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Should International Play Be Considered In The HHOF Voting Process?

from Andrew Podnieks of Slap Shot at the NY Times,

But here is the curious paradox to these great players’ (2011 HHOF class) careers. Each is supremely proud of representing his country in international play, but if they hadn’t played a single moment internationally, would they still be being honored tonight? Almost certainly the answer is yes. While each had success on the international stage, it wasn’t necessarily the crux or defining moment of his career.

Yet for a modern hockey player to be considered worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame, shouldn’t his international resume be superb and work alongside his N.H.L. portfolio? After all, playing for one’s country is not just an honor — it’s a way of filtering the greatest of the great players from the merely great players. There is an important symbolism attached to playing internationally. It means at that time, for that event, a player is considered among the very best at his position and from his country. A player can win a Stanley Cup as a fourth-line utility man. The Olympics call for stars.

In the old days, amateur (i.e., international players) and pro (i.e., N.H.L.) players were two different beasts. But today, they are one and the same. Wayne Gretzky was the best N.H.L. player, but he also played every international event because he was (A) allowed to and (B) clearly among that group we might call the best of the best.


Filed in: NHL Talk, Non-NHL Hockey, International Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink



Yes, and that’s why we have Tretiak and Kharlamov in the HHOF.

Posted by JBM on 11/14/11 at 07:15 PM ET

Primis's avatar

It depends.

For instance, Sandis Ozolinsh certainly doesn’t belong in the HHoF.  International play should only count if it’s at a high level for a national power, or completely and utterly dominating for a non-traditional country.

Posted by Primis on 11/14/11 at 07:41 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Agree with Primis.

It should be considered for HHoF voting, but it should also be put at the proper tier of consideration.

If we’re going to consider a guy’s Elitserien career, then we should also consider a guy’s AHL stats.  Since I don’t know of a single player who would get into the hall based solely on his AHL stats, I’d say the same for any player in the Swedish Elite League.

Does that make it basically impossible for a player to get in without having played in the NHL?

Yeah… so?  Other leagues aren’t equal to the NHL in terms of skill.  It’s not even close.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/14/11 at 07:48 PM ET

Teddybear's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/14/11 at 04:48 PM ET

That argument holds maybe for the last 20 years, but what about all those good/great russian/east european players during the 70s and 80s ? They didn’t have a chance to play in the NHL due to political reasons…

What would a Sergej Makarov or a Vladimir Krutov have archieved, had they entered the NHL at the age of 20 ?

Posted by Teddybear from Sweden on 11/14/11 at 08:12 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I don’t think the NHL was the lone most-dominant force in the hockey landscape during those times.

I would rank international play higher then than I do now.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/14/11 at 08:22 PM ET


I would say that Olympics and World Cup games should count at the top of the tier on par with NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cups. Games played in the Finnish Elite League or KHL would count a level below the NHL.  Games at the World Championships should also count at a lower level.

Posted by timbits on 11/15/11 at 01:15 AM ET


International play doesn’t include any domestic European leagues, it’s solely the international tourneys like the WC and Olympics so there’s no worries about Elitserien or AHL careers.

When players showed dominance against the world’s best, before they could enter the NHL, in these international tourneys it was worthy of recognition.  Nowadays these tournaments just show you were considered elite relative to your country at some point like an all-star selection.  No one is naive enough to think that a player in today’s era could have a successful enough international career to merit HHOF induction with 0 NHL games played the way Tretiak and Kharlamov did, but there’s no reason to deny there have been instances before where this was the case with merit.

Posted by JBM on 11/15/11 at 01:44 AM ET

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