Late last week, the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame announced that former Jets co-owner and president Barry Shenkarow would be part of the class of inductees for 2019.
If you want to picture my reaction, go polish off a bag of lemons then take a good long look in the mirror.
I will openly acknowledge Shenkarow’s leadership role in saving the Jets in 1978, for which he and his partners deserve a great deal of credit. All that fans like me enjoyed and agonized over for the next 18 years simply would not have happened without their money and foresight.
Furthermore, during their first full summer at the helm, Shenkarow and Michael Gobuty brilliantly engineered the purchase of the remaining players from the defunct Houston Aeros franchise. Not only was it a big moral boost for a franchise still reeling from the tearful departure of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, but it provided the necessary firepower for the Jets to capture their third AVCO Cup.
Finally, it was Shenkarow and Gobuty who ultimately got the Jets into the NHL, which helped ensure their survival for many years to come.
If we were to stop here, the case for his induction becomes a lot stronger. But one must consider his entire body of work when looking at this kind of lifetime award.
And the rest of it is not pretty.
Over the next 17 years, he was a terrible owner, and the teams he presided over were less than awe-inspiring. It is unfair to place all the blame for the team’s eventual departure at his feet, but it is equally unfair to suggest he was not part of the problem. It is true that he had a lot of factors working against him. Most notably, he was stuck in the decrepit Winnipeg Arena and forced to deal with its prickly landlord. Fans like me still cringe at the mere mention of Winnipeg Enterprises. But he did himself few favors along the way and his endless whining certainly didn’t win him a lot of support. He could have handled his end of the bargain a lot better and he was no innocent victim, as he is being portrayed in some circles.
In short, with all things considered, his resume doesn’t scream “Hall of Fame,” and I must withhold my endorsement of his induction. As I’ve heard it said, when considering someone for this kind of honor, if you’ve got to think about it, he’s not a Hall of Famer.