Greatest women’s players not yet in the HHOF
With Jayna Hefford bound for Toronto, women’s hockey players have finally achieved consecutive years of Hall-of-Fame enshrinment. The former Team Canada standout follows countrywoman Danielle Goyette, who was part of 2017’s class.
Previously, women had only been in the player category for 2010, 2013 and 2015. But now the recognition rate is accelerating. The phenomenon of a female honoree has gone from a three-year gap to every two years to every year.
If the ritual does not stay annual, it will not be for lack of qualified candidates. With the three-year rule between retirement and eligibility, some notable names should emerge in the 2020s. But starting lineups’ worth of others need not wait any longer.
It would only make sense to start admitting them as early as 2019. Handfuls of additional living legends are at the dusk of their playing careers. The sooner they enter, the shorter the delay for those with one or two more Olympics ahead.
Among those who have already retired, these are the greatest women’s hockey players yet to join the sport’s ultimate museum. All statistics are according to Elite Prospects.
10. Erin Whitten
Between stints with five minor-league men’s teams, Whitten backstopped the U.S. through several World Championships.
As the tournament gained traction, precipitating 1998’s Olympic breakthrough, Whitten gained recognition. She was the 1994 WC’s top goaltender, tying for third in save percentage and retaining a 2.33 goals-against average.
Although Whitten missed the Olympics, she resurfaced the next year for an assertive curtain call. She posted a .944 save percentage and 1.34 GAA in her final World Championship.
9. Cassie Campbell
Of the five women’s hockey players in the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, three are already honored in Toronto. The more glaring exception is the two-time Olympic gold-medal captain.
Compared to other candidates, Campbell’s career was brief and her output less extravagant. With that said, she made the all-tournament team as a defender at the 1997 World Championship.
Upon retiring after winning her second Olympic gold in 2006, she was enshrined in the aforementioned Canada Sports Hall. Her native Ontario’s athletic hall of fame gave her the same recognition in 2012.
8. Krissy Wendell
Though only 25 when she last played, Wendell dazzled for Team USA in eight of nine seasons. The only year she missed international competition was 2003, when a SARS epidemic cancelled the World Championship.
At 17, Wendell broke out with six points in five games at the 1999 World Championship. She led all participants with 13 points the next year, then finished second behind Cammi Granato with 12 in 2001.
Her debut at the University of Minnesota was subsequently delayed by the 2002 Olympics and preceding tune-up tour. At the next Worlds, she was the only U.S. forward named to the all-star team. And when the Americans won their first-ever gold in 2005, she was the leading scorer and MVP.
After one more Olympic year, Wendell partook in one more World Championship. She finished second behind Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser on the scoring leaderboard with 12 points. Her career totals between the two marquee events: 69 points in 39 games.
7. Maria Rooth
Masked marvel Kim Martin was the face of Sweden’s silver-medal finish at the 2006 Turin Games. But somebody had to feed the other net to secure that semifinal thriller against Team USA.
To the surprise of no Scandinavian women’s hockey fan, Rooth was the offensive catalyst. One year prior, she was lone European skater on the 2005 World Championship all-star team.
At her Olympic encore, with five goals and nine points, she was the only European among the top 10 scorers. She retired after one more trip to the ultimate tournament, having amassed 197 points in 224 career games.
By Tre Kronor standards, that is on the same plane as any better-than-point-per-game North American.
6. Jenny Potter
Potter was the only American besides Angela Ruggiero to play in each of the first four Olympic women’s tournaments. One year after breaking out at Nagano, she led all World Championship scorers with 12 points.
Still only a junior at Minnesota-Duluth in 2001, she tallied 10 points in that year’s WC. By career’s end, she had logged 34 goals and 49 assists in 71 games at the two major IIHF tournaments.
With her last Olympic go-round, Potter put a strong bookend on her career. She made the all-tournament team, then received the 2010 Bob Allen Award as America’s top female player. A few more years in the pros yielded an aggregate 82 points in 49 NWHL/CWHL games.
5. Manon Rheaume
At the 1992 World Championship, Rheaume saw the most crease time among netminders who kept their GAA under one. In three games, she retained a 0.67 average and a .957 save percentage.
She was comparatively less sterling in 1994, but still allowed a mere 1.72 goals every 60 minutes. And in Nagano, Rheaume repelled 94.4 percent of all opposing shots and retained a 0.87 GAA. Both numbers were good for an easy tournament lead.
And yes, she also blended with the boys on nine different major-junior and minor-pro teams. Had there been a women’s pro league during her peak, it is safe to assume Rheaume would have thrived.
4. Karyn Bye
Given how long ago Bye retired, she might be the most overdue female HHOF candidate. Had she continued, she could have challenged her fellow blueliner Ruggiero to succeed Granato as Team USA’s face.
At her peak, she won the Bob Allen Award in 1995 and 1998. In six World Championships, she finished among the top 10 scorers five times, totaling 26 goals and 44 points in 25 games.
Bye finished no lower than a tie for second among Team USA’s leading point-getters in four of those tournaments. In her fifth (2000), she surpassed all goal-scorers with eight. One year later, she was named the tournament’s best defender.
In Nagano, Bye tied three American forwards with eight points and eclipsed everyone with five goals. She added six points at Salt Lake in 2002 before retiring.
3. Florence Schelling
To fully apprceciate Schelling’s catalyst status in Switzerland’s rise, consider her consistency in save percentage. At age 16, she broke out in the 2006 Olympics with a .933 stoppage rate, third-best among qualified leaders.
Remarkably, she also retained a respectable 2.40 goals-against average. While the rest of the program was progressing, her numbers were usually swollen under that heading. Nonetheless, Schelling held one of the top five save percentages in eight Olympics or World Championships.
Starting with the 2014 Olympics, where she was named tournament MVP, her GAA entered celestial territory. That was a reflection of the program’s progress, as was its bronze medal in Sochi. She followed that with a leading .940 save percentage in the 2015 World Championship.
After finishing third in both categories in 2016 and 2017, Schelling saved her best for last. In the 2018 Olympics, she totaled a 1.41 GAA, a .942 save percentage and two shutouts.
2. Jennifer Botterill
By the next selection cycle, Botterill will have been Hall-eligible for five years. With her output and individual trophy case, it is hard to determine why she missed the 2014 or 2016 class.
While collegiate output has less HOF bearing, if any, Botterill accrued unsurpassed numbers over four seasons at Harvard. In between, she represented Canada in her second of four Olympics.
That’s right, her second. Botterill played in Nagano as an 18-year-old, and never missed an Olympic or World Championship tournament until she retired. By the end of the 2010 Games, she had accumulated 74 points in 61 games in those events.
The World Championship MVP in 2001 and 2004, Botterill also tied for third among all scorers in 2008. One year later, she tied three others for the team lead with eight points.
Beyond Team Canada, her 340 college points translated more smoothly to the professional ranks. Over 164 NWHL and CWHL regular-season games, she tallied 128 goals and 177 assists.
1. Hayley Wickenheiser
One could argue the Hall should have reinstated its waiver for Wickenheiser in 2017. As it is, no inductee has garnered that exceptional treatement since the waiver was abolished in 1999.
Regardless, the Canadian Walk of Fame would not wait, giving her a star while she was still active. And with her on-ice achievements and honors, Wickenheiser should not qualify for this list much longer. Induction any later than the standard three-year interim in 2020 would be unconscionable.
A veteran of the first five Olympic tournaments, Wickenheiser was the 2002 and 2006 MVP. She led all skaters with six assists in 1998, and again with nine in 2010. In 13 World Championships, she was a two-time best forward and made eight all-star teams.
Between the two major IIHF jamborees, she logged 87 games, 55 goals and 72 assists. In the pros, when not competing with men overseas, she tallied 171 points in 75 WWHL or CWHL contests.