Finally, Freddy the Fog gets his due.
Fred Shero, the greatest coach in Flyers history, has been voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The announcement came Tuesday in Toronto.
“I am thrilled to hear that Fred Shero was elected to the HHOF,” Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. "There's no sense looking back as to why it didn't happen sooner, because today's a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame. It's a great day for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Shero joins the 2013 class in the Builders Category, and only one coach is elected per year. The other nominee there was the late Pat Burns.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero -- son of Fred -- told CSNPhilly.com, "This is a great honor for my dad and our family since he isn't here for it. Better late than never! I have always appreciated your support of my father over the years. I am glad he has finally received his due. Hopefully it will open doors for other coaches on the builder category.
"He was always about his players, so I know he would want to thank them for making this happen. Also to Mr. Snider and Mr. (Keith) Allen for giving him his chance in the NHL back in 1971. I know people like them and Bob Clarke have pushed for this a long time."
Joining Shero from the players' side was Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and Brendan Shanahan. Geraldine Heaney, a 2002 Olympic gold medalist, became the third woman elected. Eric Lindros was again turned down.
Shero brought two Stanley Cups to the Flyers in 1974 and 1975, but his legacy as a coach far exceeds that.
“Win today and we walk together forever,” he scribbled on a blackboard before Game 6 of the Cup Final in 1974 against Boston.
Shero won that day, but would never know how difficult it would be to “win” a seat at the Hall of Fame years later.
It has taken decades for Shero to be inducted. He resigned from the Rangers 20 games into the 1981 season. That was the last time he coached.
Shero’s coaching career spanned a brief 10 year years in NHL, after nearly 15 as a successful minor league coach.
His achievements, well, they not only outlasted him but also will stand forever:
· Four Stanley Cup final appearances
· Two Cups
· First coach to employ systems
· First to hire assistant coaches
· First to employ in-season strength training
· First to breakdown film
· First to travel abroad to study Soviet influences
· Among the first to use morning skates
“The Hall of Fame is for people who have done things for the sport of hockey,” said Clarke, the greatest player Shero coached, for a series of stories in 2009 on CSNPhilly.com pushing for Shero’s induction. “Freddy did that. He was ahead of Roger Neilson for using video. He was ahead of other coaches for using system hockey. He won at them minor league and NHL level and he was way ahead of his time.
“Sometimes we forget. It’s not the National Hockey League Hall of Fame. It’s the Hockey Hall of Fame. That’s why Europeans are getting in and it’s why lots of outstanding minor leaguers from different eras never were thought about as being Hall of Famers, but probably should have been. Freddy’s NHL record is good enough to get in and put on his minor league record and he’s Hall of Fame material.”
Shero coached 734 NHL games and won 390. Two years after leaving the Rangers, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The disease eventually took his life in 1990.
Shero read books constantly. It was fabric for his coaching career.
“Some of the things he did at the time, players thought was off the wall,” recalled Lou Lamoriello, general manager of the New Jersey Devils. “But I believe, too, he was somewhat of a disciple of Lloyd Percival’s hockey handbook and I remember Fred talking about that on different occasions.”
Percival’s “The Hockey Handbook” was published in 1951, six years before Shero began his minor league coaching career. Shero reportedly memorized the book, and used it as tool for future study.
It was one of many books that influenced his life behind the bench. And not every book was on hockey, either.
“He was really big on John Wooden and had a lot of Wooden stuff around the house and books,” Ray Shero said.
“Dad saw how [Wooden] used his psychology of reading people at UCLA as applicable to hockey. My dad was pretty quiet, but if he trusted you, he would engage you and talk for hours about things. He was a big, big reader and even on Russian history. After the first Cup, he went to Russia and brought my mom for three weeks. He met with Boris Mikhailov and took Lou Vairo over there. It was a hockey seminar. He must have met with Viktor Tikhonov, too. He really loved it.”
Ray Shero called his father an innovator.
“He won a championship at every level he coached at. The contribution and innovation he made to the game, if you talk to the players who played for him and not me, he was ahead of his time," Ray Shero said. "He delved into the Soviet way of hockey way before when, the video, the assistant coaches. I have a lot of his stuff still today.
“Forty years into the future, some of the stuff he did was pretty amazing. I always thought he was deserving."
For a man who smoked too much and drank too much, Shero believed in fitness for his players. He introduced them to a funny looking machine. You might say it was the prehistoric predecessor to a Universal or Nautilus equipment.
“He had this contraption called The Apollo with ropes all over it,” Ray Shero recalled. “Guys would use it off ice. It was a tube with ropes, similar to bands we have now.”
Said Clarke, “We were the first team that had off-ice training with the Apollo machine, which was weight training. No one else was doing that.”
Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said that Shero had a unique way of motivating people simply by a touch.
“He was innovative in how he tried to motivate people,” Davidson said. “He could do things even through his hands. He would find ways to touch you on the bench [to send a message]. He was a man of few words.”
Clarke said Shero’s bench strategy was simply to keep players' minds in the game.
“He’d walk up and down the bench, ‘how much time left in the period,’ ” Clarke said. “Bleep Freddy, look it up yourself. But his game plan was, if there were five minutes left to play, this is how he wanted us to play. He wanted everyone to know how much time was left on the clock. None of us had ever seen this approach.”
Or his approach after losses.
“He would have 8 a.m. practices,” Clarke said. “If you lost a game, the next day practice was low key, almost lackadaisical. But if you won, he would work the hell out of you. He always felt if you were winning, you could get more work out of a man.
“If you were losing, your energy was low, and let’s get it back and not waste it in practice. But when we won, and we won a lot, we practiced. It’s the exact opposite philosophy of coaches today where if a team plays bad, they skate the hell out of you. He never did that. His practices were always for the purpose to get better.”