Just a little over 23 years after he passed away at the age of 65, Fred Shero will finally get his due. When the Hockey Hall of Fame inducts Shero, Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, Brendan Shanahan and Geraldine Heaney as part of its 2013 class on November 11, it will likely be his son, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who will talk about his father's NHL coaching career; a career that can finally see its final chapter written with a long overdue honor.
The man known as "The Fog" -- a nickname attributed to either his distant personality or his claim that he was the only player on the 1947-48 St. Paul Saints team who could see the puck during a game that was eventually canceled due to fog (depending on who you ask) -- last coached an NHL game in 1981. Year after year he was bypassed by the Hall of Fame committee. Some years, the eligible classes were so strong it was easy to forget about Fred Shero.
Those other years, however, well, we'll never know why this moment took as long as it did.
Even after all these years, despite his glowing resume -- two Stanley Cup championships, three Calder Cup titles, 1974 Jack Adams Award winner, all-time coaching wins leader for the Philadelphia Flyers -- there were some people who had assumed Fred Shero had already been inducted.
"I'm not sure we gave up," Ray Shero said about his father's long wait during a conference call Tuesday. "There's a lot of people that have been going to bat for him more and more it seems. I look back since I became a general manager... a lot of people have asked me what year he was inducted and I would tell them that he's not in the Hall of Fame, which they seem surprised at."
Ray Shero, who found out about the news while playing football on a beach with his sons, said his dad never pushed him to get in hockey; rather, he tried getting him to go down the lawyer or doctor route. In the end, Ray chose hockey, which ended up as a wise decision. In 2009, Ray Shero joined his father with a Stanley Cup championship of his own, becoming just the 13th father/son combo to have their names engraved on the trophy.
But it wasn't just the achievements that set Fred Shero apart from others. It was the innovations he brought to the game. He was among the first coaches to introduce morning skates for his players. He studied game film. He hired the NHL's first full-time assistant coach, Mike Nykoluk. He even traveled to Russia to study Soviet hockey systems.
Said Ray Shero of his father: “If you talked to the players that played for him, they all said how much he was ahead of his time.
[A]nd if you look 40 years into the future, it's pretty amazing how right they were."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy