First, let’s discuss Riikka Sallinen.

In her first yr of eligibility, Sallinen grew to become the primary feminine Finnish participant – and the primary girl from outdoors Canada or the U.S. – to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as introduced on Monday afternoon.

Sallinen had a wonderful profession that began earlier than ladies’s worldwide hockey actually hit the mainstream. She performed within the first IIHF-sanctioned Women’s World Championships in 1990, was named the event’s greatest participant in 1994 and led the 1997 event in scoring; Sallinen was the primary girl to be named a top-three ahead in three consecutive tournaments.

In her first Olympics, in 1998 – the primary Games to incorporate ladies’s hockey – she led the event in scoring and led Finland to a bronze medal. Over nearly twenty years with the Finnish National Team, Sallinen received seven world championship medals and ended her profession with one other Olympic bronze medal in 2018, turning into the oldest hockey participant to win an Olympic medal at age 44.

She is the all-time main European scorer on this planet championships and Olympics — and she or he’s somebody opponents hated enjoying in opposition to. Sallinen pioneered a path for brand new Finnish stars like Jenni Hiirikoski, Petra Nieminen and Michelle Karvinen, who’re among the many greatest gamers on this planet.

She is already within the IIHF Hall of Fame, and with such a protracted and adorned profession, Sallinen is a pure match for Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinement. She is past deserving of this honour.

But she’s additionally not the one deserving participant. And but, when Sallinen attends the 2022 induction in November, she would be the lone girl on stage — regardless of there being two spots obtainable within the ladies’s class every year and a ton of eligible, achieved athletes to select from.

The most up-to-date instance: Caroline Ouellette, among the finest, most dominant gamers of her technology, was eligible for the primary time this yr. Somehow, regardless of her 10 gold medals, clutch objectives, and rating third all-time in Team Canada scoring, Ouellette couldn’t get the 14 votes from an 18-person committee wanted for induction.

It’s a evident omission, an indicator that the HHOF has points with how they resolve which ladies are worthy of induction and one other identify in a rising backlog of worthy candidates.

The HHOF is a spot for gamers who obtain excellence. There are dozens of feminine gamers who’ve executed simply that, however the Hall doesn’t embrace sufficient of them. They don’t even come shut.

It’s been 12 years since Cammi Granato and Angela James had been the primary feminine inductees. Nine ladies – together with Sallinen – have been voted in since then. Given the choice for two-player courses, there might be as many as 24 ladies within the Hall of Fame by now.

The committee has taken the choice of inducting two ladies into the identical HOF class as soon as, in 2010. Seven occasions they’ve elected one girl. Four occasions they’ve elected none.

Is the difficulty a scarcity of deserving candidates? Unequivocally, no.

Ouellette deserves it. Her case is, as The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek put it final yr throughout our mock induction, “simply overwhelming.” He was on the Hall’s induction committee for the utmost 15-year time period.

Oullette had longevity in addition to excellence, and was referred to as one of the dominant gamers within the sport and one of many hardest to defend. That issues. Or a minimum of it ought to.

Oullette by no means misplaced an Olympic closing in her close to 20 year-career – her first medal was in 1999 and she or he formally retired in 2018 – and is considered one of solely 5 athletes to win a gold medal at 4 consecutive Olympic Winter Games. She is a six-time IIHF World Championship gold medallist and six-time silver medallist. She is third all-time in video games performed with the Canadian ladies’s nationwide workforce and ranks third in scoring with 84 objectives, 150 assists and 234 factors in 205 worldwide video games – solely sitting behind Hall of Famers Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser.

You can not overlook her success outdoors the worldwide enviornment both. She was a two-time MVP within the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and received the Clarkson Cup 4 occasions with the Montreal Les Canadiennes. In three seasons on the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Ouellette had 229 factors (92 objectives, 137 assists) in 97 video games, a mean of two.36 factors per sport. That’s third-all time in Bulldogs historical past. She was a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award (greatest feminine participant in NCAA), received an NCAA championship and was named MVP of the event.

Ouellette checks all of the bins; her credentials are impeccable – however 14 folks couldn’t agree she was adequate.

It doesn’t make a lot sense. Especially after we take into account a feminine inductee would by no means take a spot from a male participant. Her induction, for instance, wouldn’t imply Daniel Sedin couldn’t get into the Hall together with his twin brother.

And she’s only a latest instance. There are extra.

Jennifer Botterill has been eligible for the Hall since 2014 – she retired in 2011 after a 14-year profession primed for Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinement. It simply hasn’t come but.

Botterill cracked Canada’s Olympic roster in 1998 —  at these Games, Team USA received gold; Canada silver. At 18, she was the youngest participant on the workforce. Botterill grew to become a key member of Canada’s dominant run on the Olympics, with gold medals in 2002, 2006 and 2010. She’s a five-time world champion and a two-time MVP of the event, with three silver medals.

At Harvard, Botterill led the Crimson to their first-ever nationwide title in her freshman yr, was a four-time All-American and stays the one two-time nationwide participant of the yr. She ended her NCAA profession with 157 objectives and 340 factors in 113 video games and nonetheless holds a number of NCAA (all-time factors per sport) and Harvard (all-time scoring) information.

Julie Chu has been eligible for just a few years now and is considered one of Team USA’s most adorned athletes with 4 Olympic medals (3 silver, 1 bronze) and 9 world championship medals (5 gold, 4 silver). She was the primary Asian-American to make the U.S. senior nationwide workforce in 2000, when she was simply 18 years outdated. She led the 2008 worlds in assists and the 2009 worlds in factors, profitable gold on each events. Chu is considered one of three American ladies to play in 4 Olympics, together with Hall of Fame defender Angela Ruggiero and future candidate Hilary Knight. At Harvard, she set NCAA information for assists (197) and factors (285). Her factors report was damaged by Meghan Agosta, however she nonetheless ranks third all-time.

(Note: Botterill has extra factors than Chu and Agosta, however the NCAA didn’t begin monitoring report books for ladies’s hockey till 2000-01.)

Meghan Duggan captained Team USA to its first Olympic Gold medal in 20 years on the 2018 Games in PyeongChang after profitable silver in 2010 and 2014. Duggan performed in eight world championships, profitable seven occasions. In faculty, she received three NCAA championships with the University of Wisconsin, received a nationwide participant of the yr award and graduated because the No. 1 scorer in program historical past. Off the ice, Duggan was pivotal within the negotiations with USA Hockey for honest compensation for gamers.

That’s solely 4 gamers, and I haven’t even talked about any Europeans, or goalies.

Florence Schelling was a standout goalie for Northeastern and the Swiss National Team. Kim Martin received two Olympic medals (one silver, one bronze) for Sweden and was notably the goalie who backstopped Sweden to their first-ever Olympic gold medal sport, making 37 saves within the semifinal to upset the U.S. in 2006, when she was named goalie of the event. She was a finalist for NCAA participant of the yr and received an NCAA Championship MVP in 2008, too. Maria Rooth is one other Swede with a formidable resume: 18 factors in 20 Olympic video games; 164 factors in 92 video games at Minnesota-Duluth; a three-time Patty Kazmaier finalist; and two-time Olympic medallist. Jenny Potter received 4 Olympic medals with Team USA and has probably the most profession factors on the Olympics of any American participant (32). Natalie Darwitz was among the finest U.S. gamers ever, with a long-lasting impression on Team USA after making her first senior workforce at 15 years outdated. She nonetheless has probably the most Olympic objectives for Team USA (14).

I may go on, however you get the purpose. There are loads of ladies’s hockey gamers who match the standards for induction: “Playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her team or teams and to the game of hockey in general.”

These are among the greatest gamers to ever play the ladies’s sport and they’re nonetheless on the skin trying in.

Why?

First, there’s the truth that Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Granato are the one two ladies on an 18-person committee; Granato was a really latest addition.

That’s an issue when the trick of the Hall of Fame is getting 14 hard-nosed folks to agree on one thing. We can count on former teammates or rivals to bang the desk for different deserving ladies. But what of the boys within the room?

The Hockey Hall of Fame is about honouring the very best gamers on this planet. It’s not the NHL Hall of Fame. And the committee must do a greater job of honouring profitable careers with regards to the feminine poll. Because there are deserving gamers ready for causes that stay a thriller to me.

They are adequate to be there. They are profitable gold medals, world championships, nationwide championships. They are breaking and setting information. That is the measure of success within the ladies’s sport.

Voting in Sallinen and Ouellette shouldn’t be that tough.

This isn’t agonizing over whether or not Guy Carbonneau ought to lastly get in. Or whether or not to vote for Rod Brind’Amour or Henrik Zetterberg. We’re nonetheless early sufficient into the method of inducting ladies into the HHOF that these candidates are the tap-ins. They’re the no-doubt, “got my vote” success tales. They must be, a minimum of. But the committee appears to be making it extra sophisticated than it must be.

So how can it get higher?

In the long run it’s about involving extra feminine gamers, extra folks with expertise and stakes within the ladies’s sport into the voting committee. That’s a long-term aim although. These appointments final a very long time and the folks on the committee have earned these spots.

But within the meantime, earlier than you may get a extra consultant group of inductors, it’s not that tough to have a look at the numbers.

If you’re making an attempt to fill out the ladies’s wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame and you may’t say the third main scoring within the historical past of Canadian ladies’s hockey doesn’t deserve a spot, what are we doing right here?

Inducting gifted, achieved, deserving ladies to the Hockey Hall of Fame comes at the price of nobody, definitely not when there’s just one girl getting into yearly. It comes at the price of an empty seat on induction day.

In years to return the method will solely get extra sophisticated. There is a backlog of expertise growing that’s going to worsen as extra achieved gamers turn into eligible for induction.

Kacey Bellamy is already retired. Monique and Jocelyn Lamoureux retired final yr. Shannon Szabados, among the finest feminine goalies to play ladies’s hockey, hasn’t performed since 2018. Neither has four-time Canadian Olympian Meghan Agosta. Jenni Hiirikoski, Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianna Decker are going to retire ultimately.

Hopefully at that time the mindset of the committee can have shifted. But till then, the repair is simple. It must be, a minimum of.

(Photo of Caroline Ouellette and Meghan Duggan: AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)



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