame’s board of directors meets Tuesday, among the matters at hand will be clearing up the ambiguity in the current three-year, post-playing waiting period bylaw for players to gain Hall of Fame induction.

Chris Pronger hasn’t played since the 2011-12 season but still gets paid by the Philadelphia Flyers, which leaves his eligibility in a gray area. Since he hasn’t officially retired, should he be eligible or not? After all, he hasn’t played in three years and has no plans to do so.

If the HHOF's board of directors votes in favor of the new language for the bylaw, the source told ESPN.com that Pronger would be eligible for induction next year.

Whether or not the selection committee would vote him into the Hall in his first year of eligibility is another matter, but I can’t imagine Pronger wouldn’t be seen as first-ballot material.

Burns finally inducted

New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello walked into the Hockey Hall of Fame before the induction ceremony on Monday evening and said he got "chills" just thinking about what Pat Burns would be feeling if he were still alive to see his place finally among the Hockey Hall of Fame inductees.

The wife of the late coach, Line Gignac Burns, as well as Pat’s son, Jason, delivered the induction acceptance speech Monday night.

Jason brought up the fact that while many people were angry his dad wasn’t elected four years ago when first nominated, the former coach was not.

"A lot of people were outraged, but not him," Jason said during his speech.

Burns knew the day would come when he’d get elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame, even if it would happen after he passed. He was at peace with that.

Hoping for Gordie

With hockey icon Gordie Howe battling for his life, the great No. 9 was at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts Monday at the Hall of Fame.

"I’m like everybody else, I’m sad by it," Jim Devellano, senior vice president of the Detroit Red Wings, told ESPN.com. "I remember him as a player, later I got him to know as a person when I joined the Red Wings front office. It’s just a tough time for everybody. The Red Wings organization has its fingers crossed, he’s in our prayers."

AHL three-on-three OT

The NHL’s 30 GMs meet Tuesday here in Toronto and it’s expected among the many agenda items will be an update on how three-on-three overtime in the AHL is working so far this season. The NHL is keeping a close eye on it.

"I’ve only been to a couple of AHL games this year and none of them went to overtime, but I would vote for anything that reduces the number of shootouts," Brian Burke, the president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames, said Monday night at the Hockey Hall.

"They could go to two-on-two, they could go to one-on-one as far as I’m concerned," added Burke. "I know [Flames GM] Brad [Treliving] feels the same way. So Calgary’s vote I think would be in favor of a change like this."

Expanded video review, the dry scrape before overtime, as well as Stephane Quintal’s first presentation to GMs since officially taking over the chief discipline job, will also be among the many agenda items Tuesday.

Poile's eye injury

David Poile’s long road back from the awful eye injury he suffered last season when he took an errant puck to the face doesn’t have a great ending.

The Nashville Predators GM said Monday that after a number of operations over the past year, it’s been determined that he won’t ever get any vision back in that right eye.

"Yes it’s done," Poile said. "I’m not down on it, it was a freaky accident and it was nobody’s fault. It just happened. I was certainly hoping that I wouldn’t lose sight in the eye and there was some hope originally ... and I got a second opinion and did everything I could and so did doctors.

"But it’s not like there’s nothing I’m not doing. I’m fine."

Babcock's future

One storyline that won’t go away is the future of head coach Mike Babcock. Will he re-sign with the Red Wings or not?

Jim Devellano, senior vice president of the Red Wings, says GM Ken Holland will do his best to bring Babcock back.

"We respect Mike as a coach, we respect the job that he has done over the past decade, he took over a Stanley Cup-type team, we’re not that team anymore," said Devellano. "We’re a team that has to work hard with a lot of young players to try to make the playoffs. He’s done a superb job the last few years with no [Nick] Lidstrom, no Tomas Holmstrom, a ton of injuries, and he’s guided us in the playoffs. We’re appreciative of that. We also understand his stature in the game. All I can tell you [is] Kenny is working hard between now and the end of the year to keep him on board."

Forsberg's fan club

Former Avs teammate Joe Sakic said he marveled at what Peter Forsberg could do on the ice, pointing to the combination of his physical prowess and offensive genius.

"Honestly I was a fan just watching him play," Sakic said. "He was such a special player."

McCreary and Forsberg

Bill McCreary, inducted into the Hall Monday night in the referee/linesman category, was asked by ESPN.com which of the four inducted players from this year’s class was the hardest to officiate during his time.

"The one that was probably the most difficult to officiate, not because he was a bad person, was Peter Forsberg," said McCreary. "He was just so strong, so intense, as an offensive person going into the corners first all the time and throwing that reverse bodycheck, and getting the puck, it was always a real tough judgment. Peter made it hard on you to officiate but he was always a great guy."

That reverse bodycheck by Forsberg, when he was holding the puck and opposing players came at him only to get decked upon their arrival, was certainly the Swede’s trademark physical play.

McCreary now works with the NHL’s head office as an officiating manager, helping the current referees around the league.

"I’m really enjoying it," he said. "I try to leave the guys with some positive reinforcement. We all make mistakes, we’re humans. I always tell them, 'You’ll never officiate a perfect game, that just doesn’t happen in our career. However you strive to be as consistent as you can be.' I always feel that if we can keep them on a positive frame going from one game to another, it helps them in their own mind to be consistent. I enjoy my role and I hope I can do it for a long time."

Media inductions

Kevin Allen of USA Today and Pat Foley, the voice of the Chicago Blackhawks, were this year’s Hall inductees in the media wing.

Both got their HHOF jackets at a luncheon earlier Monday. Foley -- winner of the Foster Hewitt Award -- began his speech in surprising fashion by using the opportunity to implore the HHOF’s selection committee to consider former Blackhawks Steve Larmer and Doug Wilson for induction. Both former stars have long been passed over by the selection committee, and Foley is right, both former players had Hall of Fame playing careers.

Allen was a terrific choice for the Elmer Ferguson Award, which annually goes to the hockey writer honored by the HHOF. His work over 29 years covering hockey has helped the sport gain a stronger foothold in the U.S.