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There was a time when somebody from Edmonton being selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame was an annual occurrence.
But there’s never been a hat trick before.
Wednesday when HHoF chairman Lanny McDonald and the 18 voters completed voting with only a handful of them actually in the room at Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame, they’d selected three to be enshrined next November.
Kevin Lowe had probably figured he was never going to get there, he’d been left knocking at the door that Glen Sather, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and, after some delay, Glenn Anderson had all entered before.
Ken Holland, the new Oilers general manager, didn’t expect to get a call to tell him he was going in as a builder because, well, he’s still building.
And while St. Albert native Jarome Iginla was the one obvious first-ballot guy to go in, he seemed to be thrilled with the people he was going in with and the local angles involved when he got his call in his car an hour before all his family members were to gather for the occasion here.
When your correspondent asked Lowe, the first player selected in the first round of the first draft involving the Edmonton Oilers back in 1979, about the possibility of having given up joining the rest of the glory gang, said the truth is he never saw himself as a Hall-of-Famer.
To me, he was to that Oilers team much like what Rollie Miles ended up being with the first all-time team in Edmonton, the 1954-55-56 Grey Cup champion Eskimos.
One by one, the Jackie Parkers, Johnny Brights and Normie Kwongs were inducted. But you can’t put everybody from one team in the Hall and it wasn’t until years later that Parker, Bright, Kwong and a host of teammates finally convinced the selection committee that one man was missing.
Lowe said the truth is he never saw himself as guy who would one year have his banner hanging from the rafters.
“For me the Hall of Fame was Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier,” he said. “While I know there are players of my ilk in the Hall of Fame, and it’s a place for everyone, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed in the years I didn’t get in, but I certainly had come to the realization and understood that you had to put up more points and win awards.
“My dream had always been to win Stanley Cups. The Hall of Fame was something I never dreamed about,” said the defenceman his teammates nicknamed ‘Vish’ (for Viscious), who won six Cups, five in Edmonton and another with the Rangers. “Today, when I saw it was Lanny McDonald phoning me, I thought to myself, ‘Well, surely he’s not phoning to tell me I DIDN’T get in.’
“It’s all still surreal for me. It really hasn’t sunk in,” Lowe continued in the conference call. “I was blessed to have played as long as I did. I was blessed to have played with great players. I was blessed to have played in a great city that just embraced us.
“Just to think that this all started 40 some odd years ago when I was the Oilers first draft pick and actually didn’t know that the Oilers were in the NHL,” he said, marvelling at joining one of the four World Hockey Association merger teams. “So I cant really explain how shocked I am about this.”
For Holland, he didn’t exactly wake up in the morning expecting the call to the Hall.
“I’d been in Detroit for 36 years and with the Red Wings 22 years as a general manager and am certainly proud to have accomplished the things we did over a long period of time and I feel very fortunate that Daryl Katz and Bob Nicholson reached out to me and gave me an opportunity to come to Edmonton,” the former Medicine Hat Tigers player said of getting the call from Tigers legend McDonald. “I’m really cherishing this opportunity.
“I signed a five-year deal and I want to continue to build,” he said of adding the cherry to the top of his career that included four Stanley Cups, three as a general manager winning more combined regular-season and playoff games than any other NHL franchise.
“For me, there’s still a lot of things I want to accomplish in the game. Obviously winning another Stanley Cup is one of them. Today is one of those ultimate things. This is an incredible day for me and my family.”
Iginla, of course, like Messier and Fuhr before him, is the one true born (Royal Alexandra Hospital, Canada Day 1977) and raised (St. Albert) Edmontonian.
And despite being celebrated throughout his career as the leader of the Calgary Flames, he seemed to take special delight on that this day when he got the call from the other Flames legend, McDonald.
“I started a little bit late. I was about seven years old. Around the Edmonton area, that’s not young. But I got in hockey schools and I lived next to outdoor rinks, had a chance to fall in love with the sport and grew up in a great minor hockey system in St. Albert. That’s what this does, going into the Hockey Hall of Fame. You think of all the different people. I never would have dreamed this.”
Along with Marian Hossa, Doug Wilson and the first female goalie to get into the Hall, Kim St. Pierre, it’s a Hockey Hall of Fame class you could write about for days.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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