Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What a New Jersey Devils Team Hall of Fame Could Look Like

The Yankees have Monument Park, honoring 27 individuals -- 17 as players and 10 as non-players. (There is some spillover, but while Phil Rizzuto was a broadcaster, he was honored as a player; and while Billy Martin played, he was honored for his contributions as a manager.)

This, of course, does not count the tribute to Jackie Robinson, the 3 Plaques honoring the Masses delivered by Popes at the old Yankee Stadium, or the Monument to the 9/11 victims & rescue workers. It does, however, count Mariano Rivera having had his Number 42 retired (along with Robinson's), but not yet getting his Plaque. I'm presuming they were waiting until his last season was finished, and thus his final career statistics were in the books.

The Yankees have played 111 seasons. Having honored 27 people, that's an average of 1 for every 4.11 seasons.

With Joe Torre having been elected to the Hall of Fame, Derek Jeter probably playing only one more season, and the thoughts that Plaques should be dedicated to them, and also to Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, it is likely that the number will grow in the next few years, which would also seriously reduce the ratio.


The Mets have a team Hall of Fame, with plaques and other memorabilia in a room to the side of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field. Despite the fact that they have played less than half as many seasons, 52, they, too, have honored 27 people: 16 players, 11 non-players, 1 every 1.93 seasons.

Granted, the Mets have far fewer retired numbers, 3 to the Yankees' 17 (23 if you count the unofficially retired, including Derek Jeter's Number 2). But the Mets have a team HOFer for less than every 2 years? And people think the Yankees have honored too many guys?

If the Mets had honored individuals at the same rate as the Yankees, 1 every 4.11 seasons, they would, by now have honored 12.65 -- okay, round it up to 13 (1 every 4.00).

Included among the New York Mets Hall of Fame are Bud Harrelson and Jerry Grote. Look, I get it: Until Gary Carter (who is in), Grote was the greatest catcher in team history; until Jose Reyes (who will probably get in after he retires as an active player), Harrelson was the greatest shortstop, and (as the shortstop in 1969 and the 3rd base coach in 1986) he was the only man who was in uniform for both of the Mets' World Championships. (Although Davey Johnson, who is in as the manager of the 1986 Champions made the last out for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series. A neat little turn of events there, as if the Yankees manager in 1996 had been not Joe Torre, but Ron Cey of the 1978 Dodgers.)

Carter arrived in Flushing Meadow in 1985, the Mets' 24th season of play. When the Yankees began their 24th season, 1926, their greatest catcher ever was Wally Schang. Okay, he was then still active, and the idea of a "team hall of fame" had never occurred to anybody yet. But would you elect Schang to Monument Park? I wouldn't: Good player, probably the 2nd-best catcher in the American League in the last half of the 1910s behind Ray Schalk and the best in the first half of the 1920s, but not as productive as Monument Park honorees Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson -- or even, at least over a full career, as the yet-to-be-honored Jorge Posada. So, as the Mets have now had Carter and Mike Piazza, and they know what a truly productive catcher looks like, the inclusion of Grote seems a bit silly.

As for Harrelson, well, he was a good fielder, and by all accounts is a good guy. The Mets could certainly have done worse. (And they did: His replacement was Sergio Ferrer. His replacement was Frank Taveras, a good shortstop for the Pirates but atrocious as a Met.) But Bud couldn't hit the ground if he fell off a ladder. Let's face it, nobody would put Bucky Dent in Monument Park, and yet he did more in 16 days in October 1978 than Bud Harrelson did in 16 major league seasons.

The Mets also honored their founding owner, Joan Payson. The Yankees' founding owner was Frank Farrell, and he certainly isn't worthy of a Plaque. So the Mets got that right.

The Mets also (properly) honored Bill Shea, who did more than anyone to create the team. But the Yankees haven't honored his counterpart with them. That would be American League founder and president Ban Johnson, and considering he and owner Jacob Ruppert (who is in Monument Park) had a major falling-out, it's unlikely Johnson would have been similarly honored.


The local NFL teams never had a team Hall of Fame until MetLife Stadium opened in 2010. Then each established a Ring of Honor.

The Giants Ring of Honor has 35 men: 27 players, 8 non-players. This is 1 every 2.54 seasons. Not as bad as the Mets, and not nearly as bad when you consider we're talking about 24 different positions (11 on each side, plus kicker and punter, and then there's the non-players). But, still, it's more than the Yankees. Indeed, the Giants have honored as many players as the Yankees have honored people.

The Jets Ring of Honor has 12 players and 1 non-player, Super Bowl-winning coach Weeb Ewbank. So 54 seasons, 13 people, that's 1 every 4.15 seasons -- almost exactly the same as the Yankees.


Neither of the local basketball teams has a Hall of Fame. But both have retired some uniform numbers.

The Knicks have retired 9, including 1 non-player, Red Holzman, coach of the 1970 and '73 World Champions, with his number of coaching wins for them, 613, standing in for a uniform number. (Although Dick McGuire served the team in many capacities, he was honored by both the Knicks and the Basketball Hall of Fame for his playing.) 67 seasons, 9 people, 1 every 7.44 seasons.

The Nets have retired 7 numbers, all for players. 47 seasons, 7 people, 1 every 6.71 seasons. Compared to the Yankees, who have set the standard, both NBA teams could stand to retire more. Though it should be noted that the Nets have only just retired the Number 5 of Jason Kidd, now their head coach. They have yet to honor anyone else from their last good period in New Jersey, 2002-06: As of yet, no retirement of Kenyon Martin's 6, Richard Jefferson's 24, or Vince Carter's 15.


The hockey teams. The Islanders are the only one of the three that has an actual team Hall of Fame, with 11 players and 2 non-players, for a total of 13, in 43 seasons (I'm including the never-played 2004-05 season), 1 every 3.31 seasons. Less than the Yankees, but not as ridiculous as the Mets or the Giants.

The Rangers have honored 9 players with the retirement of their numbers. Over 87 seasons, that's 1 every 9.66 seasons. Clearly, they could honor others. For a fan base that talks a lot about their history (a history that is very, very lackluster), the club doesn't handle it very well.

Oddly, the most important figure in Ranger history, original head coach and general manager Lester Patrick, is not honored. Once a great defenseman, he did play a game for the Rangers, and it was one of the most famous in team history: At age 44, he stepped in as emergency goalie against the now-defunct Montreal Maroons during the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals, gave up just 1 goal, and the Rangers won it in overtime, on the way to winning the Cup in only their 2nd season of play. In that game, Patrick wore Number 16 -- an unusual one for a hockey player, but it may have been the lowest unused number at the time.

And finally, my hockey team, the New Jersey Devils. They now have some history, 33 seasons. But they have no team Hall of Fame, and only 3 retired numbers: 4, Scott Stevens; 3 Ken Daneyko; and 27, Scott Niedermayer. That's 1 every 11 seasons, and that's easily the most short-changed of any of the Tri-State Nine.

Team Seasons Players Non-Players Total 1 every
Mets 52 16 11 27 1.9
Giants 89 27 8 35 2.5
Islanders 43 11 2 13 3.3
Yankees 111 17 10 27 4.1
Jets 54 12 1 13 4.2
Nets 47 7 0 7 6.7
Knicks 67 8 1 9 7.4
Rangers 87 9 0 9 9.7
Devils 33 3 0 3 11.0

Yes, I get that the Mets wanted to honor their original broadcasting triad of Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner. I have no objection to that. Or to the honoring of their founders, Mrs. Payson and Mr. Shea. But they've honored 11 non-players; the other 8 teams, combined, have honored just 23.


If the Nets, Knicks, Rangers and Devils were to bring their ratios down to the 4 or so that the Yankees and Jets have, who could they induct?

It seems to me that priority should go to players and non-players for their teams who have been inducted into their sports' Halls of Fame. How have the Tri-State Nine honored HOFers, and compared to non-HOFers?

Knicks 8 of 9 88.9
Rangers 8 of 9 88.9
Devils 2 of 3 66.7
Yankees 17 of 27 63.0
Islanders 7 of 13 53.8
Giants 16 of 35 45.7
Nets 2 of 7 28.6
Jets 3 of 13 23.1
Mets 6 of 27 22.2

Based on that, it's safe to say that, at least as far as priorities are concerned, the Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Yankees, and to a lesser extent the Islanders and Giants, know what they're doing. While the Nets, Jets and Mets do not.

(The Yankees' total of 17 HOFers includes Mariano Rivera, who now has his number retired, but is not yet in Cooperstown, but will be. It does not include Derek Jeter, who has not yet had his number retired. The Mets' total of 6 HOFers does not include Mike Piazza, although I do think he will get in within the next few years.)

The Nets would need to add 4 more to get to the Yanks' ratio; the Knicks, 7; the Rangers, 12.

The Devils, 5 more would give them 8 in 33 seasons, a ratio of 4.125, almost split right down the middle between the Yankees' 4.111 and the Jets' 4.154.


So who should the Devils' 5 more honorees' be?

Well, since they have not yet honored any non-players, let's start with the obvious ones.

They've won 3 Stanley Cups, with 3 different head coaches: Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and the late Pat Burns. Then there's the general manager who put it all together, Lou Lamoriello. And the founding owner, John McMullen.

Okay, it seems silly to elect them all, without electing any new players. But the founder, the architect, and the difference-making coach should all get in.

That's 6. We need 2 more players. Keep in mind that Martin Brodeur is still active, and thus cannot yet be considered.

Players in the Hockey Hall of Fame who have played for the Devils, in addition to Stevens and Niedermayer, are Peter Stastny, Viachelsav Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Brendan Shanahan.

In addition, Herb Brooks was head coach, and Adam Oates an assistant coach who was elected as a player but never played for the Devils. So let's take them out of consideration immediately.

Larionov played just 1 season, Gilmour and Nieuwendyk 2 each, Stastny 3 -- and, except for Nieuwendyk in 2003, none won a Cup with the Devils. So they're out.

Fetisov played 6 seasons with the Devils, Shanahan 5 -- but, again, neither won a Cup. So they're out.

Hmmmm, this is getting harder. We've just eliminated the Hall-of-Famers.

Jamie Langenbrunner announced his retirement today, and he could end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame -- but he won't be eligible for it until 2017, and so putting him on this list is also premature.

Okay, outside of HOFers, who represents the New Jersey Devils' spirit? That's why Daneyko is in the rafters, even though he wasn't, by any measure, a great player.

There's Claude Lemieux. There's Bobby Holik. There's Randy McKay. There's Sergei Brylin. There's Jim Dowd, the only New Jerseyan ever to play for the Devils, and the only one ever to play on a Cup-winner. There's Patrik Elias, but he's still active, so we can't consider him. There's Jason Arnott, who scored the biggest goal in team history (unless you want to count the still-active Adam Henrique).

And if Daneyko is in a team Hall of Fame, surely, you have to consider the other 2 guys who were around nearly at the beginning, and stayed long enough to contribute to the first Cup in 1995: John MacLean and Bruce Driver.

And there's one more Hockey Hall-of-Famer we haven't mentioned yet: Broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick, the Voice of the Devils.

No, I am not inducting Glenn "Chico" Resch. He's not a great broadcaster, and he was a lousy player. Why do you think the Islanders were willing to let him go at the team's arrival in New Jersey in 1982? Because he was the backupiest backup goalie in hockey history. Yes, Chico has been here for the good, the bad, and the ugly -- but he was responsible for a lot of the early ugly. (And that's got nothing to do with the hairpiece and mustache that makes him look like John Astin playing Gomez on The Addams Family.)

Anyway, who says they have to all be elected at once? And who says they have to conform exactly to the Yankees' ratio -- now, or in a few years? It's my list, my rules -- I can change my rules.


So here is my proposed list for a New Jersey Devils Hall of Fame -- or Honor Roll, or Ring of Honor, or Wall of Fame, or whatever you want to call it -- with proposed years of induction and (where applicable) uniform numbers:

2006 4 Scott Stevens
2006 3 Ken Daneyko
2011 27 Scott Niedermayer
2014 * John McMullen
2014 * Lou Lamoriello
2015 * Jacques Lemaire
2015 * Mike Emrick
2016 * Larry Robinson
2016 * Pat Burns
2017 15 Jamie Langenbrunner
2018 30 Martin Brodeur
2018 26 Patrik Elias
2019 22 Claude Lemieux
2020 25 Jason Arnott
2021 11 Jim Dowd
2022 15 John MacLean
2022 23 Bruce Driver

With Brodeur's 30 and Elias' 26 joining Stevens' 4, Daneyko's 3 and Niedermayer's 27 as retired numbers.

4 3 27 30 26

Or, if you prefer:

3 4 26 27 30

That's 17 figures. 11 players, 6 non-players. If we stagger the inductions over the next 8 seasons, making for 40 seasons, that would be 1 every 2.4 seasons. That may seem a little excessive, but then, by that point, the other area teams will have more inductions as well; if the Yankees give Plaques to Torre, Jeter, O'Neill, Williams, Posada and Pettitte (hardly unreasonable) over that same period, that would be 32 honorees in 120 seasons, or 1 every 3.6 seasons.

Also, none of these inductees -- not even Dowd, elected here mainly for his Jerseyness, even if he did score the late winner in Game 2 of the 1995 Finals -- is as lame a choice as the Mets putting in Harrelson and Grote.

Nor is any of them a memorial, as the Giants did for Al Blozis, a good player but he's honored (including the retirement of his Number 32) because he died in combat in World War II; and the Nets did for Wendell Ladner (Number 4), who was killed in a plane crash. On the other hand, Thurman Munson of the Yankees (Number 15) and Drazen Petrovic of the Nets (Number 3), while they died in transportation accidents, already deserved their honors. It is true that McMullen and Burns are dead, and that anyone could die at any time, hoping that none of the preceding do; but the Devils have been lucky in that none of their legends, or could-be legends, died while still in active service to the team (McMullen having sold the franchise, and Burns having retired from front-office work to focus on his health).

Note that the elections of MacLean and Driver would, in this "future history," come in the team's 40th Anniversary season; of Lemaire and Emrick, on the 20th Anniversary of the team's first Cup; and of Arnott, on the 20th Anniversary of his Cup-winning goal.

6 out of 17, 35 percent, would be non-players. This is a better ratio than both baseball teams. Presuming Elias makes the Hall (possible), Brodeur isn't caught doing something Pete Rose-stupid or Alex Rodriguez-stupid to keep himself out, and no other Devils figure is elected (it would be a surprise if any did), it will be 9 out of 17 in the Hockey Hall of Fame, or 58.3 percent, a better ratio than the Mets, Nets and both football teams.

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