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Starkey: Will Fred Shero be shut out again?

| Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's funny, Penguins general manager Ray Shero was saying the other day, how many people assume his late father, Fred, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame decades ago.

Their assumption is understandable.

Freddie "The Fog" Shero, who quit coaching 30 years ago and died nine years later, led the universally despised Philadelphia Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and '75. He reached the Final four times in 10 years as an NHL coach.

Fred Shero was 63-47 in the playoffs. His regular-season points percentage of .612 ranks 10th all-time. He presided over one of the more significant victories in NHL history, when his Flyers hammered the Soviet Red Army, 4-1, on Jan. 11, 1976.

Beyond that, Fred Shero was an innovator. He was the first head coach to hire an assistant and among the first to use video as a coaching tool and to institute game-day skates. He was a pioneer in the study of Soviet hockey, even traveling behind the Iron Curtain to do so.

Yet, somehow, Fred Shero is not in the Hall of Fame.

We don't even know if he's ever been nominated because nominations are kept secret.

"I think over the past few years, people are realizing he's not in and are making a big push," Ray Shero said. "I've talked to (Flyers chairman) Ed Snider, and he said, 'This is so ridiculous. Weren't people watching hockey?' "

Of course they were, but the '70's Flyers played the most violent form of it anyone had seen. They racked up fighting majors and resentments by the dozen — some of the latter lingering to this day.

I have to believe that's the main reason for the Hall of Shame's annual shunning of Fred Shero: Certain voters couldn't handle the fact he kicked their tail. Nobody on the Hall's 18-member selection committee is permitted to talk about the process, so it's hard to tell.

Several key contributors from those Flyers teams are in the Hall, including players Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Bernie Parent, general manager Keith Allen and Snider.

Fred Shero wasn't much of a schmoozer, which probably hasn't helped his cause. I asked Ray Shero if his father, who died of stomach cancer at age 65 in 1990, ever mentioned the Hall of Fame.

"Not a lot," he said. "The night he was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame, he said, 'This is an unbelievable honor. Maybe one day I'll be in the big Hall.' "

Like all nonplayers, Fred Shero would have to go in as a "builder." Contributions to the game at all levels are considered. That is why, for example, the winningest Canadian junior coach, Brian Kilrea, was inducted even though he never was a head coach in the NHL. Fred Shero, incidentally, won championships at three levels of the minors.

True, Fred Shero only coached 10 years, but are we really going to value longevity over greatness• That kind of warped thinking is why Jimmy Johnson's not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Johnson has no shot even though he turned the hapless Dallas Cowboys into the team of the 1990s and whipped the Buffalo Bills in back-to-back Super Bowls by a combined score of 82-30.

Punch line: Marv Levy, who coached those Bills and never won a Super Bowl, was enshrined 10 years ago.

That's not to say Levy was undeserving, just as men such as Kilrea and ex-Penguins GM Craig Patrick were not undeserving of their inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's just that those two and many more belonged behind Fred Shero in line.

One of the 18 members of the selection committee must nominate a candidate, who needs 75 percent of the vote (14 of 18). Only one nonplayer per year -- two, if a referee or linesman is not elected -- can be voted in.

The Selection Committee, which has changed in composition over the years, meets June 28. Here are the 18 members:

James M. Gregory, longtime team, league executive; Pat Quinn, ex-player, longtime coach and GM; Scotty Bowman, coach; David Branch, president Canadian Hockey League; Colin Campbell, ex-player and coach, recently stepped down as NHL's chief of discipline; John Davidson, ex-player, broadcaster, current Blues president of hockey operations; Eric Duhatschek, journalist; Jan-Ake Edvinsson, general secretary of the International Ice Hockey Federation; Mike Emrick, broadcaster; Michael Farber, journalist; Mike Gartner, ex-player; Igor Larionov, ex-player; Lanny McDonald, ex-player; Yvon Pedneault, journalist; Serge Savard, ex-player, GM; Harry Sinden, Bruins executive; Peter Stastny: ex-player; Bill Torrey, GM of New York Islanders dynasty.

I know several of those men -- many of whom covered Fred Shero or competed against him in one form or another -- and greatly respect most. Unfortunately, the entire committee is tarnished by the exclusion of one of the more unique and accomplished hockey coaches of all-time.

Lift The Fog, gentlemen.

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