Cross Your Fingers, It's the NHL Awards

I am decidedly not a fan of awards shows. But being a hockey fan, I've become inextricably drawn to the season-ending NHL Awards Show. Why? Well, like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get, especially after the program moved to Versus a couple of years back. ↵

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↵Since then, the show has been plagued by all sorts of technical difficulties, including one year when a fire in a satellite truck knocked the program off the air, while another year the show was joined in progress after another satellite problem treated American viewers to a couple of minutes of a CBC re-run. ↵

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↵In short, the train wreck factor is omnipresent, and with the show originating from the Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas this year, the chance of seeing something hilarious, or even just mildly uncomfortable, was pretty high. ↵

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↵When it came to the big awards, there was only one surprise all evening, as Zdeno Chara won the Norris Trophy in the mildest of upsets over Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. Other than that, things held to form on the major awards as Alex Ovechkin walked away with both the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and the Lester Pearson Award for the second year in a row. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk also picked up a double, winning his fourth straight Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play, and his second straight Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward. ↵

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↵Goalie Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets won the Calder as the league's top rookie, while Nashville Predator Steve Sullivan's determined comeback from a back injury helped him net the Masterton. And it was impossible to deny that Claude Julien, who led the Boston Bruins to the top of the Eastern Conference during the regular season, was a deserving recipient of the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. ↵

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↵As for the show itself, the scripted portions of the evening were hit-and-miss. The program opened with a pre-recorded introduction by actor-comedian Denis Leary, but the program took a bizarre turn immediately thereafter as the show launched into a musical duet featuring Chaka Khan and Robin Thicke. ↵

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↵Nothing says hockey quite like Chaka Khan. Inexplicably, she would return for a second song later in the program. No disrespect to Khan, but decisions like that one need to be re-thought. ↵

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↵It didn't help that many of the presenters struggled mightily with reading their lines off of a teleprompter. More than a few folks have said Jeremy Roenick is certain to have a future in the broadcast booth after his career is over, but he did himself no favors on Thursday evening as he kept flubbing his lines. Note to the NHL: sometimes, less is more, and there's nothing wrong with having just one presenter per award, especially if that person is skilled behind the microphone. ↵
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↵But the night's best moments came when the winners gave their acceptance speeches, many of them awfully classy and heartfelt. Hockey players have earned the reputation as being a genuine bunch, and that was certainly on display in Vegas last night. ↵

↵Boston goalie Tim Thomas got the first big laugh of the night while he was accepting the Jennings Trophy with teammate Manny Fernandez. After thanking just about everyone in the known universe, Thomas turned to his teammate and asked if he should thank Fernandez's wife too. Later on, while he was accepting the Vezina, Thomas couldn't help but choke up as he said how humbled he was to have his name on that trophy when it was only a few years ago that all he really wanted was to just get his name on an NHL roster. ↵

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↵So what's next for the shortest offseason in all of professional sports? We're just one week from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, a two-day affair that's really a celebration of Canadian culture as much as it is a sporting event. When a kid from the prairie gets called to the podium, it's the culmination of what was once a uniquely Canadian dream, and it's impossible not to be moved by it when you see it up close. ↵

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↵After that, we're back to the races on July 1, with the opening of the free agent signing period. And here you thought those Penguins were going to get to enjoy that Stanley Cup for a while. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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