Hockey fans love to debate (argue?) Sports bars everywhere are filled with exclamations like "Are you crazy?" "No way!" and "I can't talk hockey with you anymore!"
When it comes to recurring hockey debates, the annual selections to the Hockey Hall of Fame have to be at the top of the list.
On the red carpet for this year's Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Toronto, I found myself debating with other media about who will get in next year. (Did I also mention that hockey fans are impatient?)
Every year you have a group of players in their first year of eligibility, another group that has been on the short list for the previous few years, and finally a group that has probably given up hope as their eligibility window begins to close. What they all want is to get that phone call telling them to book a flight to Toronto in November.
But the most influential group is the 18-person committee made up of past and present players, executives, and media who lock themselves in a private room and come out with a list of people who need to start writing a speech.
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Some fans love this method, others hate it.
No disrespect to honoured members, but hockey's Hall of Fame has always taken a more-the-merrier approach than other sports do. And the lack of transparency can leave people asking themselves, "Really… that player?"
Some fans might wonder whether the 18 people in that room let friendships trump accomplishments. The Hockey Hall of Fame (or any hall of fame for that matter) should be the best of the best.
"It's not like we come together for half an hour, have breakfast and talk," said former Russian and NHL star Igor Larionov, who is not only an honoured member but is on the selection committee. "It's always like four, five, six hours. It's crazy how intense [it can be, because of] how many people are trying to get in, but only like three or four get in the Hall of Fame, so it's not easy. It's sometimes very frustrating because of that."
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"First of all, it's confidential," said Lanny McDonald, chairman of the selection committee who was inducted in 1992. "We don't tell anyone who was up [for discussion], but they are some of the greatest discussions that go on for days as we try to make sure we get the right people in the Hall."
The most common argument when discussing inductees is always some form of "Well, if Player A is in, then you have to let Player B in," which is like digging a hole that gets deeper every year.
And when a "lock" like Jarome Iginla takes up a spot, as he surely will when he becomes eligible next year, suddenly having to make a choice from many worthy players can get much tougher.
Baseball leaves it to the media to vote, but we do end up seeing the final tallies. Football also has a committee (48 people made up mostly of media), but they whittle down a list of fan nominees to 18 finalists. The committee then gets together the day before the Super Bowl to choose the inductees. Basketball actually has six different committees to screen and elect candidates, but they base it on a voting process that remains secret.
I, for one, would love to see at least a final voting tally for the Hockey Hall. Did Daniel Alfredsson just miss out? What about Pierre Turgeon? Curtis Joseph?
But I don't see that happening anytime soon.
When I asked Mario Lemieux what he thought the criteria should be for a person to be elected into the Hall of Fame, he responded: "I'll leave it up to the experts."
For now, we have no other choice.