TORONTO -- It took only one look for voters to pick this year's class of Hockey Hall of Famers.
Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, and Scott Stevens all were elected in their first year of eligibility.
"I have a lot of respect for all the guys who were inducted this year," Messier said after yesterday's announcement. "I think their stats and what they've done speak for themselves."
"There was a number of players eligible this year beyond the number that we could put in," said former Toronto coach Pat Quinn, a member of the 18-person selection committee. "The deliberations were strong."
Igor Larionov, the former Russian great who excelled on both sides of the ocean, didn't make it. Adam Oates and Claude Lemieux were other first-year eligibles passed over, while Glenn Anderson, Doug Gilmour, Kevin Lowe, Steve Larmer, and Pavel Bure were again left out again.
NHL executive Jim Gregory will enter as a builder, a well-deserved honor for a man who has given his life to hockey. Gregory was general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1969-79 before running the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau. He's currently a senior vice president with the league.
Messier is second in NHL career points (1,886) and Francis is fourth (1,798). MacInnis is third in points by a defenseman (1,274). Stevens won three Stanley Cup titles with the New Jersey Devils while punishing the opposition as the game's best hitter.
"I'm honored to be going in with a class like this," Francis said. "Certainly over the years I've spent a lot of time playing against Mark, Scott, and Al and appreciate just how great hockey players they were."