Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At Long Last! Part IV of the Trophy Series

Newsy Lalonde in the uniform of the Renfrew Creamery Kings

Apologies for the long delay, and general lack of blogging! Well, when we last delved into the dark world of NHL trophies, we finished up the major individual awards. So that leaves us with only a small collection of oddities: retired trophies, non-NHL trophies, and the like. Let us begin!

Sources this time around are, as usual,, Hockey Reference, and Wikipedia.

The O'Brien Cup: The O'Brien Cup was the championship trophy of the National Hockey Association, the NHL's immediate predecessor as an eastern Canadian professional league. It thus became the NHL's first championship mug, before being replaced by the Prince of Wales Trophy. The O'Brien Cup subsequently saw a number of different incarnations, including bizarrely, as the trophy awarded to the Stanley Cup final losers.

The O'Brien Cup is named for John Ambrose O'Brien, son of Senator Michael O'Brien, who was one of the founders of the town of Renfrew, and who actually donated the trophy. The younger O'Brien helped create the NHA, and owned several of its teams, including the awesomely named Renfrew Creamery Kings as pictured above (sadly, and despite O'Brien's best monetary efforts, the Creamery Kings never won the cup named after him). His most famous and lasting contribution to hockey was made in 1909, when, having noticed that there was no hockey team in Montreal specifically designed to capture the loyalty of the French-Canadian population, he and the owner of the Montreal Wanderers created the Canadiens.

The Lester Patrick Trophy: I've included this one in the "oddities" section because it's not really an NHL trophy, for all that it was donated by the New York Rangers. It's awarded to four people or groups annually to honour contributions to hockey in the United States, and is the only trophy of all of those discussed here to ever have been won by women; the U.S. women's Olympic team won it in 1998, and Cammi Granato won it individually in 2006.

Lester Patrick was a member of one of ice hockey's great family dynasties. The Patrick clan in fact boasts four members of the Hall of Fame, and name has appeared on a number of different trophies, divisions, &c. Lester Patrick had a distinguished playing career in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which he and his brother Frank had founded, during the first quarter of the twentieth century (I should point at this juncture, however, that Lester Patrick also spent a season with the Renfrew Creamery Kings). His association with American hockey came after his playing days were done, when he became coach of the New York Rangers and led them to the Stanley Cup in 1928 and 1933. Famously, when his goalie Lorne Chabot went down injured against the Montreal Maroons during the '28 finals, the 43-year-old Patrick put himself in net for the rest of the game, which the Rangers duly won in overtime.

The Mark Messier Leadership Award: This somewhat self-explanatory trophy only entered service in 2006, and was awarded monthly for the first season of its existance. It is named, of course, after the former Oiler, Ranger, and Canuck star, the only man to have captained two teams to the Stanley Cup. In addition to having been donated by and named after Mark Messier, it has its recipients selected by Mark Messier. So far, none of those winners have been Oilers.

The Bud Light Plus-Minus Award: Formerly known as the Bud Ice Plus-Minus Award. Also formerly known as the Alka Seltzer Plus Award. Yeesh. Anyway, this one is awarded annually to the player who accumulates the best plus-minus over the course of the season. It has been named after bad beer and tummyache pills and at least one other corporate phenomenon.

Two Oilers have actually won the +/- award. You probably guessed that one of them was Wayne Gretzky, but if you figured out that the other one was Charlie Huddy, then good for you! And, just to bring us full circle, I wouldn't have a big problem if this one got renamed.

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