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Editorial: On the Syracuse Hockey Hall of Fame

This is why we deserve nice things.

Scott Thomas Photography

Last week, it was announced that the Syracuse Crunch is going to kick off their 25th Anniversary season by creating a Hall of Fame. The organization’s view of this HOF seems to be one that encompasses all of Syracuse hockey, not just the Crunch. However, since the Crunch has been the most enduring professional team in the city’s history, it’s expected that the club will be featured rather heavily.

As soon as the announcement came, there were people who immediately denounced the Crunch’s efforts to create a HOF, citing the team’s lack of a championship as reason enough to poo-poo and postpone the idea. Originally, I was going to write this editorial as a response to that, but then I remembered that arguing on the Internet never achieves anything. Those fans are, of course, entitled to their opinions, so writing an article decrying their ideas as wrong is a waste of my time.

Instead, I decided to take my initial “this is why we can’t have nice things as a fan base!” rant and turn it into a “this is why we deserve nice things as a fan base” article.

My opinion is fairly simple, I think:

Crunch fans deserve to be able to celebrate those who have made an impact in the Syracuse community, and those who have made such an impact deserve to be recognized.

Honestly, for many of a certain generation, it’s hard to imagine any other hockey team besides the Crunch in Syracuse. However, the city has been home to other organizations and leagues. The Syracuse Stars were called the “pioneers of professional hockey in Syracuse” by author Jim Mancuso in his book Hockey in Syracuse. The Stars joined the International Hockey League in 1930, and played puck in Syracuse until 1940. They won the Calder Cup in 1937, and compiled an over-all 207-214-61 record.

From there, the city’s hockey history grew, though sadly no team really managed any staying power (until the Crunch, of course). Wikipedia lists Syracuse’s professional hockey history pretty succinctly:

  • AHL: Syracuse Warriors (1951–1954)
  • EPHL: Syracuse Braves (1962–1963)
  • EHL/NAHL: Syracuse Blazers (1967–1977)
  • AHL: Syracuse Eagles (1974–75)
  • AHL: Syracuse Firebirds (1979–80)
  • EHL: Syracuse Hornets (1980–1981)
  • Metro Junior A Hockey League and Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League: Syracuse Jr. Crunch/Syracuse Stars (1996–2005)

This all, of course, doesn’t count the many other forms that hockey takes in cities — school teams, competitive leagues, college teams, etc.

It looks as though the team will be looking to induct three to five people per season, with the hopes that those inducted will be able to attend a ceremony in person. This could mean that more current names might have their induction delayed until they are retired and could attend such a ceremony during the hockey season.

Now, depending on how the Crunch wants to play this, there are names that they could go with from deep into Syracuse hockey history. Some of these people are no longer alive, so I’m honestly not sure if they’d be considered. However, prior to the Crunch’s tenure in Syracuse, these players made a mark on the city and the teams they played for:

  • Jack Markle played in all 10 of the Syracuse Stars’ seasons, and, as expected with such a long tenure, holds a fair number of records with that club.
  • Eddie Shore was the owner and general manager of the Syracuse Warriors. Considering Shore’s place in general hockey history, I could see the Crunch wanting to bring recognition to his Syracuse connections.
  • Keith Allen, already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, played with the Warriors and holds the record for most games played (178).
  • Blake Ball played three seasons with the Syracuse Blazers. Mancuso said Ball was a “key ingredient” to the team’s Walker Cup win in 1973. He also played for the Syracuse Eagles.

This is just a smattering of names. There are many other deserving players, and I could have spent all day staring at Hockey in Syracuse to find them. But not being sure what the organization is envisioning - how far back they’re going to reach - there’s no point in doing that right now.

The Crunch came into town in 1994, and, since then, there’s been lot of people that have come through the city I could see being honored:

  • Gary Agnew coached the Syracuse Crunch during their affiliation with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He ran the team for six seasons. Under his guidance, Syracuse made the playoffs four times.
  • Zenon Konopka only played for the Crunch for a little over a full season, but yet is still one of the most recognizable names in Crunch history. He was captain in 2007-2008, and was the ringleader of a group that is still remembered fondly today. Two seasons ago, Konopka retired from hockey, and picked Syracuse as the team to do it with. The connection between him and Syracuse never faded.
  • J.F. Labbe backstopped the Crunch to a divisional title in 2001-02, the first in it’s history, and is widely remembered as one of the best goalies ever to pull on a Syracuse sweater.
  • Eric Neilson was a force for the Crunch on the ice and off of it. He was the face of the team from 2012-2015, and was the AHL Man of the Year in 2014 thanks to the immense amount of charity work he did in the Syracuse area.

There’s many more that could potentially be considered. Syracuse.com did a decent job of running down a list. I, however, am only in this for two people that I purposefully haven’t mentioned yet:

Mike Angelidis and Karl Goehring.

Surprise!

(Yeah, I know. You’re not.)

Anyone who has followed my writing or my social media knows all of this already. But out of all of the names that should be inducted, even if it has to wait until he retires from playing, one reigns supreme: Angelidis. There’s no guarantee that Angelidis will ever be inducted, but if the front office wants to sleep peacefully at night, they should probably think strongly about it but one would assume that the forward, who played in Syracuse from 2012 until 2015, will be highly considered.

Angelidis is one of the most influential names in Crunch history and in the Syracuse community thanks to his time with the team. The former captain is still a very beloved person among the fan base. I’m not crying, you’re crying. His Change for Change initiative lives on in Syracuse, as does the general attitude of winning, effort, and passion he brought to the city. For him to not eventually get elected would be a freaking crime very big surprise.

Goehring is my other top recommendation. No other player has a more storied and intense connection with the club. Goehring started his professional career with Syracuse in 2001. He was signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets after a college career that included backstopping the University of North Dakota to an NCAA championship in 2000. He went on to play in 151 games for Syracuse between 2001 and 2005, quickly becoming a fan favorite among the Crunch faithful. He returned to Syracuse in 2007, playing one more season for the club, helping to backstop the Crunch to the second round of the playoffs.

Goehring remains Syracuse’s all-time leader in career goaltending wins with 78. He also still holds the franchise record for games played (178). During the ‘07-08 campaign, he set the lowest GAA in one season (2.12) and the highest save percentage in one season (.930).

Goehring returned yet again to Syracuse in 2009 as a goalie coach, working with Dan LaCosta and Kevin Lalande during the final season of the Blue Jackets/Crunch affiliation. After working for the University of North Dakota for seven seasons, Goehring came back to Syracuse this past season as a goalie and video coach. He helped the team, including their eventual seven total netminders, through a crazy season that involved more goalie upheaval than the law should allow. Most notably, he helped guide Tampa Bay Lighting prospect Connor Ingram through his first professional year of hockey.

Goehring’s ties to Syracuse are stronger than any other player in the Crunch’s history. I don’t think the organization needs to wait until he’s fully retired from the sport to honor him. Honestly, I would love to see him honored this upcoming season in the inaugural batch of people. He’s earned it, and he deserves it.

Essentially, this all comes down to recognizing the impact people have had on this organization and this community. There is nothing wrong with being proud of Syracuse’s history with the sport of hockey and honoring those who have had a part in it. The fans deserve the chance to do so. Those who would be honored deserve the chance to be recognized. It’s just as simple as that.