Hockey Hall of Fame should induct Theo Fleury and Alexander Mogilny

Today, the NHL will announce its 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class at 4:30 PM EST. When it comes to whom will be included, almost everyone in the hockey world believes Jarome Iginla will be a no-brainer in his first year of eligibility. There are two players who have been passed over many times before and it’s long overdue that they both be inducted. Theo Fleury and Alexander Mogilny should both be in there.

Theo Fleury Hockey Hall of Fame Candidate

Theoren Fleury was too small to play in the NHL. Not strong enough to survive. He just won’t make it. These are things the 5’6” and 180 lbs winger heard as he fought his way onto the Calgary Flames and won a Stanley Cup in his rookie season of 1988-89. He wasn’t just a role player either scoring 11 points in 22 games that playoff run. After winning the Cup his career took off like a rocket and he eventually finished with 1088 points in 1084 games. Fleury also added 79 points in 77 playoff games. Those stats alone are worthy of induction.

Theo Fleury Calgary Flames

Theo Fleury Battled Demons

What many did not know is that the small kid with the big smile and zest for the game was battling demons. In 1997, former Detroit Red Wings player Sheldon Kennedy told the press that he and others were sexually abused by their minor league coach, Graham James. Theo Fleury had played for James during that time, but it wasn’t until 2009 when he admitted in his autobiography “Playing With Fire” he was abused as well. This admission started to explain his downward spiral and use of drugs and alcohol that derailed his career. The fall was on full public display during his time with the New York Rangers until he retired in 2003.

Theo Fleury is now a motivational speaker and helps those battling mental illness all over the world. He is hockey’s version of the proverbial Phoenix rising from the ashes to fly again. It’s time for that to be recognized.

Alexander Mogilny Hockey Hall of Fame Candidate

The Buffalo Sabres star who shined for several seasons on a line with Pat Lafontaine in the early 90’s has the numbers to get in. Alexander Mogilny once scored a staggering 76 goals in 77 games during the 1992-93 season. He finished his career with 473 goals, and 1032 points. Those numbers aside, it blows my mind that he hasn’t been already inducted because he is the trailblazer for all Russians now playing in the NHL today.

While Viacheslav Fetisov is recognized as the first Russian player in the league, he was granted permission at the age of 31. Fetisov was actually drafted twice. Once by the Montreal Canadiens in 1978 and then again in 1983 for the New Jersey Devils. It wasn’t until 1989 that he’d play for NJ, and he did so with a threat of being sent to Siberia.

At the time, the Soviet Union frowned on the idea of their best athletes leaving. That is why when the Sabres picked Mogilny with their fifth-round selection in 1988 it was considered a wasted pick. The story of the young Russian snipers journey to the NHL happened under the cover of darkness in Sweden with the KGB on his tail.

Alex Mogilny Buffalo Sabres (IIHF)

The Story of Alexander Mogilny’s Defection

The story of Mogilny’s defection started with a business card handed to him by Don Luce at the World Junior Championships in Alaska. From there it was clandestine conversations and jumping into a car with the KGB running after him. It ends with him landing at NY’s LaGuardia airport requesting political asylum.

Let that story settle in and then think of all the great young Russian players that were allowed to come afterwards like Sergei Federov. That doesn’t happen without a 20-year-old Alexander Mogilny defecting and the Soviets wanting to save face by not having many more do the same. For that alone, Mogilny deserves to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

One last note, Mogilny had a fear of flying. It was so bad that there were times he simply got off the plane if the pilot warned of turbulence before take off. According to Randy Moller a former teammate in Buffalo, “He did that a number of times. He was petrified of flying.” 

It’s now long overdue to put both Theo Fleury and Alexander Mogilny into the Hall of Fame. Step up NHL and make it so.

Parts of this story first appeared at Sportsnaut.