Yesterday marked the 43rd anniversary of Doug Harvey's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The story of his induction always makes me laugh a little, because the legend himself was always the biggest opponent of the National Hockey League during his day.
It makes me laugh, because while the NHL may be willing to tell his story, they will never tell it the way that it deserves to be told.
They won't tell you much about his efforts to unionize the players, during times where player compensation paled in comparison to what it is now. When there was no organized body fighting to make sure the players got their due.
They won't tell you how he fought the league and his own team tooth and nail, trying to make sure that he and his fellow players got a fair slice of the pie. They won't tell you that he was essentially ostracized for those efforts.
They won't tell you how most people aware of the situation believe that the Canadiens eventually traded him because of those efforts. That he was made a pariah of sorts for said efforts. That he was, during his time, public enemy number one for the league when it came to players.
No. The NHL always prefers to use terms like "free spirit," and "carefree" in their description of the great Doug Harvey, and his reasons for not attending his own Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Either that, or they say he wanted to be inducted the year before with Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe.
He was invited to his own HHOF induction ceremony, and he told them no. He decided that he would not participate in their pageantry, choosing instead to venture out on the water and catch some fish with friends.
I don't think Doug chose fishing because he was a free spirit. I don't think he cared when he was to be inducted either. I think Doug chose to go fishing because he didn't have anything left to give the league. He tried to change things, and they rejected him. Eventually things did change for the better, but unfortunately for Doug, he was way ahead of his time.
In the words of Bernie Geoffrion; "he changed the whole game." In the words of Toe Blake; "the best defenseman who has ever played the game, bar none." Doug Harvey paved the way for the likes of Bobby Orr, Larry Robinson, and the plethora of other offensive defensemen that came after them.
More than that, he was the first player to look at the system, and actively fight against it, because he saw owners underpaying their players. He wanted to make a difference, and he paid a price for it.
I see him declining the HHOF invitation as his final act of defiance. I didn't know him, so I can't legitimately claim to be certain that this was the case. However, with all the research I've done on Doug Harvey, I am sure that he laughed at them as he caught some smallmouth Bass on whatever lake he went out on.
And I hope that he did. I hope that he caught some ridiculously large fish. I hope he cooked those fish with his friends, and laughed at the NHL for holding a ceremony while he did so. I hope he had an amazing day that he remembered for the rest of his life.
Because I remember Doug. I know what he did for the Canadiens and I will never forget him for it, even though he passed away before I was born. I know what he tried to do for his fellow players, and it is nothing short of commendable.
I have long said that we owe it to Doug Harvey to remember everything. To remember how he fought for his peers in an era where that wasn't acceptable, paid a price, and kept on fighting anyways. To remember that his troubles in life may have risen from that fight.
And today, we should remember how for one last time, he told the NHL to get lost, hopped on a boat, and caught some fish instead of attending their ceremony.
Doug Harvey is my hero, and he always will be.