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Hall of Fame

Patience is key for many Hockey Hall of Fame hopefuls

Long waits for some honorees offer hope for others who've been eligible for years

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TORONTO -- The Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 represents as much patience from the honorees as it does hope for those waiting for their own Hall call.

The inductions of Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov and Eric Lindros this weekend is a sign to those who are years into their eligibility -- players such as Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Jeremy Roenick and Curtis Joseph -- that their time may come.

Vachon waited 31 years to get in after he was initially eligible in 1985 following the Hall of Fame's mandatory three-year waiting period after retirement. Makarov waited 16 years and Lindros had to wait six before being voted in by the 18-member selection committee.

Recchi will be in his fourth year of eligibility next year. Andreychuk will be in his ninth, Roenick his sixth and Joseph his fifth. There's also Alexander Mogilny and Theo Fleury going into their ninth years of eligibility, Paul Kariya going into his fifth and Chris Osgood his fourth.

"It definitely gives hope," Recchi said. "Ultimately that's the final touches of a great career and it's great to see them all being honored. It also gives us hope, the guys kind of sitting there who have their names get mentioned every year. It definitely does."

Video: Hockey Hall of Fame inductees accept honorary rings

Hope breeds optimism, but it doesn't create opportunity. That's what former players in Recchi's situation need. That's what Vachon, Makarov and Lindros had this year because there were no first-time eligible candidates who were considered slam dunks, unlike last year, when Chris Pronger, Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom or two years ago with Mike Modano, Dominik Hasek and Peter Forsberg.

Phil Housley, who waited nine years to get in, joined Pronger, Fedorov and Lidstrom in the Class of 2015. Rob Blake, in his second year of eligibility, joined the Class of 2014. Nobody else could get in in those years because the Hall of Fame limits the number of inductees in the players' category to a maximum of four per year.

Next year, Recchi, Andreychuk and others will have to contend with first-time eligible candidates Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson. If each is considered a lock, which is certainly plausible, there will be two spots open for induction.

To be voted in, a player must to be on at least 14 of the 18 secret ballots submitted by the selection committee members, who are allowed to vote for a maximum of four players per year.

"I look at it this way: It's a tough Hall to get in and that's a good thing," said John Davidson, who is the chairman of the selection committee along with being the president of hockey operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets. "You're now at 30 teams, 31 teams soon, and the standards don't change. There's a lot of competition. It's hard, really hard, to get into this Hall. You need a good percentage of the voters to make sure you're voted in. It's tough, really tough."

Recchi, much as Vachon and Makarov did years ago, said he has stopped paying attention to the Hall of Fame vote every year.

He believes with his three Stanley Cup rings as a player and his 1,533 points in 1,652 games that he's done enough to warrant inclusion into the exclusive fraternity. However, he doesn't see the point in worrying about getting into the Hall when it's out of his control.

"The first couple of years I looked, I paid attention, but I honestly haven't since," said Recchi, now a player development coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins. "It'd be an incredible, incredible honor, but I'll just let it play out and if I ever get that phone call it'll be one of the best phone calls I'll ever have. But I stopped looking ahead, and I'm going to help the Pittsburgh Penguins try to win another Stanley Cup. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."

Vachon thought that way for a while until he stopped thinking it was possible. He said he let the dream of getting into the Hall die a long time ago.

"Then all of a sudden I got a call and it changes your life," he said.

Video: Rogie Vachon discusses highlights of his career

Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald made that call to Vachon.

"That was one of the coolest phone calls I got to make," said McDonald, who was inducted into the Hall in 1992. "Maybe it shows hope for everyone out there that may have thought their time had passed."

McDonald said he could sense the call put Vachon at peace with his career.

"You look at it kind of like winning the Stanley Cup, there is so much excitement but also at the same time there is a peacefulness," McDonald said. "What a peaceful and satisfying feeling knowing they are finally being recognized and their plaque goes up on the wall for all time."

Vachon's reaction is another reason why McDonald is a proponent of keeping the voting process confidential, even though the Hall of Fame has historically taken criticism from media and fans for not making the results public.

"I'm a strong believer in it so that when that phone call comes it's not only a surprise it's recognition to know that the wait was worth the while," McDonald said of the confidential voting process.

Recchi is among a slew of players hoping the wait doesn't last too much longer. If it does end, he thinks he'll be like Vachon, Makarov and Lindros in not caring one bit about how long it took.

"Ultimately you'd get to say you're a Hall of Famer," Recchi said. "It'd be very special."

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