Hockey Hall of Fame Misses With Alexander Mogilny Snub

Alexander Mogilny
Russian hockey player Alexander Mogilny of the Buffalo Sabres skates after the puck during a game against the New York Islanders, mid 1990s. Islander Dennis Vaske (right) chases him. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Selecting members for any class of the Hockey Hall of Fame is always a difficult task. However, it shouldn’t take 12 times for Alexander Mogilny to make the vaunted halls. The former Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs forward didn’t get elected when Wednesday’s class was announced.

Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilsonand Kim St. Pierre got in as players. Ken Holland made it in the Builders category. Hoss and Iginla made it in their first year on the ballot. Mogilny’s name had picked up steam but was ultimately left out.

This year’s class is a deserving one, but Mogilny’s omission seems to be a glaring one. Former Athletic writer Eric Duhatschek listed the election criteria. Those are “playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her team and to the game of hockey in general.”

There are 18 voters on the election and committee and one needs 14 to gain acceptance to the Hall. A few dissenting voters can derail one’s election to the hallowed halls. Mogilny showed plenty of those above traits but is still waiting for enshrinement.

Alexander Mogilny Deserves Hall Call

Soviet Success

Mogilny experienced success at a young age with CSKA Moscow or the Red Army Team. He formed a formidable first line with Pavel Bure and Sergei Fedorov. Team officials anticipated the line as successors to Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov.

His first appearance on the international stage was at the 1987 IIHF World Junior Championships. He scored three goals and five points, but the team was thrown out after the “Punch Up in Piestany.” The team was suspended for 18 months, but that was reduced to six months.

Mogilny won the top forward award at the 1988 tournament with nine goals and 18 points in seven games. He led the Soviet Union to the silver medal at the event. The 19-year-old added the 1988 Olympic gold medal as well with the team. Mogilny, Bure and Fedorov line shined at the 1989 World Juniors as the USSR took the gold. He also added a 1989 IIHF World Championship also.

His exploits caught the eyes of the Sabres, who drafted him 89th overall in the 1988 NHL Draft. Mogilny was important to CSKA and his international team, but he wanted to take the next step.

Defection

His escape to North America should be made into a movie. Mogilny was the first Soviet player to defect to the NHL, and it wasn’t easy. He and former Sabres executive Don Luce had to hide out from the KGB in Sweden. They hopped from hotel to hotel to avoid the Soviet secret police. The pair had to wait for the American consulate to give the young Russian access to the States.

Mogilny was able to get to New York City, where he received political asylum. It was a lot of stress on the young 20-year-old, but he finally made it to North America and the Sabres.

NHL Career

He started his career with a goal in his first 20 seconds on Oct. 5, 1989, against the Quebec Nordiques. His career really took off in his second season when he scored 30 goals in 1990-91. He’d be a consistent 30-plus goal-scorer former the club, including a jaw-dropping 76 in 1992-93. Mogilny and Pat LaFontaine formed instant chemistry and made them part of the Sabres offence.

Multiple broken legs would put a dent into his goal-scoring totals, but he continued to persevere. He continued to blaze trails as he was the first Russian captain in league history in 1993-94. His time in Buffalo would end when the team had to pay up for LaFontaine and Dominik Hasek.

Mogilny would reunite with his old linemate Bure in Vancouver in 1995. The two had impeccable chemistry, but Bure was out with a torn ACL for most of the season. Mogilny would still get 107 points and would do it again in 1996-97. However, injuries and inconsistency began to trouble him. At the 2000 NHL trade deadline, the Devils acquired Mogilny from the Canucks.

He might not have been producing like he normally did in 2000, but he did get a Stanley Cup. Mogilny is only one of 29 players all-time to be a member of the Triple Gold Club.  That means a player has won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and IIHF World Championship during his career. Nine of those 29 players are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

His career found a resurgence with the Devils. He scored over 30 goals twice in the latter half of his career once in 2000-01 scoring 43 goals with the Devils. The second time in 2002-02 with Toronto as he scored 33 goals. He wrapped up his career in 2005-05 with the Devils organization, including a stint with the Albany River Rats.

Legacy

He finished with 473 NHL goals at the end of his career and 1,032 points. His numbers should be good enough, but he contributed in one larger way. Mogilny’s defection to the United States paved the way for other Soviets to take the chance.

There are plenty of what-ifs about Mogilny. What if he decided to stay in Russia? What if he got caught trying to defect? A Russian player would have eventually made it across like a Bure or a Fedorov, but it would have taken a lot longer to happen. The KGB usually weren’t known for being the kindest when dealing out punishment.

Mogilny could have been made an example of to deter the other younger and older stars from fleeing. However, he made it to North America and the NHL was graced with the exciting talent he and other Russians brought. His trailblazing should be enough to get him, but we’ll have to wait. Not only that but Moginly has more points than Hall of Famers LaFontaine, Dave Keon, Lanny McDonald, Paul Kariya, Maurice Richard and higher goals per game (.48) than Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Joe Sakic.

Let’s hope it’s not too much longer.

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