The former defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks and current Sharks general manager had been eligible for the Hall since 1996 but had yet to get the call. So when it came time for the Class of 2020 to be announced Wednesday, he decided to spend the day swimming with his grandkids, figuring it would not be any different.
Except this time, it was.
Wilson was caught off-guard when he picked up the phone and was told by Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald he had been selected.
"It was truly a pleasant shock, truly unexpected," Wilson said.
The significance of the moment was captured when Wilson handed the phone to his wife, Kathy, who broke down with emotion when McDonald delivered the news to her. McDonald said he began welling up himself at Kathy's reaction.
"To say it was worth the wait is an understatement," Wilson said. "And I'm sure Kevin [Lowe] would agree."
Lowe, a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers, had been eligible for the Hall of Fame since 2001.
He and Wilson were two of the five players elected Wednesday, along with 19-season veteran forward Marian Hossa, former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla and Canada women's national team goalie Kim St-Pierre. Former Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, now GM of the Oilers, was elected into the Builders' category.
Video: Iginla, Hossa lead 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame Class
Though Hossa and Iginla were first-year candidates, Wilson and Lowe had been waiting a long time. Each said his election after so many years should serve as a message for eligible players who have been passed over multiple times: Never give up hope.
"I'm not even a Hall of Famer in my own house, so joining this club means the world to me," Wilson said.
Lowe was equally as humble.
"I never saw myself as a Hall of Famer," Lowe said. "For me, the Hall of Fame was Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier …
"When I saw it was Lanny McDonald phoning me, I thought to myself, 'Surely, he's not calling to tell me I didn't get in.
"It's all surreal for me."
For each of them, to be honest.
Wilson scored 827 points (237 goals, 590 assists) in 1,024 NHL games with the Blackhawks and Sharks. He had nine seasons with at least 50 points and won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL in 1981-82, when he scored 85 points (39 goals, 46 assists) in 76 games with Chicago. He also scored 80 points (19 goals, 61 assists) in 95 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
The 62-year-old described his election as the cherry on top of a sundae.
"The game of hockey has special people in it," he said. "I'm a guy that played in the 1970s, '80s and '90s and very fortunate to have an older brother (former NHL forward Murray Wilson) -- the best big brother you could have -- who was fortunate to win four Stanley Cups with [the] Montreal [Canadiens]. My first roommate was Stan Mikita. I got to play with Keith Magnuson, one of the finest people to ever walk this earth. And Bobby Orr.
"It goes on and on and on. So for me, this game has given me way more than I've given it."
Lowe won the Stanley Cup six times and played in seven NHL All-Star Games. He scored 431 points (84 goals, 347 assists) in 1,254 NHL games and 58 points (10 goals, 48 assists) in 214 playoff games with the Oilers and Rangers.
"Although I know there are players of my ilk in the Hall of Fame ... I understood you had to put up more points, win awards," the 61-year-old said. "My dream was always to win Stanley Cups -- the Hall of Fame was something I never dreamed about."
It's a dream he said those who have been passed over in the past should not give up on.
"They say good things come to those who wait," he said. "That's very true."