Friday, June 13, 2008

Have the NHL Awards been . . .Americanized?

I won’t sugar coat it. I didn’t LOVE the NHL Awards last night. Usually a night I greatly look forward to – and I just wasn’t overly thrilled with the program last night. I can tell you what I liked, and what I didn’t, but overall, I just get the sense that it wasn’t like years past. Which brings me to the thought that they “Americanized” the awards show. Americanized a thing that was always so Canadian, and that I had always appreciated for being so.

Maybe I feel it more right now because I’ve been extra supportive of HNIC this year and Ron MacLean became someone I saw on a weekly basis and not a casual here and there basis. Maybe I wanted more obvious Canadianisms. Instead it all felt very “Bettman-friendly.” Sure they had Stompin’ Tom Connors, and I sang happily along in the car to the radio broadcast on the way home from work. And Ron was there, but maybe not in all his glory. (Sean Avery! J ) It seemed there were less jokes, less time for jokes in fact. I’d have to go back and check my tapes, but weren’t these awards shows always 2 hours? With time for more music acts, which I admit, I think they were good to cut back on. But I liked the Will Sasso interaction of the past. The interaction with the players in the audience in a joking manner. The interview with Jarome Iginla was nice (he does get an “I’m eloquent” award from me and I always like hearing him speak), but there wasn’t a sense of ribbing – good natured of course. I liked having more time for clips. For it’s not just a celebration of the winners of those individual awards, it is a celebration of what was a great season of hockey. Isn’t it?

Now for the good. I loved having the kids do the announcements for the award nominees. What a great touch. And they sounded so professional! I liked having the kids hand the awards to the players, but it would have been nice to let the players know in advance, no? How many walked right by the kid on the side of the stage and to the podium, saying, hmm, now where did I put my award . . . ah!

I love Alex Ovechkin. Why can’t the NHL just embrace that they have not only one (Sidney Crosby) and not only two (Crosby and Ovechkin) but a great multitude of young players who make great ambassadors for the game we all love. I love Ovechkin. I always did. The guy has embraced everything that is great about hockey and about being an NHL player. He’s good, but he’s humble. He’s nervous, but he’s funny. I just listened to him give his speech (speeches) in, what I must admit, an English that must make Evgeni Malkin very jealous, and manage to be both self-depreciating and humorous. Seriously NHL, I said to myself, box him! Put him in national commercials! He’s your guy. A guy who is unbelievably dripping with talent, but has not once let it get beyond his being a genuine and thankful person. His parents deserve credit, his coaches deserve credit, and he deserves credit. AO8 is quite simply great! We all knew he’d win the Hart, but he is just so incredible!

Patrick Kane. The more I hear the kid speak, the more I like him. Another one comfortable enough in his own skin to make jokes. To realize, yes I’m good, but yes, I am not the only one, and I have a great team, and a great chance, and everything is great in Chicago right now. I love him. I think overall most people think that Jonathan Toews will be the better player in the long run, and that may be right, but I think I’ve got a soft spot for Kane. Doesn’t hurt that he’s going to be playing for USA hockey. I don’t pick my favorite players on what country they come from. I like who I like. But anytime the future of Team USA has a player like that, I’m going to smile and I’m going to appreciate them.

Overall, the NHL had three incredible Calder trophy candidates. Again, embrace it! Washington has great young talent in Nicklas Backstrom. Chicago is stacked with the same. They are hopefully going to both be good teams for years to come now. And it’s exciting for two franchises that need it and deserve it.

Some random musings on the rest of the winners/awards:

Pavel Datsyuk – he had his funny moments. “Hello, again.” Gotta love that.

I really thought that Evgeni Nabokov had the Vezina won. And I was not alone. But I’m not going to criticize a goalie who will go down as one of the, if not the-, greatest goalies of all time, in Marty Brodeur. I didn’t think he had his best year. But…in fairness, back in the early 2000s, I was saying, when is Brodeur going to win a Vezina (while all the Devils fans I mentioned this to said, who is this Vezina?). And it still took him a few years after that to be nominated and then to finally win. Overall, they are giving him his due for a great career. Hank Lundqvist being nominated three years in a row is an accomplishment in and of itself. And 10 shutouts to boot. But Nabokov had my vote.

I love any time any player speaks French. Yes, that means you Brodeur! (In fact, I would so love it if he spoke French all the time – seriously!) And Vinny Lecavalier can pretty much say anything he wants, but let him speak French, oooo la la!

Vinny was very deserving for the King Clancy Memorial. He is a guy that while any team would love to have him, you have to be happy for him that he is where he is. He is not only great for the Lightning; he is great for the city of Tampa and the state of Florida. The impact people like him have on not only teams, but communities, is truly fantastic.

Bruce Boudreau is a happy guy. Let a happy guy in Bruce, coach a happy player in Alex, and the team will be happy and successful in Washington.

Adam Graves, “I always wanted to do this,” while opening up the winner envelope. Can there be a better guy?

As a Rangers fan, Jason Blake never registered on my top list. And he still doesn’t. But a guy getting diagnosed with leukemia and playing all 82 games while he not only digests that mentally, but deals with the fact physically, is remarkable. I respect him. (Although I’d be hard pressed to try to get that image of Mark Messier choking him red out of my head).

Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe said it best, "The game is in great hands. Not good hands, but great hands."

Yes it is! I’m really looking forward to watching this new generation of young guys become the next generation of marquee players.

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