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An Encyclopedic Look at the NHL Awards

Another National Hockey League season is in the books. The Chicago Blackhawks have won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons and a new crop of young and exciting players will be drafted into the league later this week in Florida. But tonight the focus is on Las Vegas where the game’s best players, coaches and managers are gathering for the annual NHL Awards. Let’s take a look back at the history behind some of these awards and other interesting tidbits that can all be found at The Canadian Encyclopedia.

The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the player considered most valuable to his team. This award dates back to 1923 when it was donated by Dr. David A. Hart, father of Cecil Hart, former manager of the Montreal Canadiens. The original trophy was retired in 1960 and replaced by the Hart Memorial Trophy. This year’s nominees are Alex Ovechkin (Washington), Carey Price (Montreal), and John Tavares (New York Islanders). If Ovechkin wins tonight he will add a fourth Hart to his trophy case, putting him behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe (and tying Eddie Shore) for most all-time wins.

The Selke Trophy is presented to the NHL’s best defensive forward. The trophy was first presented in 1977 in honour of Frank J. Selke, who had a notable history as a key builder of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. This year’s nominees are Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles), and Jonathan Toews (Chicago). All three were nominated last year, making this year’s nominations the first time in eighteen years with the same finalists for the award in consecutive seasons.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is presented each year to the league’s best defenceman. This year’s nominees are P.K. Subban (Montréal), Erik Karlsson (Ottawa) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles). Doughty is the only nominee who hasn’t already won the award. If they were to ever rename this award it would undoubtedly become the Bobby Orr trophy. The Parry Sound native has the most Norris wins at 8, and not only that, he racked up all of them up in eight consecutive seasons from 1967-68 to 1974-75. Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom were no slouches, either, each racking up 7 Norris Trophy wins.

The Vézina Trophy is awarded to the NHL’s best goalie. It commemorates Montreal Canadiens goaltender George Vézina who collapsed during a game on 28 November 1925 and died four months later of tuberculosis. This year’s overwhelming favourite is Montreal’s Carey Price, over other nominees Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota) and Pekka Rinne (Nashville). The last time a Canadiens goaltender won the award was in 2002 when José Théodore brought home the trophy.

The Calder Memorial Trophy is given to the league’s best rookie player. This season’s nominees include Aaron Eklbad (Florida), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), and Mark Stone (Ottawa). Ekblad has drawn acclaim for establishing himself as a franchise defenceman at just eighteen-years old. Since the award was originally handed out in 1936, only 10 defenceman have won the award.

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” The award was first presented in 1925 by Lady Byng (Mary Evelyn Moreton) wife of Canada’s Governor General, Julian Byng. While the latter Byng is best remembered for his constitutional kerfuffle with Prime Minister Mackenzie King in what is known as the King-Byng Affair, Lady Byng Memorial Trophy nominees are usually never involved in controversy. This year’s nominees, Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Jiri Hudler (Calgary), and Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles) have combined for only 32 penalty minutes. Datsyuk has previously won the award four times.

The Jack Adams Award is presented annually to the NHL head coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.” This year’s nominees are Bob Hartley (Calgary), Peter Laviolette (Nashville) and Alain Vigneault (New York Rangers). Canadian hockey talking head Don Cherry, while coaching the Bruins, was just the third person to ever win the award. Since then, Pat Burns has the most all-time wins with three. More impressive is that Burns did it with three different teams!

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