Fred Shero deserves place in Hockey Hall of Fame

Posted: November 09, 2010

As Dino Ciccarelli, Jim Devellano, Cammi Granato, Angela James and Daryl Seaman became the latest to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last night in Toronto, an outcry begging for Pat Burns to be included bellowed across Canada.

More than 71,000 people have signed a petition online, urging the Hall of Fame committee's 18 members to consider honoring Burns, the former NHL coach, before he loses his on-going battle with cancer.

It really is a nice gesture.

But with all due respect, Burns belongs in line behind a forgotten former Flyers coach, Fred Shero.

Consider: Shero won two Stanley Cups to one for Burns, Shero finished with a significantly higher points percentage than Burns, and Shero made more of a tangible contribution to the game.

Shero, who passed away in 1990, was one of the game's great innovators. Although Roger Neilson, nicknamed "Captain Video," was given credit for the use of video in game preparation, Shero was the first one to study it.

Shero is one of the inventors of the "morning skate" as a way to get players mentally and physically focused on the day of a game. He was the first to study the Soviet's influence on hockey. He was the first head coach to bring on a full-time assistant coach.

Most importantly, Shero was the first coach in the NHL to implement a system.

"Freddie was ahead of the game," said Bob Clarke, the captain of Shero's back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning teams. "His style of game, he was the first coach to really use system hockey, where everybody knew where they were supposed to go. Everybody stayed in their positions. It was the first time that a style of game had been perfected. Everyone knew that the Flyers had a certain style of game - and I'm not just talking about the fighting.

"It was the first time any of us had ever played in a system."

Under Shero, Clarke said the Flyers were able to get more individual attention with the addition of assistant coach Mike Nykoluk.

"One man, as a head coach, doesn't really have time to talk to 20 people," Clarke said. "Having an assistant allowed for more individual teaching. With one coach, you could end up being too distant."

Flyers owner, now chairman Ed Snider was a big proponent of adding more coaches. Snider saw the work that assistant coaches did during his time with the Eagles and knew they wouldn't clog up the bench.

"Freddie was absolutely unique," Snider said. "His concepts were way ahead of his time. Honestly, I think it's a revisionist history sometimes with the way he was viewed. People look at the fighting and the rough stuff and they forget that we played really good hockey."

Shero strung together four straight seasons with a .700 winning percentage, won two Stanley Cups, went to the finals 3 years in a row. He then took the Rangers to the 1979 finals. He only missed the playoffs 1 year as a coach, that in his first season with the Flyers. His teams were 63-47 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

He was the first winner of the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 1974, something Burns went on to win three times.

For the last 5 years, Snider and Clarke - who are both in the Hall of Fame - have written letters to the selection committee outlining Shero's accomplishments.

At least there is plenty of time for a reversal of thinking. There are no time limitations on someone's eligibility.

"I am amazed and certainly disappointed that all these years later, he still isn't in the Hall of Fame," Snider said. "Year after year, we send these letters, hoping for serious consideration. That's all we can do."

Clarke said he doesn't think it's right that the Flyers have to keep nagging the selection committee, whose members are not permitted to speak publicly about the worthiness of candidates.

"It's been too long," Clarke said. "I don't think it's a hidden society. But why should myself and Mr. Snider have to nominate Freddie for the Hall of Fame? Wasn't anyone watching hockey?"

Shero's son, Ray Shero, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, said actual members of the selection committee have been surprised to learn his father is not enshrined in the Hall.

Shero said his father, nicknamed Freddie "The Fog" because of his aloof personality, definitely wondered why he wasn't included in the Hall before he passed.

"I remember back in 1990, when he was inducted into the Flyers' Hall of Fame. One of the Flyers said, 'Oh that's a great honor, it's great to have you back Freddie, being back in the Flyers' Hall of Fame.' And he said, 'Yeah, to be in the Flyers' Hall of Fame means a lot, maybe one day I'll be in the big one,' " Ray Shero recalled. "He was a great innovator, he won Stanley Cups, he won at every level. He contributed to the game of hockey. Over the last few years, there's been much more of a push to have him recognized. If that would happen, that would be fantastic.

"But either way, we're very proud of all that he accomplished."

The flaw is in the Hall of Fame's selection system. Not only must a candidate receive 75 percent of the vote (or 14 of 18 votes) when a quorum of at least nine selectors is present, but a coach must also be selected in the "Builders" category. Only one "Builder" can go in per year.

That is what has limited the number of coach inductions to six in the last 20 years: Herb Brooks (2006), Neilson (2002), Glen Sather (1997), Al Arbour (1996), Bob Johnson (1992) and Scotty Bowman (1990).

Despite his accolades, Shero was never given the benevolent push before his premature passing that helped Neilson and likely will help Burns.

"I think there's certainly lots of people who have gone in and haven't done close to what Freddie has done," Clarke said. "It's been too long.

ON-ICE

SELECTION COMMITTEE

These 18 men are the Hockey Hall of Fame voters:

Colin Campbell: Senior VP of Hockey Operations, NHL

Jim Gregory: Senior VP of Hockey Operations, NHL

Pat Quinn: former Flyers GM and coach

Scotty Bowman: 30-year HOF NHL coach

David Branch: Commissioner, OHL

John Davidson: President, St. Louis Blues

Eric Duhatschek: Writer, Globe and Mail

Jan-Ake Edvinsson: Secretary, IIHF

Mike Emrick: Broadcaster, N.J. Devils

Michael Farber: Writer, Sports Illustrated

Mike Gartner: HOF player

Dick Irvin: Broadcaster, "Hockey Night in Canada"

Lanny McDonald: HOF player

Yvon Pednault: Writer, Montreal La Presse

Serge Savard: HOF player

Harry Sinden: Alt. Governor, Boston Bruins

Peter Stastny: HOF player

Bill Torrey: Former GM, N.Y. Islanders

THE WEEK AHEAD

Team-bonding

Today, Pinehurst, N.C.

The Flyers flew to Raleigh, N.C., yesterday a few days ahead of Thursday night's contest with the Hurricanes to partake in a team-bonding activities. The team, along with coaches, trainers and staff, will play a round of golf at Pinehurst's famed No. 2 course, home of the 2014 U.S. Open. Danny Briere, assistant coach Craig Berube and assistant equipment manager Harry Bricker are the best golfers of the group, according to coach Peter Laviolette.

at Carolina

Thursday, 7 o'clock

The Flyers topped Carolina, 3-2, last Monday night during their season-high six-game winning streak. Thursday is only the sixth home game for Carolina, which started the season with trips to Russia, Finland and the West Coast. Jeff Skinner surprisingly leads the Hurricanes with 12 points in 14 games. Former Phantom Jon Matsumoto scored two goals in his first four NHL games with the 'Canes.

vs. Florida

Saturday, 7 o'clock

Saturday will be the Flyers' first of four matchups with the Florida Panthers this season. Florida (5-7-0) has struggled, but that's not out of the norm for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in a decade. David Booth, who was sidelined most of last season because of a vicious hit by Mike Richards, leads Florida in scoring with five goals and five assists.

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