To appease the attention-deficit mob, the league may replace them with the heroes of the post-expansion era
The concept of dumping the league’s history in favour of blog talking points for Millennials has taken root.
If the attention-deficit mob – which loves changing the names of universities or toppling statues to suit the mood – has its way, the league will replace the names of its founders and legends with the heroes of the post-expansion era.
Which would be a loss. The Hart Trophy – donated in 1923 by David Hart, the father of legendary head coach of Montreal Canadiens coach Cecil Hart – honours the man who made the Habs into a dynasty.
The Norris Trophy – named for James E. Norris, owner of the Detroit Red Wings from 1932 to 1952 – has honoured the league’s top defenceman since 1953. The Adams Award honours Jack Adams, Hall of Fame player for Toronto, Detroit and Ottawa, and long-time coach/general manager of the Red Wings.
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The Vezina Trophy remembers Georges Vezina, legendary goaltender of the Canadiens from 1910 until 1925, who died in 1926 of tuberculosis. The Art Ross Trophy going to the scoring leader commemorates the founder of the Boston Bruins from 1924 to 54, who lost a son during the Second World War. The Lady Byng Trophy honours the wife of Viscount Byng of Vimy, who commanded Canadian forces at the Battle of Vimy Ridge (Lady Byng was also an avid hockey fan.)
And so on, for the Jennings Trophy, the Rocket Richard Trophy and the Selke Trophy. These were real people and they built the NHL. They should stay exactly where they are.
Yes, Gary Bettman is now down with non-binary hockey. But changing the brand of a sport just to feel au courant with Woke sensibilities seems just a little too much of a reach – even for him.
It’s understandable that people who know nothing before the 1967 expansion era might prefer to honour Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur and Bobby Orr in some fashion. Howe, who died in 2016, is now past being recognized in the flesh. Guy Lafleur – The Flower – left us just a few months back. They, too, were real people and they also built the NHL.
So, say the hasty puddings, the NHL should treat the pioneers of the game like some statue of Sir John A. Paint and pitchforks. In the rush to institutionalize the more recent legends while they’re still with us, they believe it’s okay to toss away the pedestal the NHL is built upon.
That opportunity was missed when the league exhausted its creative juices on exotic names such as Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific for the four divisions now in existence. How would it have hurt the league’s integrity if the Pacific were the Gretzky Division, the Central the Howe Division, the Atlantic the Orr Division and the Metropolitan the Lemieux Division? Not a bit.
You get modern heroes (divisions) and the game’s founders (trophies) all at the same time. But that Zamboni has left the harbour till more pointless expansion forces the league to re-arrange its divisions yet again. Or Bettman sails off into a limousine retirement.
The only solution now is not to change the brand of the historic titles but simply add a few new awards that might tie in the past and present for fans who think the Hartford Whalers were a sandwich at Jack In The Box.
The Borje Salming Award: For the top European player of the season.
The Alex Ovechkin Trophy: For the player who is the most obsequious apologist for a vicious dictator whose initials are VP.
The Brad Marchand Trophy: Awarded to the player opponents would most like to put through the Plexiglas.
The Johnny Gaudreau Geography Prize: To a Pacific Division player who says he wants to be closer to his family in New Jersey but then signs to play in Columbus, Ohio.
The Guy Lafleur Memorial Award: To the outstanding French Canadian player still willing to play in the Montreal fish bowl. It will be unclaimed most years.
The Gabby Boudreau “I’ve Been Everywhere” Prize: To the man who leads the league in forwarded mail addresses and lost rent deposits.
The Ron Maclean Prize: To the announcer who conducts the most baffling, cringey interview strewn with bad puns during a season.
And finally, the Gary Bettman Cup: Awarded to the NHL executive who’s so tin-eared, so vain, so unaware that he allows himself to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame while he’s still commissioner of the league that runs the HHoF. There can be just one recipient for this puck-headed prize.
Bruce Dowbiggin is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by bookauthority.org. His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best.
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