Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas
The Hockey Hall of Fame Committee will be meeting in a couple of weeks to determine the 2009 Class for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Can they correct a gigantic mistake? Well, maybe football great Art Monk can help them (read on).
It’s arguably the greatest omission of any player in any major sport’s Hall of Fame. By virtually all accounts, one-time New York Ranger goaltender Lorne Chabot was one of the greatest goalies of his time (1926-1937) and of all-time. How do we know this today? That’s easy – in 1999, The Hockey News published a list of the top 100 players in NHL history, regardless of position. An expert panel selected Lorne Chabot, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, a first-team NHL All-Star and a Vezina Trophy winner, as the 84th greatest NHL player ever.
On that list, Chabot is ranked as the 17th greatest goaltender in NHL history. This is amazing given the fact that there are 33 goaltenders in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Lorne Chabot is not one of them.
At number 84, Chabot is ranked near a number of Hall of Fame goalies like George Vezina (75th, yes, the trophy is named after him), Chuck Gardiner (76th), Clint Benedict (77th), Tony Esposito (79th) and Billy Smith (80th). Chabot is also ranked ahead of Hall of Famer Johnny Bower (87th) and future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek (95th).
Chabot’s numbers compare favorably with goalies of his era, goalies of any era and Hall of Fame goalies. His career goals against average (GAA) is an astounding 2.04. He had three seasons of 10 or more shutouts. He finished his career with an amazing 73 shutouts.
Lorne Chabot’s playoff numbers are even more amazing. His GAA is an unbelievable 1.54 in 37 playoff games. Even more important, he won two Stanley Cups. All of this was accomplished while facing Hall of Fame goaltenders on an almost-nightly basis.
LOOKING AT OTHER SPORTS
Another good way to understand Chabot’s greatness is to look at “greatest” lists from the other major sports to see if any such omissions have occurred in baseball, basketball and football.
BASEBALL: In 1999, The Sporting News came out with its Top 100 list of all-time. Every baseball player on that list who is eligible to the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the Baseball Hall of Fame (the glaring omissions of Pete Rose and Shoeless (I hit .375 in the 1919 World Series and didn’t make an error but was thrown out for life for throwing the series) Joe Jackson must be left for another time).
BASKETBALL: In 1997, The National Basketball Association came out with its Top 50 list to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the NBA. The NBA, of course, is a much younger league than the other major sports and only five men play at once (which is probably why there wasn’t a Top 100). Every player on that list who is eligible to the Basketball Hall of Fame is in the Basketball Hall of Fame (starting to see a pattern yet?).
HERE’S WHERE THE HELP OF WIDE RECEIVER ART MONK COMES INTO PLAY
FOOTBALL: In the past when I’ve discussed this issue, I would have to write that in football, in 1999, The Sporting News came out with the football Top 100 list and all of those on the list who were eligible to the Football Hall of Fame were in the Football Hall of Fame EXCEPT the man ranked 91st, ART MONK. But this year, finally (better late than never), Art Monk was elected to the Football Hall of Fame. It took the football voters a few years (not decades), but they finally got it right.
So, today, the following can be written: Every eligible member in the Top 100 lists of baseball, football and hockey and the top 50 list in basketball is in their respective Hall of Fame. EXCEPT ONE: LORNE CHABOT. Time to fix that, no?
Chabot was the main goaltender when the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 1927-28. Chabot was the goaltender when the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1931-32. Chabot played in the only two six-overtime games in the history of the National Hockey League. He won one and lost one. Both were by scores of 1-0. Give that a little thought (play almost 18 periods of playoff hockey, give up one goal and go 1-1 in those games). Chabot was on the cover of Time Magazine (you can’t make this stuff up).
Chabot fought for his country in France during World War I. Later, he became a member of what would eventually become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
As a Ranger, Chabot was once approached by “an old-time boxer,” according to the accounts of the day, who offered him $15,000 to throw a game. Chabot refused and immediately reported the bribe attempt to his boss, the legendary Lester Patrick.
Here’s a great Chabot goaltending story that nobody even knows about today, but shows his greatness in a circumstance that could never happen today. In the 1934 playoffs, Chabot was playing for the Montreal Canadians, who had lost the first game of a (then) two-game series (total goals won the series back then) by a score of 3-2. The Canadians had lost a few top players to injuries and then, in the first three minutes of Game 2 against the Chicago Black Hawks in Chicago before 17,000 fans, the Canadians lost their great superstar, Howie Morenz. Chabot was amazing, shutting out the Black Hawks 1-0 in regulation.
But, under the rules of the day, the game went right to overtime (series tied at 3 goals each) and the Black Hawks would eventually tie the game at 1 and “win” the series, 4 goals to 3. Chabot stopped 46 shots for the undermanned Canadians while the Black Hawk goalie only had to face 26.
Imagine, shutting out a team on the road in the final game of the series, only to “lose,” 1-1 in overtime. Hard to fathom, no?
SO, WHY ISN’T HE IN?
There are a number of theories as to why he’s not in, none of which hold water today. He was allegedly involved in trying to start a players union, virtually unheard of then and certainly, to be kind, frowned upon by the powers-that-be (rumor has it that he was blackballed for decades in the Hall of Fame Selection room because of this). He played for six different teams, unheard of at that time. He died very young (at 46 in 1946) so he was quickly out of the public’s consciousness.
Today every league has a players’ union. Today, everybody (or so it seems) switches teams many times. Today, a guy who dies so young would be viewed (properly or not) as a hero of sorts.
In the last few years, this writer has been fortunate to speak to a couple of members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee about Lorne Chabot, specifically Doc Emrick and Emile “The Cat” Francis. While members aren’t allowed to speak about the specifics of what goes on in the room (the committee has 18 members, 14 votes are needed to make the Hall), both spoke glowingly of Chabot and both said that he had support in the room.
But apparently, not enough support to get elected. The only recent reason that’s been in the papers in the last five years was the old “if they didn’t vote him in then, why should we vote him in now?” Those arguments are easily refuted because, if a guy was blackballed for stupid reasons (is this happening today to Marvin Miller in baseball?) or it was a sign of weakness to play for many teams back then or he died young, today’s committee has to see the error of those misguided (negatively-influenced?) judgments of decades ago.
ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR CHABOT
As recently as 2003, the “Hockey Maven,” acknowledged expert Stan Fischler, on Madison Square Garden’s website, MSG.com, ranked Lorne Chabot as the fourth greatest Metro-area goaltender (among the Rangers, Devils, Islanders and the old New York Americans) of all-time. Mr. Fischler ranks Chabot ahead of four Hall of Famers – Chuck Rayner, Roy Worters, Gump Worsley and Eddie Giacomin.
VOTE HIM IN NOW!!!
For whatever reason, Lorne Chabot has slipped through the cracks. It’s not too late to vote him in now. Then, we can say that every player on the top lists of all-time players in the four major sports who are eligible to their respective Hall of Fame is in that Hall of Fame. Now that Art Monk is in, Lorne Chabot remains the last one – still on the outside looking in.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.