In (at least) North America it's a tradition to induct the very best players of a league who have not been playing for a certain amount of years. All major leagues in North America: NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL practice this tradition.

Almost all of the athletes who make it to the Hall of Fame have long careers. Furthermore, most these athletes retire either because of injuries and health reasons, or because they pass their prime and are no longer as effective as they used to be. In both these cases, it is improbable for these players to come out of retirement after the minimum inactive period required by their respective league to become eligible for Hall of Fame. This makes it even harder for a Hall of Famer to make a comeback, and frankly I can't think of any player who has done this in recent years. The only players who I think could possibly do this (but don't believe they'll do) are Chris Pronger, and maybe Brett Favre.

Can a player who's been inducted to the Hall of Fame come out of retirement and start playing in that league again? I personally don't see why the leagues would have problem with this, but if it happens what is the policy of the leagues cited above regarding this situation. Will the athlete's Hall of Fame status be suspended for the time he continues to play?

  • I know most peoples' perception of stock car racing as relates to it being a sport, but Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr still race, at least part time, and both are in the NASCAR hall of fame.... :)
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 5, 2021 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


Yes. Three NHL players have done this:

  • Geordie Howe: inducted 1972, last played in the NHL in the 1979-80 season.
  • Guy Lafleur: inducted 1988, last played in the NHL in the 1990-91 season.
  • Mario Lemieux: inducted 1997, last played in the NHL in the 2005-06 season.

In terms of your question, it's worth noting that both Howe and Lemieux were inducted into the Hall of Fame without waiting the normal 3 year period.

As for "Hall of Fame status", that doesn't mean anything in terms of actually playing the game, so the question as to whether it would be "suspended" or not isn't really relevant.

  • 1
    Do you know why Howe and Lemieux were inducted before the 3 year time mark? Given that they've been 2 of the best ever to play the game, it's not too surprising to hear that.
    – alamoot
    Mar 14, 2017 at 22:03
  • 1
    @alamoot That's probably best as a new question so people can add some proper references, but I think the answer is fairly blatantly "yes, because they were great". More players: wolfieluc.tripod.com/mariohof.html
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 15, 2017 at 9:47

Jim Palmer tried a comeback in 1991 after being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990, but was nowhere near good enough. He quit before being cut.

  • Interesting; I assumed the 5-year waiting period (which I think is unique to MLB) would be enough to "wait out" the people who might have had second thoughts about retirement.
    – chepner
    Feb 5, 2021 at 20:02

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