Mike Richter is one of the best goalies in New York Rangers and hockey history.
The New York Rangers know it — his No. 35 hangs in the rafters of Madison Square Garden. The United States Hockey Hall of Fame knows it — his induction was in 2008. The NCAA knows it — his name is on the trophy awarded annually to the top collegiate goalie. The 1994 Vancouver Canucks know it — his heroics robbed Canada’s west coast franchise and its fans of a Stanley Cup championship.
So why don’t voters for the Hockey Hall of Fame seem to know it?
For whatever reason, Richter’s career has been brushed off by the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) Selection Committee members (comprised of former players, coaches, officials, team executives, and media). Even some Rangers fans insist Richter had “one great season” and “got his due when the team retired his number.” It’s as if Richter did nothing else for the Blueshirts beyond helping carry them to a Stanley Cup championship in 1994, the fourth in the team’s history and first since 1940.
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Some argue that Richter’s stats aren’t Hall of Fame-worthy. That’s not only subjective but irrelevant according to the criteria established by the HHOF itself.
The “Basis of Selection of Candidates” section on the HHOF website reads: “The following attributes provide the basis on which the election of nominees to Honoured Membership are to be considered: Playing ability, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to his or her team or teams, and to the game of hockey in general.”
Nothing in there about stats. Obviously, stats reflect one’s “playing ability.” But stats alone don’t always do a player justice in terms of showing value to his team. If being the goalie who helped end more than five decades of heartbreak (and those monotonous chants of “Nineteen-Forty”) on hockey’s biggest stage and for a team that was expected to win doesn’t meet those standards, then what pray tell does?
This isn’t a debate about which goalies are already in the HHOF. Nobody in their right mind would dispute the inclusion of Ken Dryden, Johnny Bower, Grant Fuhr, Tony Esposito, Terry Sawchuk, Frank Brimsek, Rogie Vachon, or Patrick Roy, among others. All helped their teams either win the Stanley Cup or remain competitive regardless of the talent in front of them.
This is about how Richter compares favorably to several HHOF members. Let’s take a look at who and how. We’ll start with Ranger goalies in the hallowed hall.