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Worth the Wait: Doug Wilson, Kevin Lowe finally get Hall of Fame call

TORONTO — Doug Wilson was in the pool playing with his grandkids when the phone rang. Lanny McDonald was on the other end of the line.

TORONTO — Doug Wilson was in the pool playing with his grandkids when the phone rang.

Lanny McDonald was on the other end of the line.

Wilson passed it to his wife, Kathy, so she would be the first hear the news nearly a quarter century in the making — her husband is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

"That was fabulous," McDonald, the hall's chairman, recalled a few hours after the conversation. "In five years of being able to play Santa Claus and make these calls to our newest inductees, this is the first year that I had been asked if I would tell either a wife or significant other.

"To be able to share that with Kathy on the phone and have her break down a little bit and cry, you know how much it means."

Wilson, who played 16 seasons in the NHL and won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman in 1982, waited 24 years to get that call Wednesday afternoon.

"It was an unexpected call, as you can tell by my wife's response," he said. "It was a pleasant shock."

Kevin Lowe, a steady blue-liner during the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty of the 1980s, was also voted in by the 18-member committee some 19 years after first becoming eligible.

The pair didn't have to wait as long as some — Rogie Vachon's phone didn't ring for more than three decades on decision day until he finally got the good news back in 2016 —but had to bide their time compared to fellow class members Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa, who were elected in their first years of eligibility.

Canadian women's national team goalie Kim St-Pierre rounds out the 2020 player category, while former Detroit Red Wings general manager and current Oilers GM Ken Holland will go in as a builder. The annual hall ceremony is scheduled for November, but could be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I've never seen myself as a Hall of Famer," Lowe said. "For me, the Hall of Fame was Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier. And although I know there are players of my ilk in the Hall of Fame and it's a place for everyone, I don't want to say I was disappointed in the years that I didn't get selected.

"I certainly understood that you have to put up more points, win awards. My dream was always to win Stanley Cups ... the Hall of Fame was something I never dreamed about."

Wilson registered 827 points in 1,024 career NHL regular-season games, putting up 39 goals in his Norris campaign for the fourth-most in a season behind Paul Coffey (48 and 40) and Orr (40).

The Ottawa native, who turns 63 next month, had nine seasons of at least 50 points, and was an original member of the San Jose Sharks. Wilson joined the club's front office after retiring in 1993 and has served as GM since 2003 — currently the second-longest tenure in the NHL.

"I've always looked at the Hall of Fame in awe," said the eight-time all-star. "The Wayne Gretzkys, the Bobby Orrs, the Stan Mikitas, the people of that level."

Lowe, meanwhile, will join six other Oilers from those great Edmonton teams in the hall. The Lachute, Que., native didn't put up gaudy numbers like his contemporaries, but was an important piece in helping Gretzky, Messier and Coffey do their offensive thing.

"The goal was always just about winning," said Lowe, who turned 61 in April. "We as players all did our part to try to get to the win. So if the night wasn't going well for them and they weren't putting up the points, someone like us needed to step up.

"I like to say with a little bit of humour that where I fit in is when Paul Coffey came off the ice on the power play after a minute 50 seconds, I generally would do a great job with the last 10 seconds."

A five-time Stanley Cup champion in Edmonton before winning another with the New York Rangers in 1994, Lowe had 432 points in 1,254 games, and is the first defensive defenceman to get into the hall since Rod Langway in 2002.

"I had to find my place within that (Oilers) team," said Lowe, who played in seven all-star games. "I had offensive DNA ... but realized I wasn't going to put up the kind of points that I did in junior. All I wanted to do was find a place on the team and win.

"We figured out the formula pretty well."

Wilson and Lowe never lost faith they would eventually be welcomed into the hall, but it still came as a surprise.

"There are so many players who I feel deserved this honour either equal or more than me," Wilson said. "But the timing, I didn't even think about it ... (the call) caught me off guard.

"Timing never meant a thing."

So what's their advice to the likes of Alexander Mogilny, Daniel Alfredsson, Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind'Amour, Jennifer Botterill and so many others whose phones have yet to ring?

"Just hang in there," Lowe said. "It's all worth the wait."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press