Rozner: Finally, the Hall of Fame calls Doug Wilson
When it comes to the sport of hockey and Hall of Fame injustice, there has been no worse offense than the one endured by Doug Wilson the last 24 years.
But with the announcement Wednesday afternoon that he has finally been elected, Wilson can rest easy and erase the nagging insult.
To understand why he had to wait, well, you can go back to his unnecessary departure from the Blackhawks -- something he has in common with teammates Steve Larmer and Jeremy Roenick, who continue to wait for their call from the Hall.
Back in the early '90s, the league was run by Bill Wirtz, who was closely aligned with Alan Eagleson and Bob Pulford, and as president of the NHLPA, Wilson led a revolution against corruption.
Eagleson, with massive conflicts of interest as players association boss, stole from players, was in bed with certain owners and later was jailed for fraud and embezzlement. In the process of trying to form a legitimate NHLPA, Wilson was blackballed by those in charge.
"All I know is I have no problem looking in the mirror," Wilson told me in 2002. "I've never really worried about the things I can't control. I played the game because I loved it and for no other reason.
"I grew up with tremendous respect for the game and it was a privilege to play. I don't look back with anything except gratitude."
After his career, he should have been a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, but as the years passed his career was forgotten and Wilson was known more for his work as the San Jose general manager.
And it's criminal that he spent these years wondering how he could be dismissed.
Consider the case:
• When Wilson retired in 1993 after 14 years with the Hawks and two with San Jose, he was 61st all-time among all players in points (827), through 76 years of NHL hockey.
• At the time of his retirement, there were only four defensemen ahead of him and all are in the Hall of Fame today. Their names are Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey.
• At the time, Wilson was 40th all-time in assists (590). The same four defensemen were the only ones ahead of him on that list.
• There were only five defensemen ahead of him in goals (237), including Phil Housley, and all five are in the Hall of Fame.
• At the time, only Potvin and Bourque had played more games than Wilson (1,024).
Wilson had a cannon from the point and won a Norris Trophy based on a 39-goal season in 1981-82. He was a brilliant passer who participated in one of the NHL's best-ever power plays.
That's the offense, but defensively you will see few better in your lifetime. A much different game during Wilson's era (1977-93), he was nearly impossible to beat 1-on-1 and he did it clean during a time when the physical play was violent and clutch-and-grab was the order of the day.
"I have no regrets about anything I've done in hockey," said Wilson in 2002, always a class act. "I got to play with Bobby Orr as a defense partner. Stan Mikita was my first roommate and like a second father to me.
"I scored a game-tying goal in the Canada Cup on a pass from Wayne Gretzky to send it into OT.
"My dad was alive to see me win the Norris Trophy.
"I've always said the game was much better to me than I was to the game. Players in our league have always understood that nobody is bigger than the game and I'm proud to have been a part of it."
Doug Wilson should have never had to wait for the Hall of Fame.
Similarly, with Bill Wirtz and Pulford out of the picture, perhaps there will come a day soon when the Hawks do the right thing and retire his No. 24.
When Wilson was traded to San Jose in 1991, he left Chicago as fourth all-time in games played for the Hawks, ninth in goals, third in assists and fifth in points.
Not bad on an Original Six franchise with a history of Hall of Fame players.
Nearly 30 years later, and with the Hawks now in existence 93 years, Wilson is still ninth in games, fourth in assists and seventh in points. He also remains the franchise leader among defensemen in goals, assists and points, and is fourth in games played behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Bob Murray.
Imagine what the numbers would have been had he not been run out of town by Mike Keenan, who also couldn't wait to get rid of another Hall of Famer in Denis Savard.
One wrong has been righted for Doug Wilson. The Hawks have an opportunity now to fix another.
All it will take is a sweater in the rafters.