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.


Chorus said...

Didn't this year's Spengler Cup feature one Alexandre Daigle??

Chunklets said...

It did! He's apparently made himself a nice little career across the pond.