In the world of sports, competition generally is driven by two desires: money and glory. To that end, most of the major sports have Halls of Fame, designed to honour the best of the best in each sport. Over time, however, it's difficult to maintain strict Hall of Fame standards.
On Mon., Nov. 12, former National Hockey League defenceman Al MacInnis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. MacInnis played 23 seasons in the NHL, including 13 with the Calgary Flames, where he won a Stanley Cup in 1989 and stands as the team's second-place, all-time scorer. The induction of MacInnis into the hall has rekindled debate on two fronts. Firstly, why isn't Flames' all-time leading scorer Theoren Fleury in the Hall of Fame and secondly, what should the standards for induction be?
The short answer to the first question is, "He's not eligible yet." For a player to be eligible to enter the Hall of Fame, they must be retired from competition for three years. Fleury hasn't played a game in the NHL since his suspension Apr. 11, 2003 for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Despite no official announcement being made by either Fleury or the league, the popular belief is that Fleury retired following the 2004-05 lockout--the legend being that Fleury's retirement papers were on NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's desk when he returned to work. In that case, Fleury would likely be eligible for induction to the Hall of Fame next Nov.
Once eligible, Fleury's induction would be a no-brainer if not for his off-ice conduct. The very nature of his departure from the NHL--drummed out for substance abuse and relegated to playing in Europe--has left a bad taste in many mouths. Regardless, Fleury's resume speaks for itself: despite being 5'6" and drafted 166th in the 1987 draft, Fleury won a Stanley Cup in his rookie season, became the team's all-time leader in goals and points and was the toothless, mulletted face of the franchise during years where fans had very little to cheer about. Fleury ended up as one of 71 men in league history who amassed more than 1,000 points, despite being much smaller than the majority of his counterparts.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is home to many hockey greats, amongst them being hard-hitting Boston Bruin forward Cam Neely, whose career was cut short due to injuries. Theoren Fleury scored more than Neely for more seasons on Flames teams that were, to be quite honest, fairly crappy. To include Neely for sentimental reasons but exclude Fleury due to his illegal off-ice nature and the checkered end to his career is doing a disservice to the Calgary Flames, the Hall of Fame and the game of hockey itself. Regardless of how he exited the spotlight, the way Theoren Fleury played throughout 16 NHL seasons warrants his inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible next year.