"I was beginning to wonder whether I was a good hockey player or not."
-- Glenn Anderson, on his long wait to get into the Hall
Usually someone connected with the Hall makes a phone call to give the news to a player. One of the greatest stories surrounding a Hall of Fame call came in 1992 when one-time Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey received a call from his wife who said someone from the Pro Football Hall of Fame called to say that John had been "indicted" and needed to call someone from Canton in a hurry. Sylvia Mackey probably misheard what the caller said, but Mackey was worried for a couple minutes because he wasn't sure why he was indicted and needed to clear name in a hurry.
Glenn Anderson got the call June 17 of this year. But after being passed over the past few years in Hall of Fame balloting, he didn't believe the voice on the other end. Anderson thought it was a prank, since he was known around the NHL as a world-class jokester.
"The other years I didn't get a phone call from the Hall, this year I get a call from Kelly (Massey), who I met at the World Championships," Anderson said. "When she called, I knew something was up. That was a good sign. Then they said to call this other number and get a hold of Jim Gregory (the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee), so I knew that was a good sign too, except for when the phone didn't work and the number was out of order. So now who is playing the joke on me?
"I am usually the guy playing the jokes, now they are playing the joke on me. Then they gave me 2 other phone numbers and they didn't work either. So I thought for sure something else was up. It was the only time I was really nervous, because I was hearing really good things about it."
Anderson certainly had the credentials, as he was part of 5 Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup championship teams and was a member of the 1994 New York Rangers Cup team. He scored 498 goals and added 601 assists. In the playoffs, Anderson had 93 goals and 121 assists. He scored 5 overtime playoff goals and 17 game-winners. He was part of the Rendez Vous '87 series and played on two Canada Cup squads. He had Hall of Fame numbers, but the voters disagreed from 1999-2007.
Finally, Anderson did get a hold of Gregory, who told him that he finally made it to the Toronto hockey shrine.
"It was great and overwhelming. I was very excited," Anderson said of his chat with Gregory. "I was very excited for who got in though too. I found out that Igor (Larionov) got in and was hanging around with him the last few months (before the call), (linesman) Ray Scapinello and (long time junior hockey executive) Ed Chynoweth, so the class of players, ref and a builder that you are going in with means a lot too. I was beginning to wonder whether I was a good hockey player or not."
Anderson joins Oilers teammates Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey and Mark Messier in the Hall of Fame, along with his Oilers coach and General Manager Glen Sather.
It was Sather who drafted Anderson in the fourth round of the 1979 draft, arguably one of the best a single team ever had. Edmonton took defenseman Kevin Lowe in the first round, Edmonton did not have a second-round choice, but at No. 48 in the third round, they claimed Messier. Anderson was taken as the 69th player in the draft.
Fourth-round draft picks are long shots to make an NHL roster, so there was no guarantee Anderson would ever put on an Oilers jersey. He had played college hockey with the University of Denver, where he had 26 goals and 29 assists in 41 games.
Anderson made the Oilers roster during the 1980 training camp and scored 30 goals in his rookie year. He played 11 years with Edmonton and was a key component of the 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990 Cup teams. Edmonton traded him (along with Fuhr and Craig Berube) to Toronto (for Vincent Damphousse, Peter Ing, Scott Thornton and Luke Richardson) in 1991. New York Rangers GM Neil Smith traded Mike Gartner to Toronto for Anderson at the 1994 trade deadline, where he joined his former Oilers teammates Messier, Lowe, Jeff Beukeboom, Craig MacTavish and Esa Tikkanen on the Rangers roster. Anderson signed with St. Louis after the 1994-95 lockout and bounced around after that. Anderson signed with Vancouver on January 22, 1996 and then was picked up by Sather and the Oilers on waivers 4 days later and went back to St. Louis on a waiver claim on March 12, 1996. Anderson finished his career in Europe in 1996-97.
Anderson had a great time after getting the word from Gregory back in mid-June.
"It was non-stop. The phone had not stopped ringing since about 1:30 on Tuesday (June 17)," said Anderson with a laugh.