Saturday, May 15, 2010

NHL Awards, A Lesson in Hockey History...


This article is in the May 2010 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission of the editors. Drop by www.mainstreetweeknews.com to have a look at a great community newspaper.

In a recent Main Street Week column (Friday, April 9), I discussed how several hockey analysts would like to see the National Hockey League change some of their individual award names to help "modernize" the game and attract new fans. However, as I wrote in my column, the game of hockey has well over 100 years of history; is it better to educate the public about that history or cater to people that can't be bothered to learn about the league's past glory?

To continue the conversation and explore the NHL, past and present, here is a quick look at some of the awards, this year’s finalists and a brief description of the trophy’s history.

The Vezina Trophy - Awarded to the league’s Most Outstanding Goaltender. This year’s finalists are Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Ryan Miller (Buffalo) and Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix). Originally awarded to the goalkeeper with the fewest goals allowed during the season, since 1981, the trophy has gone to the most valuable goaltender on his team as voted on by the General Managers. Georges Vezina was an outstanding goaltender in the early days of hockey; playing in the National Hockey Association and the NHL from 1910 until 1926. Diagnosed with tuberculosis after collapsing during a game in 1925, Vezina lost his battle with the illness, passing away on March 26, 1926. The owners of the Montreal Canadiens donated the award to honour their former goalkeeper in 1927.

The Hart Memorial Trophy - Awarded to the league’s Most Valuable Player. This year’s finalists are Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Alex Ovechkin (Washington) and Henrik Sedin (Vancouver). Dr. David Hart donated the Hart Trophy to the league in 1923. Hart’s son, Cecil Hart, was a three-time Stanley Cup winner as Head Coach of the Montreal Canadiens (1924, 1930, and 1931).

The Art Ross Trophy - Awarded to the NHL’s top point scorer during the regular season since 1947. Born in 1886, Art Ross was a defenceman for 13 seasons, the Head Coach of the Boston Bruins from 1924 until 1945 and General Manager of the organization from its inception in 1924 until 1954. This year’s winner of the Art Ross Trophy is Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. A first-time winner of the award, Sedin scored 29 goals and added 83 assists for 112 points; beating out Sidney Crosby (109 points) and Alex Ovechkin (109 points). A native of Ornskoldsvik Sweden, Sedin’s career is unique - he plays on Vancouver’s top line with his twin brother Daniel.

The Calder Memorial Trophy - Awarded to the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. This year’s finalists are Matt Duchene (Colorado), Jimmy Howard (Detroit) and Tyler Myers (Buffalo). If you are a fan of the NHL, you have Frank Calder to thank - he served as the league’s first President from its inception until his death in 1943. Calder guided the league through the Great Depression and two World Wars and his efforts to help the league survive may have cost him his life. At a league meeting, depleted and strained from the stress of the job, Calder suffered a heart attack and passed away a short time later.

While it is important to keep the game of hockey exciting for the current fans and the league certainly needs to do all it can to obtain new ones, the NHL’s past contains a rich tapestry of stories and legends; it would be a shame to see them overlooked in the name of modernization. Have a great sports day everyone.

Photo by duspr on Flickr.com

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