November 28, 2008
Unless you live in Great Britain, you've probably never heard of Tony Hand. If you thought Wayne Gretzky's National Hockey League record of 2,857 career points is special, then you might take an appreciation of Hand's upcoming feat: surpassing 4,000 points on British club hockey.
Just taking a look at Hand's career stats (12-plus 50-goal seasons) is proof that the 41 year old is the best player ever produced in Britain. Before you wonder what could have been, Hand had his chance in North America and the NHL. He was a 12th-round selection by the Edmonton Oilers in 1986 and played three games with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League -- contributing eight points before homesickness caused him to return to his home in Scotland.
While the criteria for the Hockey Hall of Fame is as secretive as voting procedures among members of The Stonecutters, with hockey gaining steam in non-traditional countries such as Great Britain and even Australia, will we see a day when players and executives from these markets receive regular recognition by the Hall's committee members?
Scotty Wazz brings up the debate of whether or not Hand should at least be talked about when discussing Hockey Hall of Fame induction since, you know, it's the Hockey Hall of Fame and not NHL Hall of Fame:
Let's not be stupid, 4,000th points in any league is an amazing feat, but when you think that most North American hockey fans didn't know there was a true British Hockey League, despite Theo Fleury's venture to the league a few years back; odds are the selection committee wouldn't be too keen on putting this accolade amongst those of NHLers, elite Europe
ans, and other top North American ilk. Considering that Hand did this under the radar of everything, it would take a big, big feat for him to actually be put into the pot for consideration.
I would agree with Wazz that at the current moment, 4,000 points in the British Hockey League is not the same as 4,000 points in the Elitserien, SM-liiga or the Russian Super League; and the Hall of Fame selection committee will likely not recognize Hand's career stats and impact on British hockey.
While the International Ice Hockey Federation will probably honor Hand with their own Hall of Fame induction at some point, it's likely that he'll still remain a relative unknown among hockey circles even if he continues compiling points through the rest of his career.