Put Fred Shero in the Hall of Fame

Posted: June 27, 2012

ON TUESDAY, the Hockey Hall of Fame's 15 voting members will meet in secrecy in Toronto to vote on the 2012 induction class. Former Flyers coach Pat Quinn and Jim Gregory, co-chairs of the selection committee, will announce the class just after 3 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon in a live news conference.

The class undoubtedly should include Fred Shero, the man who led the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Here's a snippet from a column that this writer wrote, which appeared in the Daily News on Nov. 10, 2010:

It's time. The Hockey Hall of Fame should include former Flyers coach, Fred Shero.

This week, there was an enormous push to induct Pat Burns, the Stanley Cup-winning coach into the Hall of Fame. With all due respect, he should take a back seat to 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 quirky 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 a benevolent push before his premature passing.

"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."

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