Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hall of Fame Standards for the Challenge Era

Today we're going to wrap up our look at the Inductinator, which is a system I devised to determine implicit standards for Hall of Fame player selections. Well, not quite wrap up, since I should make some comment about European and female players, which I will at some point. But let's stick to the things we can mostly explain for now. In Hockey Abstract 2014, I discuss at some length the results from 1930 to the present, both to shed light on history and to make predictions of future inductions. I've already covered the period 1912 to 1929 here on Hockey Historysis. And now we look at the years up to 1911.

This time period, which I'll call the Challenge Era, calls for a somewhat different approach than more recent times. There are no individual awards or All-Star teams to draw information from. Player career statistics are all but useless, in large part because careers were so much shorter in the 19th century, so that comparisons between early professional players in the oughts and senior players before 1900 are not terribly informative.

As it turns out, we don't really need all that, because we have the Stanley Cup. Take note that of all the Hall of Fame players who played before 1911, none of them began their careers before the 1892/93 season, the first that the Stanley Cup was awarded. The best pre-Stanley Cup players such as Tom Paton, Allan Cameron, James Stewart and Jack Campbell have not been honoured. For the 25 Hall of Famers from this era, approximately 60% of their total Inductinator scores is made up of Stanley Cup-related exploits.

Of the 26 Hall of Famers from this era (see below), only five did not win a Stanley Cup championship. So we start by giving skaters 10 points for each Cup championship, and goaltenders 25 per title. Captains of Stanley Cup teams get extra points; players who captained one such team (such as Graham Drinkwater and Tommy Phillips) get 10 points, and each additional Cup captaincy earns a whopping 70 points apiece. Mike Grant, Dickie Boon and Bruce Stuart were captains twice each, while Harvey Pulford was three times, which is enough by itself to get him over the minimum score of 100 for the Inductinator to see the player as being a Hall-of-Famer.

I should say at this point that for this era, the number of Cup championships a player has is not as straightforward as it is for later players. During the challenge era, there were often multiple Cup series played in a single season. The current champion could be called upon by the trustees to defend their title several times in the same season, even sometimes in the middle of a season. In 1908, for example, the Montreal Wanderers had to defend against challenges from the Ottawa Victorias in January, and both the Winnipeg Maple Leafs and Toronto HC in March. For purposes of the Inductinator, we do not count a successful defence of an existing title to be a Stanley Cup championship; it's only when a new champion results from a series that it's counted. The Wanderers don't get credit for three Cup championships for 1908, they get one.

Players winning the Cup with multiple teams get a bonus of 40 points. While this may not seem to sensible, there's not other way to explain how Tom Hooper is in the Hall of Fame. Bruce Stuart, Tommy Phillips and Fred Scanlan also get these points, but they'd have enough points otherwise to still meet the implicit standards. Cecil Blachford also won Cups with two teams, but these points aren't enough to get him to 100. Which is good, since he's not in the Hall of Fame.

Games played, and especially goals scored, in Stanley Cup matches contribute a lot of points the to the Challenge Era Inductinator. Players earn points if they participated in 10 or more Cup matches, and goaltenders earn more per game (since there's so little else to go on for them). A player who did not play in a single Stanley Cup match suffers a penalty of 20 points; otherwise, there would be no way to explain how Herb Jordan is not in the Hall.

But in terms of Challenge Era players being recognized by the Hall of Fame, it seems nothing is as important as scoring goals in Stanley Cup matches. Of the Inductinator scores for the Hall of Famers, a full 26% is earned by Stanley Cup goals alone. Every single player from this era that scored at least 14 goals in Stanley Cup matches is in the Hall of Fame. Fred Whitcroft, who did not play very much top-level hockey but scored 14 goals in eight Cup matches, is in. He gets 100 points for his Stanley Cup goals. He has to, since he did nothing else of note in his hockey career, and we want to explain his induction. Frank McGee scored 41 goals in Cup games, and that explains why he's on the top of the list below.

But wait, you might be aware that Frank "Pud" Glass won a bunch of Stanley Cups with the Wanderers, including one as captain, and scored 13 goals in those games. So how do we explain his exclusion from the Hall? Simple; we consider goals per game as well. Glass took 11 games to score his goals (1.18 per game), while Whitcroft (for example) scored 14 in eight (1.75 per game). Since Glass scored at a subpar rate (for a Hall-of-Famer, anyway), his total goals aren't valued as highly.

Other points are earned for having reasonably lengthy senior careers (important for Hod Stuart and Blair Russel), for playing with one team for at least nine years (again, important for Blair Russel), and for finishing in the top four in goals for a top-level league, or the top two in goals for a lower-level league. Russell Bowie makes out like a bandit in this last category, earning 380 of his 409 points here. He lead a top-tier league in goals five times, was second four times and third once. No one else comes close to that level of production in the Challenge Era.

Finally, we get to the more arbitrary stuff. Tragic deaths are treated favourably by the Hall of Fame. George Richardson was killed in WWI, and although this was after his playing career was done it seems he was more fondly remembered because of it, since otherwise we would not be able explain his induction in this analysis. Hod Stuart's death was all the more noteworthy, as he died in mid-career and as a Stanley Cup champion. Almost all of his Inductinator score (80 out of 102) is derived from this.

All of this so far can be used to explain 22 of the 26 Hall-of-Famers from this era. We're left with Graham Drinkwater, Billy Gilmour, Jack Ruttan and Oliver Seibert.

With Gilmour, one suspects that the true reason he was inducted is that at McGill he played with Frank Patrick, whose brother Lester was of course extremely influential at the time as a member of the selection committee. His Cup wins and goals give him 50 points, so we need another 50. We can attribute that to personal connections and give up, or we can look for something else he might have been famous for. Well, he is one of the very few sets of three brothers who each won a Stanley Cup, and he did it with his brothers (dave and Suddy) on the same team. So, we can give him 40 points for that feat, and an extra 10 for winning the most Cups amongst his set of brothers. It's not the worst thing to recognize such a thing, I suppose, if in fact that's what was being recognized by the committee.

Drinkwater is 40 points short. The only thing I could find to set him apart was the fact that he was one of the three original Allan Cup trustees in 1909, well after his playing career was over. If I were on the committee, I wouldn't assign any player value to this, and maybe they didn't. But it's the only thing I can think of to get him over 100 points. The two other trustees were Dr. H.B. Yates and Sir Edward Clouston. Clouston might also be eligible to collect these points. He never played for the Stanley Cup, of course, since he was 44 years old by the time that mug was first awarded. But Clouston was one of the "Original 18", the 18 men who played in the hockey match at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal on March 3, 1875. Clouston played with James Creighton's side, who won that match two goals to one.

Just to make sure we're not being completely arbitrary here, we should also check the original Stanley Cup trustees, to see if they would be put over 100 with this bonus. The two original Stanley Cup trustees were John Sweetland and Philip Ross. Sweetland played no high-level hockey that I'm aware of, but Ross did. He played for McGill in 1879, and later in Ottawa for the famous Rideau Rebels in 1890 and the Ottawa Generals (later the Senators) in 1891. But he never played for the Stanley Cup, so even if we gave him the same 40 points we give Drinkwater, he still wouldn't be over 100 on the Inductinator scale, so we're safe.

The induction of Jack Ruttan, I'll tell you right now, cannot be explained by the Inductinator. He played five seasons of senior hockey in Manitoba in the early 1910s, and won the Allan Cup in 1913. He was very well-regarded as a player in Manitoba, but his accomplishments do not outshine dozens of other players who are nowhere near the Hall. He's a complete and total question mark. I can't explain him, not even close.

Finally, Oliver Siebert. He was certainly a good player. He gains 45 points for leading a lesser league (Western Ontario League) in goals, but loses 20 for never having scored a Stanley Cup goal, for a total of 25. We need another 75 points. Now, there is something that sets Siebert apart from other players, which I suppose we can assign a value of 75 points, although doing so is incredibly silly. That this is this: he has a son (in Earl Seibert) who is a Hall of Fame-calibre player. Oliver was inducted in 1961, and Earl in 1963. We can technically use this to get the elder Seibert over 100 points, though I feel a bit dirty doing so. I suppose such a thing would increase a player's fame, since that's a pretty vague term. I did check other players as well, to make sure such a bonus would not any non-Hall-of-Famers over 100. The closest is goaltender Bert Lindsay, who played after the Challenge Era. Being Ted Lindsay's father is not enough to get him over the threshold, so we can award this bonus to Seibert without producing undesirable results.

Frank McGeeFyes416
Russell BowieFyes409
Bruce StuartFyes350
Tommy PhillipsFyes332
Harvey PulfordDyes272
Marty WalshFyes250
Harry WestwickFyes231
Alf SmithFyes226
Harry TriheyFyes224
Dan BainFyes172
Riley HernGyes167
Fred ScanlanFyes159
Mike GrantDyes122
Tom HooperDyes105
Graham DrinkwaterDyes102
Hod StuartDyes102
George RichardsonFyes101
Bouse HuttonGyes100
Blair RusselFyes100
Dickie BoonDyes100
Billy McGimsieFyes100
Fred WhitcroftFyes100
Art FarrellFyes100
Oliver SeibertFyes100
Billy GilmourFyes100
Bill NicholsonGno99
Herb JordanFno99
Pud GlassFno97
Archie HooperFno96
Billy BreenFno96
Lorne CampbellFno92
Cecil BlachfordFno90
Fred HigginbothamDno90
Suddy GilmourFno89
Rod FlettDno87
Gordon LewisGno87
Billy RoxburghFno82
Eddie GerouxGno79
Herb BirminghamFno76
Art BrownGno74
James McKennaGno74
George McKayFno74
Tony GingrasFno73
Robert MacDougallFno73
Oren FroodFno72
Bruce RidpathFno68
Clare McKerrowFno66
Ezra DumartFno65
Jack RuttanDyes0

You can see that, by these standards, there are a number of other players who could just as easily be in the Hall of Fame. Bill Nicholson, Herb Jordan, Pud Glass, Archie Hooper, Billy Breen are all extremely close, and several others are over 90 points as well. Would we view these players any differently today if they had a few more breaks and were elected to the Hall of Fame? Perhaps, but we really shouldn't. The Inductinator analysis reveals that some Hall of Fame selections from this early era seems almost arbitrary, so I cannot recommend putting too much weight on the honour.


  1. Great series of articles! I look forward to more of your analyses.
    Is there any chance of reviving the Virtual Hockey Hall of Fame (http://www.chidlovski.com/wwhhof)?

  2. You'd have to ask Arthur Chidlovski about that, I suppose. The last activity in the group was in 2008, so it doesn't seem too likely.


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