NHL Awards Go To Hell
by Jeff Beer
Hot and Sweaty - along with twisted personalities and earthy aromas are just a
few of the characteristics found on Public Transit these days. These days being
the humid mess that’s been preceding the official opening of summer ‘round these
It was there, with the sweet smell of what must have been fresh stools in the
pants of the man standing decidedly too close to me on the bus, where I
remembered the important sporting event that was to occur not one hour from then
– the 2001 NHL Awards.
I could only assume it was to be what is commonly referred to among sporting
folk as a Gala Event. You know the sort, all pompous and snooty – not for
regular fans or lowly hack-journalists. I decided that the only true and proper
way to cover such a prestigious happening was from the comfort of my own living
room. This would allow me to see the Awards themselves, become aquainted with
all the various sponsors (30 seconds at a time) – all without the annoying
distractions of Security, Press Passes, and expensive booze.
Have I mentioned the heat? Sweet Buddha, the heat. It was overwhelming. And so
the uniform of choice would have to reflect every decent journalists’ need to
remain temperate - cool yet distinguished, stylish but not flashy – I decided on
tighty-whiteys (aka Gitch, aka Banana Hammocks)with a bag of ice on the crotch,
along with a stiff drink and leisure slippers. Perfection. Now it was down to
The NHL is one of the few, if not the only, major league that puts on an event
like this to award its players and coaches from a nationally televised forum.
The only similar happening I can think of are the ESPY’s (ESPN’s annual awards
show featuring such prestigious awards as “Best Touchdown” and “Nicest Ass for a
Center Fielder” – very swanky). So, the NHL likes to put on a bit of a show,
clean itself up and give itself a big pat on the back and/or ass (hey, this IS
sports). I’m all for it. It also gives fans a rare chance to see and hear from
players not usually focused on by the media (see Shjon Podein). After the
league delivered such an entertaining season, I figured I might as well watch
the Awards to bring it all home.
The Awards will prove to be the last act of civilized behaviour within the
League for a while. Why? Well hondo, because the draft is coming up soon (not
much more than a week from the time of this writing). Following the draft comes
free-agent open season. Sporting people from all around expect many weird and
twisted goings-on to take place between now and the opening of training camps.
As fabled Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox says this is “the commencement of
the NHL’s most interesting season.” It’s a strange time when bizarre trades are
made while expected signings never materialize – an emotional roller coaster
for hockey addicts everywhere. But we love it. So it goes – year after year,
this one will be no different. And so much for all that. Any further
speculation would simply be journalistic posturing and/or the booze talking -
probably both. We get enough of that from those donkeys on Sportsnet, TSN and
all the other jocksniffers. Not here, old sport. Not now.
Back to the business at hand. The Awards show. I settled into my chair at
about 8:15pm, approximately 15 minutes after the show had begun – I probably
didn’t miss much, most important people show up to shin-digs like this a little
late. I believe it is even referred to as being “fashionable”.
The host of the show was, of course, Ron MacLean (known for keeping a leash on
Don Cherry during Coaches Corner). Ron seems like a nice guy, but even he had a
look of fear and general sickness – he obviously knew about certain aspects of
the show before we viewers. Oh if he only warned me. The reason for the Fear I
saw in his eyes was soon to be revealed.
The first award to be presented was the Calder Trophy for the year’s top
Rookie. The nominations were Martin Havlat (Senators), Evgeni Nabokov (Sharks)
and the pride of Prince Edward Island, Brad Richards (Lightning).
It was as the nominations were to be announced that it started. The announcer
was Lucifer, Prince of Darkness. That’s right folks, apparently all it cost to
get ol’Satan to do the show was one of Commissioner Bettman’s testicles.
Regardless there he was in a deep toned voice laced with lunacy “MMMMMMaaartinnn
Good Gawd I almost tipped the icebag off my lap. As the Devil shrieked the
names of the nominees, I noticed a high-pitched screaming female counterpart
“singing” the names in the background. I turned red from shame for the league.
Whoever OK’d this should be dragged through the streets behind a Zamboni while
citizens armed with rusty steak knives give them what for. Nasty, but just
desserts for this horrific display.
The winner of the Calder (or so Satan told me) was Evgeni Nabokov – the rookie
goalie with San Jose. This was going to be a close contest no matter what,
ending as a toss-up between Richards (who led all rookies in scoring) and
Nabokov (who made the All-Star team).
The next major award was the Lady Bying (Sportsmanship) presented by - along
with Beelzebub - Dallas Maverick and National Basketball team star Steve Nash,
and one of our country’s distinguished Female Speed-Skating Olympians (whose
name I missed because the phone rang). Joe Sakic added to his trophy collection
by beating out Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit) and Adam Oates (Washington) for this
It was at this point the show cut to commercial – the girl who said “Coming up
next…blahblahblah” sounded like she was on Quaaludes…or roofies. It was
Coming back from commercial there was a skit/sketch that had Hall of Famer
Johnny Bower doing a spoof of the “Vagina Monologues” calling itself the “Vezina
Monologues” - which made it abundantly clear that the producers of this show
were fucking insane. Either that or they got their greedy hands on some
high-powered mescaline and decided to take some at the office.
Dominic “I’m really conceited and weird” Hasek accepted the Vezina Award for
the league’s top goaltender amid loud booing from the hometown Toronto crowd
(upper bowl seats at the ACC were sold to regular folk, I assume to keep the
mood light and festive). As one of the presenters of the Vezina, Oiler captain
Doug Weight alluded to his returning to Edmonton next season. Most experts saw
him leaving as soon as free-agent season opens. But who really knows with such
One thing I did like about the awards is that it gave regular fans a chance to
see and appreciate players like Shjon Podein of the Avalanche. Podein captured
this years King Clancy Award for outstanding charity and community work. Podein
seems like a great guy from whom many pro athletes could learn a lesson or two
about humility and class.
Penalty-killer extrordinaire – John Madden of the New Jersey Devils won the
Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. Madden led his team in
short-handed goals, and was a major factor in the Devils success this year.
Keeping with the “Embarassing Horseshit”-motif that had plagued much of the
show, Rachel Perry of MuchMusic and Tyler Stewart (sp?) of the Barenaked Crap
Band ….oh ,I mean Ladies, presented the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year –
but not after some cheesy jokes and no laughs. The award eventually went to Bill
Barber, rookie coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Next up was the Norris Trophy for the leagues best defenseman. To present the
award, out trotted Tia Carrere (girl from Wayne’s World, and now starring in
what can only be called Elephant Dung, but is officially referred to as “Relic
Hunter”). Tia wore the Ultimate Puck-Slut Dress – a white lycra-type material
that fit tight to the skin, while exposing most of the breasts and a Toronto
Maple Leafs logo placed tastefully on the chest. Whew. Disturbingly sexy, yet
weird just the same. Anyhoo, she awarded the Norris to Red Wings rearguard
Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom had been nominated for the last 4 years, so his time
Lastly came the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s most valuable player. Joe Sakic of
the Avalanche capped an amazing season by taking the honors. He is only the 4th
player ever to receive the Hart and the Stanley Cup in the same year. This was
Joe’s 13th year in the league – no Hart winner has ever waited longer to be
named MVP. I guess good things do come to those who wait.
Once the show was over I knew I had to find another way to battle the humidity
– I had heard somewhere that ice packs in the armpits and on the back of one’s
knees kills the heat damn good. So it was off to the freezer to see if the
packs were ready – but not before I waited through the Awards show credits to
see who was listed under “Announcers”. I waited for a good five minutes, when
it appeared not-so suddenly – “Announcers – Eugene Clark & Ingrid Ducette”.
I laughed a hearty laugh (haw haw) because I knew those names to be false. What
it should have read was – “Announcers – Lucifer, Lord of Darkness & Chixx on
If it wasn't for the creepy announcers, forced comic interludes, and annoyingly
constant reminders that hockey is the "Coolest Game on Earth" the show wouldn't
have been half bad. The only sideshow antics that were actually entertaining
were the highlight clips shown of the season's best. Hopefully next year they'll
cut down on the crap and give us an award show that congratulates the NHL's best
and brightest with the taste and class they deserve.