Each year, the Hockey Hall of Fame membership rolls are opened to a select few individuals. The requirements for admission come down to four key words: ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions. Only players, on-ice officials, coaches, managers or executives who excel in all four categories gain entrance to hockey’s pantheon. How exclusive is the club? Only 271 players from around the world have been immortalized in the Hall, while over 10,000 have played in the NHL alone.
Unfortunately, in their zeal to recognize only the best of the best, the ultra-exclusive HHOF has overlooked the abilities, sportsmanship, character and contributions of the diverse and ever-growing group of fictional hockey players and management. Apparently, the Hall believes it’s okay to discriminate against players, coaches and managers who, through no fault of their own, never actually existed.
Here at The Hockey Writers, we believe this gross injustice must end now. Thus, in the interest of promoting healing and greater understanding between the real- and fictional hockey communities, we are proud to present the inaugural class of the Fictional Hockey Hall of Fame.
Reggie Dunlop (Player/Coach, Charlestown Chiefs)
A select few players are recognized as legends in their own time. Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman, Slap Shot) was one such player. The wily forward’s playing career spanned decades and multiple minor leagues. Ironically, Dunlop enjoyed perhaps his greatest success at the end, as player/coach with the legendary Charlestown Chiefs of the Federal League.
Mired in last place at midseason and beset by rumors of the franchise either folding or relocating to Florida, Dunlop implemented major strategic changes, transforming the Chiefs virtually overnight. The new and improved (and allegedly Florida-bound) team skated and fought their way to the Federal League championship, earning Dunlop a coaching job with the “Minnesota Night Hawks” (or is it Nighthawks?) of the NHL.
Dunlop’s career was not without controversy. During the Chiefs’ miraculous final season, he infamously placed a $100 bounty on the head of Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken, the head coach and chief punk of the Syracuse team. Dunlop also benched the Chiefs’ leading scorer, talented winger Ned Braden, for refusing to fight.
Controversies aside, Dunlop earns a spot in the FHHOF for his contributions to Old Time Hockey, as well as his impeccable fashion sense.
Snoopy (World Famous Hockey Player/Goalie/Coach, Peanuts)
Many famous fictional dogs, from Balto to Lassie to Rin Tin Tin, do nothing more than repeatedly save human lives. Others, like Snoopy, achieve true greatness.
Snoopy’s hockey career began in the fall of 1967, when the NHL doubled in size, expanding from six to 12 teams. Though the beagle never played in the NHL, he’s done extensive marketing work for the league over six decades.
Why he was never drafted or signed as a free agent remains a mystery, as Snoopy is an exceptional skater (without skates, no less), possesses a slap shot which was reportedly the envy of NHL legend and HHOFer Bobby Hull and, as seen in the video below, plays the game with an intensity reminiscent of Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel.
For an amazing 50 years as a World Famous Player, Goalie and Coach, Snoopy is a most deserving inductee into the FFHOF.
The Hanson Brothers (Enforcers, Charlestown Chiefs)
No Fictional Hockey Hall of Fame worthy of the title would omit Jeff, Steve and Jack Hanson (Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson and Dave Hanson, Slap Shot). The brothers, purchased from the Iron League by Charlestown GM Joe McGrath in a shrewd midseason move, inspired Dunlop’s strategic changes and sparked the Chiefs to the Federal League championship.
Known more for their foil-wrapped fists than goal-scoring prowess, the Hanson Brothers provided the Chiefs with a physical presence reminiscent of the Philadelphia Flyers’ infamous “Broad Street Bullies” era.
Making the penalty box a second home, the brothers often went over the line. They also went over the glass during one legendary game in Hyannisport, attacking fans, peanut vendors and security guards after an unknown spectator threw what Dunlop called a “tire chain,” injuring one of the brothers. After the game, the Hansons were arrested. While waiting for McGrath to post bail, the brothers allegedly used their one phone call to order pizza.
The Hanson Brothers have developed quite an international following over the years. In 2015, the trio was inducted into the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame. Though no official figures exist, it’s a safe bet that the Hansons have sold more jerseys than any other fictitious athlete, in any sport. Welcome to the FHHOF, boys; please don’t break anything.
Johnny Hanson (Player, New York Panthers)
Johnny Hanson (relationship to Jeff, Jack and Steve unknown) was one of the first fictional hockey stars. His tale, as told in Idol of the Crowds way back in 1937, is your typical Maine-chicken-farmer-with-money-troubles-joins-a-pro-hockey-team-falls-in-love-and-is-pressured-by-gamblers-to-throw-The-Big-Game story. Paving the way for future fictional athletes everywhere, Hanson resisted the pressure, won The Big Game, got paid, got the girl and retired to his Maine chicken farm, where he presumably lived happily ever after.
As for the Panthers? They followed in the footsteps of generations of New York retirees and moved to Florida in 1993.
What makes Hanson’s story unique is his uncanny resemblance to a young John Wayne. That’s right, folks: Two years before Stagecoach catapulted the “Duke” to fame, he played a professional hockey star. John Wayne on skates, scoring goals. Nothing more needs to be said. The FHHOF is proud to induct Johnny Hanson in the “Pioneer” category.
Taro Tsujimoto (Center, Tokyo Katanas/Buffalo Sabres)
Among the all-time great fictional hockey players, Taro Tsujimoto is in a class by himself. What sets the pride of the Japan Ice Hockey League apart? He’s the only one actually drafted by a real NHL team.
Tsujimoto was selected by the Buffalo Sabres, 183rd overall, in the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft. He was the product of Sabres GM George “Punch” Imlach’s frustration with the slow pace of the draft, which was conducted via telephone.
In those days, the draft continued until every team selected every eligible player they desired. The 1974 draft dragged on for 25 rounds. Less than halfway through, Imlach was fed up. He detailed Sabres PR director Paul Wieland to create a fictional player for the club to select, and the rest is history.
Imlach didn’t admit his deception until months later, just prior to the opening of training camp. The NHL, in a brazen act of discrimination against fictional players, declared the draft pick invalid and removed Tsujimoto’s name from all official records.
The league denied the nonexistent 5-foot-9, 165-pound center the opportunity to prove his mettle against real NHLers, so we’re left to wonder what kind of career he never would’ve had. Nevertheless, the Fictional Hockey Hall of Fame is proud to welcome to its ranks Taro Tsujimoto, who came closer to playing an actual NHL game than any fictional player, before or since.
There you have it: the inaugural class of the FHHOF. We at THW are quite pleased with our selections, but we want to hear from you, the fans. Who did we leave out? Which fictional hockey superstars belong in the FHHOF Class of 2018? Let us know in the comments below.
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.