The Stanley Cup resides inside the Hockey Hall of Fame as a symbol of the NHL's championship heritage, as well as so that fans of woebegone teams can witness what their jersey looks like next to one for the first time in their lives.
In the words of Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., it belongs in a museum; but given the Hall's induction standards, it's odd that the Cup is a centerpiece inside its walls.
[Related: Mats Sundin's Hall of Fame plaque comes with hair and all ]
Hall of Fame Class of 2012 inductee Joe Sakic is a player defined by his leadership, which in turn was defined by his championship success. He won the Conn Smythe when the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996. He was the Hart Trophy winner when the Avs won it again in 2001. One could argue that the two images that define Sakic have him holding the Cup over his head as captain, and handing it to Ray Bourque so he could raise it himself for the first time.
It's that success that makes Sakic seem like the Homecoming King of this induction class, with the rest of the quartet having "Despite Never Winning the Stanley Cup …" under their yearbook photos.
Pavel Bure scored 70 points in 64 playoff games but never won the Cup, despite coming close with the Vancouver Canucks in 1994.
Adam Oates had 156 points in 163 playoff games but never won the Stanley Cup, despite making the Final with the Washington Capitals in 1997-98.
Mats Sundin had 82 points in 91 playoff games but never won the Stanley Cup … primarily because you have to appear in the Final to have a chance at winning one. But hey, he sure did wield that no-trade clause effectively, eh?
All three are deemed worthy of induction for various reasons: Oates and Sundin have the stats-based arguments, while Bure's appeal goes beyond the numbers into something culturally significant as a player — at least for a generation of fans.
Their images will be etched in glass in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but their names were never etched on the Stanley Cup. The Class of 2012 is another reminder of the peculiar relationship between Hockey's Holy Grail and admittance into one of its most sacred temples.
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