Volume 91, Issue 55

Wednesday, January 7, 1998

well hung



Hall of Shame

The hall of fame in any major professional sport represents the pinnacle of athletic achievement and for Canadians, no halls are more hallowed than the Hockey Hall of Fame – a place where hockey memories are frozen in time for generations to enjoy and where the most elite are honoured for their contributions to the sport.

Unfortunately, Alan Eagleson, the founder and former executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association and a hall of fame member has poisoned the game of hockey and darkened the hallways at the corner of Front and Yonge Streets in Toronto.

Yesterday, a Boston judge convicted Eagleson, who plead guilty of fraud. He was was fined $1 million and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation in the United States. Furthermore, the judge assured that he had not handed down the stiffest possible penalty because he understood that the Canadian courts would sentence Eagleson to no less then 18 months in a Canadian prison.

Now, without the excuse of being innocent until proven guilty, it is time for the Hockey Hall of Fame committee to revoke Eagleson's membership. Ian Morrison, chair and president of the hall, said Eagleson would be removed once the courts have completely settled the matter, which cannot happen until a board of directors meeting in March. Another report from the Massachusetts media claimed Eagleson has been formally requested to resign his honour.

In other words, neither the NHL nor the Hall of Fame board of directors are prepared to face reality – still willing to promote him as an honoured member. What they need to do is remove Eagleson as soon as possible from the Hall to show the world they will not harbour a criminal within its walls.

All that would be needed to remove his face from beside hockey greats such as Gordie Howe or Mario Lemieux is an emergency conference call and a simple majority vote from 17 members of the board. Yet the board continues to postpone the inevitable.

Major League Baseball has never removed a member from its hall, however, officials have been extremely stern on honouring disgraced players and have continually resisted public opinion to admit former players including Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

This situation is unique since Eagleson was inducted into the hall in the builders category in 1989 as one of the greatest men ever to be connected with the game at that time. Initially, Eagleson was in the hockey spotlight as a sports agent by assisting Bobby Orr in 1966 to acquire a $70,000 contact in his rookie season. From then on, Eagleson used his brilliant negotiating ability to bring players' salaries back in line with other professional sports. He became a folk hero – in an era of league expansion and weakening ownership control – to men who were talented enough to become professional hockey players. He helped create the NHLPA and was fully supported as executive director.

What was hidden until recently from the league and country was that he was defrauding many of the same players who held him in such high regard. With Orr, the man who first brought Eagleson to the attention of the league, 'The Eagle' misled the hockey great with bad investments and by withholding contract information. Dozens of other players have also come forward over the past few years with stunning stories of how Eagleson had destroyed their lives.

Unprecedented in any major professional sport, the evidence, humiliation and pre-constructed removal process leaves no other option for the league and the hall's board of directors but to clip Eagleson's wings and bury the carcass.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998