Commentary

Skeptics don't matter to Dino Ciccarelli

Updated: November 4, 2010, 9:45 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

In the end, maybe it doesn't really matter that I don't think Dino Ciccarelli belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Or that anyone else might share that view.

We're pretty sure Ciccarelli won't give the skeptics and naysayers a moment's thought when he steps to the podium Monday night to bathe in the warm glow of his long-awaited moment.

[+] EnlargeCiccarelli
B Bennett/Getty ImagesDino Ciccarelli finished his NHL career with 608 goals and 1200 points in 1232 games with five teams.

What thoughts will instead occupy his mind?

Certainly, Ciccarelli will think of his father, Victor, who died of cancer in 2006. He will no doubt feel a pang of regret that Victor didn't live to see his son get the call.

He will think of his mother, Celeste, who died in February just months before the call Ciccarelli had been waiting most of a decade to receive finally rang through.

When his phone did ring that day in June, Ciccarelli said he ignored the calls, assuming it was too early for the selection committee's votes to have been tallied.

More media bugging him, he figured.

But one Toronto number kept coming up and it turned out to be Jim Gregory of the Hall of Fame welcoming the hard-nosed forward to what amounts to hockey immortality.

At the time of the announcement, Ciccarelli was clearing out his parents' home in Sarnia, Ontario, the home where he'd grown up.

"My parents never threw anything away," he told ESPN.com in a recent interview.

There were all those clippings, a catalogue of a life in hockey, almost a quarter century if you count the four years of juniors in London followed by 19 years as an NHL player. And after it was over, to find out that regardless of what critics say, he is going to the Hall of Fame, that he is a Hall of Famer.

"So I'm just sort of reliving this through my parents and just reflecting on my whole life," Ciccarelli said.

A career is a difficult thing to put into perspective, especially one that covered as much ground on and off the ice as Ciccarelli's did.

Ciccarelli, now 50, nearly didn't make it to the NHL. He broke his leg when he was 16 and went undrafted. Forming part of the "team" of many who kept him moving forward, a trainer in London helped him rehab for the better part of a year to get him back on the ice.

After signing with Minnesota as a free agent, Ciccarelli went to the Stanley Cup finals with the North Stars in his first season (1980-81). He scored 18 goals and had 30 points that season.

In 1995, he returned to the finals with the Detroit Red Wings but was dealt to Tampa Bay before the Wings won back-to-back Cups in 1997 and 1998.

There were no more trips to the finals for Ciccarelli, and he has had to reconcile what he had -- the points, the good times, the money -- with what he did not have -- a Cup.

"Hockey's the only sport where you don't really celebrate anything unless you win the Cup," Ciccarelli said.

Hockey's the only sport where you don't really celebrate anything unless you win the Cup. So, if you don't win a Cup you kind of feel that you didn't get a chance to win anything.

-- Dino Ciccarelli

"So, if you don't win a Cup you kind of feel that you didn't get a chance to win anything."

And so when it is over, at the end, you wonder what it is you've accomplished.

Maybe that's what the selection committee pondered all these years, too.

Were the goals (608 for 17th all-time) and the points (1,200) and even the penalty minutes (1,425) enough to open the door to the Hall of Fame? Or were the lack of a championship, the lack of individual awards and the off-ice issues -- he pleaded guilty to indecent exposure in Minnesota in 1987 and was sentenced to a day in jail for whacking Luke Richardson with his stick a year later -- significant enough marks against his character to keep that door closed forever?

A career, after all, is a hard thing to put into perspective, especially when you're deciding whether to include someone with the game's greatest.

And no doubt all of those issues flew like pingpong balls within the meeting rooms occupied by the selection committee, at least until June when Ciccarelli's number came up and he got the call that put the final exclamation point on a career that had been up to this point one of wanting.

"It's just a satisfying feeling," he said.

A part owner of the OHL Sarnia Sting, Ciccarelli is in the process of opening a steak house/sports bar in Royal Oak, Mich.

He has planned a big party for Hall of Fame weekend and expects as many as 400 people to attend.

He will spend precious little time wondering whether people, like this writer for instance, think he deserves to have his name in the Great Hall.

The wait, the skepticism isn't on his agenda ... not anymore.

"I don't let that bother me at all," Ciccarelli said.

In the end, we're not sure we can blame him at all.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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