Monday, 9 January 2012

Hall of Famers from the Earliest Years

In a previous post I wrote that players from the earliest days of organized hockey have largely been left out of the Hall of Fame, not because they are undeserving, but because those voting players into the Hall were unfamiliar with them. The 1890s (and before) have more to offer than Graham Drinkwater, Dan Bain and Mike Grant.

This is one issue that historical Point Allocation results can really help us address. We can use Point Allocation records to develop a career rating system, to determine who likely merits induction into the Hall of Fame. There's no way to develop a definitive answer, of course. On top of the flaws inherent in numerical player valuation systems such as Point Allocation, there's also the balance between peak value and career value to be considered. What's better: having a few truly exceptional seasons, or having a lengthy career full of merely very good seasons? There's no one answer to that question.  As such, we have to strike an arbitrary balance between these two aspects of a player's career, something that seems right while bearing in mind we can never get it objectively right.

The Hall of Fame by Point Allocation system (HOFPA, or "Jimmy"), is made up of four parts:

1. The player's Total Points Allocated per Thousand Minutes (TPAK), for his senior-level career, times five.

2. The player's single-season best TPAK, times four.

3. The sum of the player's five best seasons by TPAK.

4. The player's career TPAK times his senior-level effective games played, divided by 120.

Add these up, and you get the HOFPA score. Let's have a look at the players whose careers were primarily in the 1890s to begin with, since we don't have any actual Hall-of-Famers from the 1880s. (The Hall? column indicates whether the player is currently in the Hall of Fame.)

1890s Players Meriting Induction
1McDougall, Bob1894-1899798.2No
2Bain, Dan1895-1902586.4Yes
3Grant, Mike1894-1902281.1Yes
4Swift, Dolly1887-18994578.7No
5Young, Weldy1891-1899278.0No
6Routh, Havilland1892-1897477.6No
7McKerrow, Clare1896-1899476.5No
8Howard, Atty1891-19067276.0No

The player with the most notable career in the 1890s, by this method, is Montreal Victorias right winger Bob McDougall. Dan Bain and Mike Grant, who are both in the Hall, come next. They are good selections. The five remaining players on the above list should have been given good, long looks for the Hall, and should probably be in. (There is no realistic chance of them getting in now - the process for induction requires someone on the current committee to champion a player to even get them on the ballot, and no one really cares about players from this era anymore.)

All of the men mentioned here will get profiles on this site eventually. This post is just laying groundwork.

1890s Players Possibly Meriting Induction
9Armytage, Jack1891-19014574.8No
10Trihey, Harry1898-1902573.2Yes
11Davidson, Cam1896-1900571.1No
12Russell, Herb1892-19026270.6No

Another 1890s Hall-of-Famer, Harry Trihey, is a maybe here. He's probably deserving, which means we should also include the Winnipeg Vics' Jack Armytage, who was essentially Dan Bain before there was a Dan Bain. I would personally draw the line below Trihey. This, of course, would exclude...

1890s Players Probably Not Meriting Induction

13Drinkwater, Graham1893-1899468.1Yes
XFarrell, Art1897-1901758.9Yes

Drinkwater is certainly close enough that his selection is not a terrible one, seen through the lens of this method. Art Farrell, of course, wrote the first real hockey book (Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game), which I've quoted from frequently here. He played with Trihey on the mighty Shamrocks from the turn of the century, and his authorship made him a well-known name. Being a well-known name can often be enough to get you inducted when you played a long time ago, as we'll see as we get into later years.

So the Hall of Fame committee seems to have only produced one real false positive from the 1890s, but of course they also overlooked seven players who probably deserve the honour, including the single most outstanding player of the decade. They could have done much worse, but also so much better.

Now we can go back into the 1880s. As it turns out, there are really only three players from that decade to have the value and consistency required to rank highly by this system. They should be familiar names to regular readers by now:

1880s Players Meriting Induction
1Stewart, James1884-1894186.4No
2Cameron, Allan1885-1895286.1No
3Paton, Tom1885-1893G84.5No

We've discussed each of Stewart, Cameron and Paton before. It seems you can add "should-be Hall-of-Famers" to their resumes.

1880s Players Possibly Meriting Induction
4Arnton, Jack1884-18901964.9No
5Campbell, Jack1885-1891262.3No
6Hodgson, Billy1885-1888955.9No

We've also talked about Jack Campbell. Although he had a very high peak value, said peak was very short, too short to merit real consideration for the Hall of Fame. These players are so far behind the three Winged Wheelers mentioned above that that triumvirate are the only deserving men from the 1880s.

In coming posts we'll look at the 1900s and 1910s in terms of Hall of Fame players as well. The committee did a better job with these later players, which makes a good deal of sense when you're relying solely on personal knowledge of the players involved.


  1. Collins comes in at 66.74 by this system, just below Drinkwater. He had a number of very good years, but no really great ones. His best seasons by TPAK are 4.10, 3.52, 3.26, 3.08 and 3.00.

  2. where does Ernie McLea show up?


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