Thursday, December 31, 2009

So, More Trophies: Part III

This may be my favourite picture ever posted on this blog. That's Oxford University, in the white sweaters, taking on the Swiss national team in 1922. The Oxford player at the right front of the picture is Lester B. Pearson, who was apparently nicknamed "Herr Zigzag" by the Swiss fans. Click to see larger version!

Now, where were we, in our march through the origins of the names of NHL trophies? About halfway through the individual awards, you say? Well then, let us continue...

Sources this time around are, Hockey Reference, TSN, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Page, and Wikipedia.

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: This one is awarded to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey." It generally ends up awarded to someone who has come back from, or made a sterling attempt to come back from, serious illness or injury. The trophy was donated by the Hockey Writers' Association in 1968, and is named after Minnesota North Stars forward Bill Masterton, who died of head injuries suffered in January of that year during a game against the Oakland Seals. Masterton, who scored Minnesota's first goal ever, remains the only NHL player to have died as a direct result of on-ice injuries (knock on wood, toca ferro, &c.).

No Oiler has ever won the Masterton trophy, but if Fernando Pisani, poised to come back from ulcerative colitis for the second time, doesn't win it this year, an injustice will have been done.

The Lester B. Pearson Award: In the last post in this series, I mentioned an award won by a Nobel laureate, and, well, it's this one. The Pearson award is given to the NHL's outstanding player, as chosen by the players themselves, and was donated by the NHL Players' Association in 1971. It is named, of course, after the former Canadian Prime Minister, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his handling of the Suez crisis. Pearson was an active sportsman; in addition to playing for Oxford, with whom he won the Spengler Cup* in 1923, he played semi-pro baseball, coached the University of Toronto men's hockey team from 1926-28, and had a number of other athletic pursuits as well. In addition to, you know, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and being Prime Minister of Canada.

Gretzky and Messier are the two Oilers to have won the Pearson award.

The Jack Adams Award: First handed out in 1974, the Jack Adams Award goes to the league's best coach, as determined by NHL broadcasters. Jack Adams was a good player in the early days of the NHL (he was also a star in the rival Pacific Coast Hockey Association), but is best known for having coached Detroit for 20 straight seasons between 1927 and 1947, during which tenure his teams won three Stanley Cups. He stayed with the Red Wings as General Manager after his coaching career ended, and built the system through which Detroit acquired young guns such as Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio, to name but two. On a less positive note, he was involved, in the late '50s and early '60s, in a number of fairly shady attempts to bust the newly-created players' union.

Glen Sather is the only Oiler coach to have won the Adams Trophy, but if Quinn manages to haul that lot into the playoffs this season, that could change...

The Frank J. Selke Trophy: Awarded annually to the NHL's best defensive forward. The Selke trophy was donated by the league's Board of Governors in 1977, and pretty much belonged to Bob Gainey in the early years. Frank Selke was the long-time general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, and he probably deserves much of the credit for building the Habs team that won five straight Stanley Cups in the late 1950s; for one thing, he acquired Jean Beliveau (and Dickie Moore, and Henri Richard, among others). In all, he was an NHL general manager for about 35 years, during which his teams won the Stanley Cup nine times.

Unsurprisingly, no Oiler has ever won the Selke Trophy.

The William M. Jennings Trophy: The Jennings trophy is awarded to "the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it." Another trophy donated by the Board of Governors, it took over the Vezina trophy's earlier function in 1982 (the Vezina thereafter was awarded to the league's most outstanding goalie, as determined by vote). Jennings himself was the owner of the New York Rangers in the 1960s and 1970s. Although the Rangers never won the Stanley Cup during his tenure, he probably deserves quite a lot of credit for rescuing that team from the depths of awfulness it occupied during the 1950s. He was also an active booster of hockey in the United States.

No Oiler goalie, or goalie tandem, has ever won the Jennings trophy.

The King Clancy Memorial Trophy: The NHL's Board of Governors also donated the Clancy trophy, in 1987, and it is awarded to a player adjudged to have demonstrated leadership on and off the ice and to have made significant humanitarian contributions to his community. It is named after Francis M. "King" Clancy, one of the NHL's great early characters. Clancy did it all: he played, coached, refereed, and served as a team executive during his 65 years of involvement with the NHL. He is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only man ever to have played all six positions, including goalie, during the same game, which feat he pulled off during the 1923 Stanley Cup finals while playing for the Senators against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Oilers' captain Ethan Moreau is actually the current holder of the Clancy award, and Kevin Lowe also won it while playing for Edmonton.

The Maurice Richard Trophy: And we have arrived at the youngest of the major NHL awards! The Richard Trophy was donated in 1998 by the Montreal Canadiens, and is awarded to the NHL's top goalscorer each season. It is named, of course, after the rather good Canadiens player, cultural icon, and bane of Clarence Campbell's existence, but I'm guessing that you knew that. Anyway, here's his playing record, and below is a reminder, from the last game ever played at Le Forum, of just how popular Richard was.

No Oiler has ever won the Richard Trophy.

Stayed tuned for the final post in the trophies series, when we'll discuss retired awards and other oddities!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

*The Spengler Cup, by the way, is one of the great under-appreciated bits of ice hockey. Nowadays it is contested between a number of European club teams and a Team Canada comprised of Europe-based Canadian players. It produces lots of great "Oh, so that's what happened to Player X" moments (I was watching Canada vs. Adler Mannheim on Tuesday, and was interested to see that the Mannheim goalie was Freddy Brathwaite, who played for the Oilers in the mid-'90s. Sadly, this year's Spengler just wrapped up (hats off to Dynamo Minsk), so you'll have to wait 'til next December to see it again, but I'd highly recommend watching it if you get the chance.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The best of the holidays to all of you!

Regular blogging to resume next week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Sorry, once again, for the lack of posting! I've been at the Bookstore all week, lugging textbooks around, and I haven't had the energy to do any blogging. More on hockey trophies soon!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Field Guide To Hockey Trophies, Part II

Great Lakes Bulk Carrier "James Norris"

Well, this thing is certainly taking on a life of its own! I had originally thought to do the major individual awards in one go, but there are just too many of them, so I'm breaking them into two parts. I've decided to discuss the awards in chronological order of inception, and, just because I can, I'll be mentioning any members of the Oilies who have held these awards.

Sources for this are, Hockey Reference, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and Wikipedia.


The Hart Memorial Trophy: Awarded to the NHL's Most Valuable Player, the Hart Memorial trophy is not, in fact, the oldest individual trophy in the league, as it was first awarded in 1960. However, I've decided to count it as such since it represents a continuation of the original Hart trophy, which was donated way back in 1923 by Dr. David A. Hart. Dr. Hart was the father of Cecil Hart, who coached the Montreal Canadiens for 9 seasons between 1926 and 1939, winning 2 Stanley Cups in the process, and is one of a smallish number of Canadians to be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. There's a small measure of historical irony in the fact that Cecil Hart was a direct descendant of Aaron Moses Hart, an officer in the British army that took Montreal from the French in 1760.

Wayne Gretzky (8 times) and Mark Messier have won the Hart while members of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Awarded to "the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." I believe that the NHL is unique among major North American professional sports leagues in having an annual award for sportsmanship. Anyway, the trophy was donated to the league in 1925 by Marie Evelyn Moreton, aka Lady Byng, the Viceregal Consort of Canada (i.e the spouse of the Governor General) between 1921 and 1926 (the "Memorial" bit was added after her death). She was married to Julian Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy, who had commanded the Canadian Corps for a time during the First World War, most famously at Vimy Ridge. During his subsequent Governor Generalship, the Byngs were frequently to be spotted at Ottawa Senators games, and the donation of the trophy followed from that. After Viscount Byng's death in 1935, Lady Byng returned to Canada, and lived the rest of the her life in Ottawa. Sadly, by the time she returned, the Senators had folded.

The Oilers have had two winners of the Lady Byng Trophy, namely Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.

The Vezina Trophy: This trophy is now awarded to the league's best goaltender, as voted upon by NHL general managers (it used to be awarded to the goalie or goalies whose team allowed the fewest goals in the season). It is named, of course, after the legendary Georges Vezina, nicknamed "le Concombre de Chicoutimi" for his coolness in net, who tended goal for the Montreal Canadiens from 1910 until November of 1925, when he was forced to retire by the tuberculosis which would kill him a mere four months later. In the wake of his death, the Canadiens donated the Vezina trophy in his honour, and it was first awarded after the 1926-27 season (the first winner of the trophy was, in fact, George Hainsworth, Vezina's successor in the Canadiens' goal). There are a number of myths out there about Vezina, including that he didn't learn to skate until he was in his late teens (true), and that he fathered 24 children, 22 of whom died in infancy (false - Vezina had two sons).

Grant Fuhr is the only Oiler to have won the Vezina.

The Calder Memorial Trophy: The wording for this one is quite elegant as well; it is awarded to "the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." The trophy is named after Frank Calder, who never played hockey but was instrumental in the creation of the NHL and was the league's first president. He presided, ruthlessly, over the league's early growth and expansion to the U.S., and its subsequent emergence as the top professional hockey league on the continent. Calder also, in 1933, initiated the practise of rewarding each season's top rookie, although the trophy itself was formally inaugurated until after his death in 1943. As a final historical note, Calder was staunchly opposed to segregation in sports. He is reported to have said, at one point in the late '20s, "[p]ro hockey has no ruling against the colored man, nor is it likely to ever draw the line."

No Oiler has ever won the Calder trophy. However, Oiler fans will swear up and down that Wayne Gretzky was unjustly denied the award in 1979-80, when the NHL decided that Gretzky's brief pro experience in the WHA rendered him ineligible. Of course, that didn't prevent Sergei Makarov, who had a mere 13 seasons' experience in the top Soviet league, winning it in 1990. To its credit, the league has since closed that loophole.

The Art Ross Trophy: Awarded to the league's top point-scorer in each season. The trophy was donated to the NHL in 1947 by its namesake himself. Ross, who ironically was a defenceman during a hall-of-fame playing career in the pre-NHL days (Ross may have been hockey's original offensive d-man, a sort of early version of Bobby Orr), is probably best known as the long-time coach of the Boston Bruins, a position he occupied for 16 seasons between 1924 and 1945. He is actually credited with having chosen the name "Bruins." He also managed the Boston club from 1924 until 1954. Ross had reputation, throughout his involvement in hockey, for belligerence; while playing for the Ottawa Senators in 1915, he got into a fight with Toronto's Minnie McGiffin that ended with both players spending the night in jail.

Seven of Wayne Gretzky's ten Art Ross Trophy wins occurred while he was a member of Oilers. No other Oiler has ever won it.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy: Awarded to the league's top defenceman. the trophy is named after James Norris Sr., and was donated to the league by his children in 1953. The Norris dynasty, which accumulated vast wealth in grain and cattle in the 19th and early 20th centuries (it is hard not to imagine the word "baron" in connection with the Norrises) owned the Detroit Red Wings from the early '30s until Bruce Norris sold the team in 1982. James Sr. also had significant ownership stakes in the Rangers and Black Hawks at the same time as he owned the Red Wings, which you probably wouldn't be able to get away with today. And, as you can see from the picture above, he has a ship named after him!

Paul Coffey won the Norris trophy twice for the Oilers.

The Conn Smythe Trophy: This one's awarded to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and was presented to the league by Maple Leaf Gardens Inc. in 1964. It is named after Constantine Falkland Cary Smythe, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1927 to 1961. Smythe was no hands-off owner - he also managed and briefly coached the Leafs, and financed the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens. He also saw action in both World Wars, winning a Military Cross and doing time as a POW during the First, and being horribly wounded during the Second. And he is of course remembered for his famous summation of his hockey philosophy: "If you can't beat 'em in the alley you can't beat 'em on the ice."

Three Oilers have won the Conn Smythe Trophy: Gretzky (twice), Messier, and Bill Ranford.

Well, that's about half of the major individual trophies. Next time up: the other half! Stay tuned to find out which is the only NHL trophy to be named after a Nobel laureate!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Interesting Thing That I Had Not Known

Taking a quick break from hockey trophies here. Anyway, up until yesterday, I had lived my life in blissful ignorance of the reason why cats, when frightened or startled, will flatten their ears, spit, and hiss. Like so:

Well, this behaviour is apparently a form of mimicry. When a cat hisses, it is saying, quite deliberately, "oh no, I'm not a poor little cat at all! I'm actually one of these guys: I'm really much scarier than a cat, and you should leave me alone."

Ok, perhaps they're not mimicking the Armenian Viper specifically, but you get the idea.

Fez tip to Maru.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Field Guide To Hockey Trophies, Part I

Lord Stanley of Preston

An interesting little discussion came up on the CBC Saturday night, during one of the period breaks in the Maple Leafs-Bruins game (Game Story: "Brian Burke haz a sad"), concerning the idea of renaming some of the NHL trophies. Apparently, there is concern in some quarters that the names attached to the trophies are just a wee bit too obscure, and thus need replacing with some more recent, well-known, monikers. And so it is proposed the the league's leading scorer each year should no longer receive the Art Ross Trophy, but rather the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, and so on. Now, honouring the game's great names is an excellent idea, but to do so by relegating other great names to the back pages of history seems very very wrong to me.

Surprisingly, however, this appalling idea actually has some support. Glen Healy was all for it during the segment I saw on TV on Saturday (video included in the link above), much to the puzzlement of Mike Milbury and Ron MacLean. And today I discovered that Elliotte Friedman had pushed the idea on his blog a full year ago. And so, we here at De Koboldorum Rebus have taken up educational arms, and are doing something about it. We hereby present a sort of " Brief Field Guide to the Trophies of the National Hockey League, Especially the People After Whom They Are Named." Sources for this are variably, Hockey Reference, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Wikipedia. This thing will come into being in three parts, beginning today with:


The Stanley Cup: Awarded yearly to the champions of the NHL playoffs, which you probably knew. The Cup was donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, who was many things but most importantly for our purposes Governor General of Canada between 1888 and 1893. Lord Stanley and his wife became hockey fans after their sons took up the amateur game in Ottawa during his tenure there. And yes, he is the Stanley who dedicated the famous park in Vancouver that bears his name (apparently, Lord Stanley had a deep affection for western Canada). As far as I know, "Lord Stanley's Mug" is the oldest still-awarded professional sports trophy in North America, and one of the three or four oldest in the world, although I'm willing to be corrected on that.

The Presidents' Trophy: Note the apostrophe. Awarded to the team with the best overall record during the regular season. The trophy was donated in 1985 by the league's Board of Governors, and I'm not dead sure to which presidents the name refers. The presidents of the NHL, presumably.

The Prince of Wales Trophy: Now awarded to the champions of the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, the trophy has had a number of roles through the years, and was originally donated to be awared to the champions of the NHL playoffs. It is named, obviously, for the Prince of Wales. Ah, but which one? Well, the trophy was donated in 1924, and is thus named for the man who would briefly become King Edward VIII before abdicating to marry Wallis Simpson. I do not know if the Prince was particularly a hockey fan, although according to his Wikipedia entry he did own a ranch in southern Alberta.

The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: The Western Conference counterpart to the Prince of Wales Trophy. It was donated upon the NHL's expansion in 1967, although I have read (at the HHOF site and on Wikipedia) that the physical trophy was made in the 19th century. It is named, obviously, after Clarence Campbell, legendary president of the NHL from 1946 to 1977. Campbell must go down with baseball's Kennesaw Mountain Landis as one of the great, iron-fisted rulers of professional sports - fitting for a man who'd been an NHL referee in the 1930s and a war crimes prosecutor during World War II. Campbell suspended players Billy Taylor and Don Gallinger for life after allegations of gambling, but is probably best remembered for his suspension of Maurice Richard in March of 1955, and the aftermath of that. He was, generally speaking, a tough egg.

So there you have some little capsules on the major team trophies. Next up: The major individual trophies!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Appropriate Musical Interlude

...particularly, this weekend, the bit about "mon chemin".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Apologies for the lack of blogging around here. I've been back at the Bookstore, and will be through the end of this week, which is excellent!

Although I find that I dislike people who talk on their cellphones while they're paying for things at the till.