The 2016 class of the Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto this weekend to sign the big book, and you may find yourself wondering who some of these guys even are. Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov, Pat Quinn, and Rogie Vachon may be household names to nerds like us, but a primer can’t hurt for those of us who want a little hockey history lesson.
Eric Lindros defined what it meant to be a “power forward” through the 1990s. Between the start of his NHL career in 1992 to 2002, he posted a 1.31 points per game average, trailing only Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr during that time. Lindros won the Hart MVP trophy in 1995, and his Flyers lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final in 1997.
It’s been a little controversial that it’s taken this long for him to make it into the Hall, considering his dominance throughout the 90s, but a combination of an adversarial draft year, a much publicized row with NHL legend Bobby Clarke, and the absence of a Stanley Cup ring will do a number on your ballot.
Lindros was drafted first overall in 1991, but before even that, he famously refused to report for the Quebec Nordiques, should they pick him, due to the lack of market potential, and the city’s Frenchness, among other things. Not surprisingly, this did not endear him to the Canadian marketplace, but Nordiques general manager Marcel Aubut picked him anyway, promising that Lindros would never play in the NHL if he wasn’t playing for the Nordiques. That lasted one year, as NHL front office pressure forced Aubut to trade Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers at the 1992 draft in a massive three-way trade with the New York Rangers that included names like Mike Ricci, John Vanbiesbrouck, Peter Forsberg, and Ron Hextall, known for years after simply as “the trade.”
Lindros’ draft controversy was just one of the off ice issues that I think has kept him out of Hall of Fame consideration before now. He had many public clashes with Flyers’ then general manager Bobby Clarke, going so far as to sit out the 2000-01 season with a contract dispute. Lindros has worked hard during his retirement to reform his image, and his induction this year shows that it has paid off. Clarke traded him to the Rangers, where his production declined sharply, posting 73, 53, and 32 points in three years in New York, probably largely due to the concussions and injuries he suffered in Philly. Scott Stevens is still hated by Flyers fans because of this hit in 2000:
Fun fact: Now that Lindros is in, every Hart trophy winner from 1955-1998 is in the Hall of Fame. The 1999 Hart was won by Jaromir Jagr, so that streak won’t expand until he retires. So, never.
Oh, this one’s familiar! Former Shark Sergei Makarov made his name playing for the Russian Red Army team for the first 11 years of his career. During that span, Makarov won two World Junior gold medals, eight World Championship golds, and two Olympic gold medals as the Russians dominated international hockey during the 1970s and 80s. The KLM line, formed with Makarov, fellow hall of famer and former Shark Igor Larionov, and Vladimir Krutov, is still spoken of in hushed tones north of the border. Some say that if you whisper KLM three times in front of a mirror in Ontario, the ghost of Viacheslav Fetisov will appear and elbow you in the head.
Makarov was drafted into the NHL by the Calgary Flames in 1983, and won the Calder trophy for the league’s best rookie as a fresh-faced and impressionable 31 year old when he finally debuted in ‘88. Despite his age (I know we think of 26ish as the peak production age for forwards now, but the game was much slower in the 80s and 90s, and veteran expertise was worth a lot more), Makarov was a consistently productive NHL forward, scoring 384 points in 424 NHL games. Makarov is widely credited for being the vanguard for Russian players coming over to the NHL, and has been cited as a role model by such hallowed names as Datsyuk, Fedorov, and Ovechkin.
I have fond memories of Sergei Makarov, personally, due to my childhood memories of the short-lived but very catchy “ov-fence” line of veterans Makarov, Larionov, and rookie Viktor Kozlov (edit: The ov-fence line was actually Makarov, Larionov, and Johan Garpenlov, memory, thy trials are fickle, thanks to user dilacerated for the correction). Memories are unreliable, however, and, in researching this piece, I found that line had a much smaller impact on the ice than it had in my tiny Shark fan brain. There’s a lesson here about nostalgia and its hazy relationship with facts, but I refuse to learn it.
Fun fact: The NHL adopted a rule in ‘89 mandating that only rookies under the age of 26 were eligible to win the Calder Trophy (looking at you, Artemi Panarin), informally referred to as the Makarov rule.
Rogie Vachon credits Gordie Howe for his longevity in the NHL. “My first shot on net was a breakaway by Gordie Howe,” he says. “I stopped it and it kept me in the league for 16 more years.” Vachon is 19th in the NHL in wins all time with 355, won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and ‘69, won a Vezina trophy for the league’s best goaltender in ‘68 (shared with Gump Worsley), but is most well known for his seven seasons with the Los Angeles Kings from 1971-78.
Vachon held the Kings’ franchise records for wins, shutouts, season GAA, and shutouts in a season, until some jerk named Jonathan Quick showed up. If you were looking through this article for a new and fun reason to dislike Quick, I got you, fam.
Fun fact: Rogatien (yes, that’s really his first name) Vachon was the first goaltender in NHL history to be credited with a goal for about five minutes in 1977 when the New York Islanders scored into their own net on a delayed penalty. The goal was stolen away from him on video review, however, and given to Vic Venasky because the Kings hate fun.
Pat Quinn is argument 1A in favor of the importance of a law degree as an NHL executive. Quinn played nine NHL seasons for the Leafs, Canucks, and Atlanta Flames, but is best known as a head coach. Quinn coached 20 seasons in the NHL from 1978-2010, compiling 684 wins (7th all time), two Stanley Cup Final appearances (1980, 1994) and two Jack Adams awards for the league’s best coach (1980, 1992). Interestingly, Quinn’s Cup Final run in 1994 with the Vancouver Canucks was largely powered by players he drafted as general manager in 1988 and ‘89.
Quinn signed a contract in 1986 to become President and General Manager of the Canucks, but was still technically under contract as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings. Quinn maintained that the Kings had missed a clause in his contract permitting him to negotiate with other teams, but then NHL President John Ziegler disagreed, and barred him from managing the Canucks until June, and from coaching in the NHL until 1990. As General Manager of the Canucks, Quinn drafted Trevor Linden in 1988, and Pavel Bure in 1989, two players he later coached to the Cup Final in 1994.
Quinn passed away in 2014 at age 71.
Fun fact: Pat Quinn finished his law degree in 1984, and used it to great effect in the NHL, winning two separate draft disputes over Pavel Bure in ‘89 and ‘91. So, if you have lofty dreams of running an NHL franchise (and who doesn’t), learn how to outlawyer the Russians.
The 2016 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is Monday, November 14th at 7:30 Eastern, and will be broadcast on the NHL Network. Now when you tune in you can impress your friends with all of these facts they don’t care about! Lucky you!