Gilmour patiently awaiting his Hall of Fame fate

November, 7, 2008
11/07/08
9:08
AM ET
Hall of Fame weekend ignites passionate debate among fans and media. We've seen it here all week at ESPN.com on several platforms.

But imagine being one of the players on the outside looking in. Hall of Fame weekend is a tough pill to swallow, I'm sure, for all those bubble guys that many believe should be in.

"After the past couple of years, I don't even reflect on it because I'm not expecting it," Doug Gilmour told me Thursday. "The thing I keep saying is that if it happens, it happens. There's not much I can do about it."

Gilmour, 16th on the all-time NHL points list with 1,414 in 1,474 regular-season games, is part of that bubble group, joining the likes of Pavel Bure, Dino Ciccarelli, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Wilson, Steve Larmer, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon, Mike Richter and Adam Oates, among others.

Gilmour and Bure, in particular, are guys I've been promoting. Bure was a two-time 60-goal scorer who was electrifying when healthy. Gilmour also had 188 points in 182 playoff games, a clutch performer especially for Calgary and Toronto.

But with next year's first-time eligibles seemingly slam dunks in Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and Brian Leetch, sounds like it's going to be at least two more years if not longer for Gilmour and the others.

I mentioned to Gilmour that maybe Glenn Anderson's induction this year, after years of being passed over, might give him some hope.

"Who knows," Gilmour said with a chuckle. "If I get the call one day, then great. If it doesn't work out, there's not much I can do."

The Fog

I was surprised to find out yesterday that the late Fred Shero, coach of the powerhouse Philadelphia Flyers teams of the 1970s, was not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

You'd think I would know that, but I didn't until former Flyers GM Bob Clarke told me he was hoping to make a push for Shero for next year's induction class.

"I think Freddy Shero should be in," Clarke, a star player under Shero, told ESPN.com. "He was somewhat like Roger Neilson; he was way ahead of his time with videos and systems and all that stuff. And he won two Stanley Cups with an expansion team."

Clarke said Shero was nominated by his group for the 2008 class, but they got in too late with the 17-member selection committee.

"We'll get him nominated to the committee for 2009," Clarke said.

Only two of Shero's 10 seasons behind an NHL bench were under the .500 mark. He went 390-225-119, not only winning two NHL championships with the Flyers but also coaching the New York Rangers to a surprise run to the Cup final in 1979.

Igor anecdotes

It's been a while since I've enjoyed researching, interviewing and writing a piece as much as my Igor Larionov Hall of Fame story. The guy has had a fascinating life and a great career. I kept other snippets from my interviews that I didn't think fit into the actual story:

Omsk head coach Wayne Fleming was telling me in an e-mail that he had a chance to talk with Larionov last week. Seeing how people in Russia reacted to Larionov's presence was an eye-opener for Fleming.

"He is to Russia what Gretzky is to Canada. He is the man over here," Fleming wrote.

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland was explaining to me how impressed he was by Larionov's hockey IQ.

"I can remember one time talking to him and something had gone on, and he basically walked me through a play and he knew where all nine players were on the ice," said Holland. "It was boom, boom, boom, boom. He just had the vision to know where everybody was on the ice.

"He was a world-class player."

Legendary coach Scotty Bowman, who had Larionov in Detroit, said the Russian star had a dry sense of humor, too.

Bowman recounted a story from one day at practice when he was practicing the top power-play unit.

"And for some reason at that point I wasn't using the Russian Five on it," said Bowman.

Bowman remembers Larionov skating over to him after the coach had blown the whistle, unhappy with the other unit's drill.

"He said to me, 'What about trying us?' I said 'OK,'" Bowman said. "He took the rest of the Russian Five aside and talked to them for about 20 seconds. I blew the whistle and there they were circling around and circling around, and they didn't take a shot, and it was about a minute and a half. Finally I blew the whistle and said, 'Igor, you're killing the penalty for the other team. You're passing up chances.' He said, 'I told them not to shoot or else you would blow the whistle. We wanted to stay on the whole two minutes.'

"He did it as a joke."

In all seriousness, however, Bowman points to two key Red Wings players who benefited from Larionov's presence in Detroit.

"I think he was very instrumental with Pavel Datsyuk," Bowman said. "When Datsyuk first came in, he wasn't a very good defensive player; now he's one of the best. And he looked up to Igor."

In fact, Datsyuk won the Selke Award last season as the NHL's top defensive forward. Thank you, Igor!

The other player Bowman believes learned a lot from Larionov might surprise you puckheads, given that he was already an established superstar in the NHL when Larionov came along in 1995-96.

"I think he also had a lot to do with Steve Yzerman becoming such a strong defensive player," Bowman said. "Yzerman thought a lot of him. They both kind of read off each other a lot."

Finally, I leave you with a thought from Larionov himself, when I asked him how he thought his life would have been different had he played his entire career in the NHL instead of spending the first decade playing for peanuts in Russia.

"To play in the National Hockey League at 18 or 20 would have been great, but at same time I cannot ignore the accomplishments with the national team, playing on the KLM line," said Larionov, a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

"Maybe financially it would have been better playing in the NHL at age 20," Larionov added with a laugh. "When I was 20 I played for 200 rubles a month. You're talking about $100 a month. That was a long time ago."

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