Last year, I asked myself if the NHL Awards had been "Americanized."
This year, I think we have our answer. A decided yes.
No Ron McLean, which for sentimental reasons, made me very sad. I used to watch him host the show before I had any idea who he was and before I welcomed him weekly into my living room on HNIC. I don't know how everyone else felt, but for me, he was very much missed.
I, too, do not know everyone else's opinion of the show. I thought it was, although different, very good. I have no major complaints, despite the obvious cultural differences. And, maybe, perhaps, with the hype of Vegas and the glow of the lights it needed to be different. I can't speak for anyone else, so I can't say for sure.
I can, however, be honest in saying, sentimentality aside, this Awards show was good. Simple, classy, and to the point. That can't be denied.
And now, my random thoughts, in order of appearance, from tonight's show:
*The Leary Opening was fantastic and I absolutely loved it. He's got a fantastic voice and you know, both in reality, and through that voice, just how much he loves our great game.
*Patrick Kane and Lucky Luc made me smile. =) Love the ability for players to laugh at themselves; it makes them human.
*I had to stop and get up for a tissue when I saw Konstantinov on the stage. Tears started flowing. Vladimir and the relationship he had with Detroit and his team is a testament to all that is wonderful about hockey. A sad, sad story, but such a humbling reminder each and every time.
*Ovechkin dedicated the Lester B. Pearson, the special award voted by his peers, to his late grandfather. He became the first player to win it in back to back years since Jaromir Jagr in 1999 and 2000.
"Nervous again. What a life, thank you."
*That pretty blonde model was an extremely good public speaker. Kirk Muller - not so much. ;)
*Datsyuk is a funny guy. I think if he could be put in front of audiences more often people would love him alone for his adorableness. His English, for the record, is much better than last year.
"Hello again." [wave].
"Honor to be [a] Red Wing," he said. "This award is for all of us."
*Ok, NHL. If you are going to show "Goals of the Year," then SHOW "Goals of the Year." I am still dizzy from trying to keep up with that. I wanted to actually SEE them, no?
*When the Bill Masterton Award was being announced, I actually silently said "Sullivan." I think Richard Zednik is an amazing human being and his comeback was remarkable. I don't know if I could do the same. But Steve Sullivan spent years trying to come back to the game he loved and it was very well deserved he win this award.
*Line of the Night:
"Do you want me to thank your wife, Manny?" (Tim Thomas to fellow Jennings winner - Manny Fernandez)
*When the camera panned to Leetch and Mess, I laughed. See, the Rangers do have representation, I said. Well, yes, #2 and #11 and all those lovely images in montages of other players scoring against our team. Crosby, Richards, Parise...
*Pavel Datsyuk, "Now, more confident." - love this kid!
*I love Pat Kane! =) (I feel like I just throw that out at random, but I really do think he's fantastic. That 3rd goal against Vancouver for the hat trick in the playoffs - outstanding! He's so good for this game and for the United States.)
*That comedian - was so not funny to me. Mark - "with a c or with a k?"
*Uh, not sure what I thought about Glenn Anderson trying to be funny. Look, it is not a crime that many (many, many) of the best players in the league right now are Russian. I love my Canadians plenty and, again, I do not pick my favorite players by country (usually), but the Russians are writing a fantastic story. Let them tell it.
*Ethan Moreau provides a wonderful story. I was so upset when his eye was injured this year and so thankful to see him come back. But his true story. For every player that has come to Edmonton and left, Moreau has stayed on and stayed strong. It makes me happy to know they have such a wonderful captain in such an important hockey city.
*JR being JR: "I'm usually pretty good behind a mic. As most of you know."
Uh, yes, yes we do. ;)
*Seeing Tim Thomas win the Vezina was incredible. Take one look at that player, and that man. A guy who was told over and over that he had no shot. A guy who still, by many, is told he does it the wrong way. Look, there is no right way. It's about getting the job done. The only thing better than how successful he is as a goalie, is that he is doing it "his way" and that he's such a humble, and funny, human being. Fans of Boston, be proud. I love this guy!
*In another moving moment, it was so nice to see former Devils coach Pat Burns on the stage. It really was.
*I like Claude Julian. I always did. He gets kudos to me for his Jack Adams, but for also being the first person to give part of his speach in French. Merci beaucoup, Claude.
*I had mentioned previously my vote for the Mark Messier Award this year would go to Zdeno Chara, but I have sung Jarome Iginla's praises for a very long time. He is my favorite current captain in the NHL and I am well aware of how much he idolized Mark Messier growing up. I think it's perfect that he won the award and was given it by his idol. A very, very well deserving candidate.
*First of all, Brian Leetch awarding the Norris made me smile. He's my favorite player of all time, and was so amazing, I am surprised even by my memories of how great he was. The Norris was an interesting vote this year. I honestly think even if it was the unpopular vote, that they got it right. Nick Lidstrom is the classiest guy and one of the best defensemen ever to play, but I think he'd admit, this wasn't his "best" year. Zdeno Chara is lethal in every way, and a very, very big part of Boston's solid defense core. He did remarkable things and is such a likeable person and great ambassador for the game.
He thanks his teammates for their "help, trust, respect" and for making it a "family." All so very important for a team to be successful.
*I really do love Ovechkin. I know he came under criticism this year, and yes, perhaps, his acts, if taken too far, can and may grow old. But should our game not be about smiles and graciousness happiness, and joy? I think so. And OV is a perfect example of those things.
*I am really loving Malkin more that he's learning English and letting himself smile more. I mean I still won't forgive him those two slew foots against Mara last year, but I do really respect how amazing a player he is.
*Gary Bettman said the Stanley Cup represented "class, elegance and everything good about our sport." It's only ironic that as much as the Stanley Cup represents that, Gary, well...
*I can only wish that I would have had the chance to see a player such as Jean Beliveau play the game of hockey. The "epitome of class." Someone who showed such grace and humility his name is as synonymous with skill, greatness, and tradition. A very well deserved honor for him, the Lifetime Acheivement Award. What I loved the most, was that he said he always "remembered the young players coming in."
Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Toews, Kane, Mason - the league is more special because of all of you and the league is blessed - blessed - with so many wonderful and amazing young players.
*Speaking of Beliveau, someone on the Team990 compared Vincent Lecavalier to Beliveau just the other day. The one thing I can say about this year's NHL Awards is that they were decidedly less pretty without Vinny around. I'm sorry, but it's a fact.
*Ovechkin won the Hart Trophy as the League's MVP and I don't think anyone in hockey can argue. He is the Hart winner, for the second time in a row, not even because he is the best player. That can be argued. Honestly, if I had to make a statement on it, I'd say Crosby the most well-rounded, Malkin the most talented, and Ovechkin the most dynamic. Except I think they are all, perhaps, too talented to choose just one.
What cannot be denied, however, is that Ovechkin sets himself apart with every intangible. His spirit and his all-encompassing energy. His undying enthusiasm for the game. His love of his teammates. His leadership, in his own way. His passion and his dynamism. Those are all unmatched.
Many great players play this game, and many will still be remembered for their greatness long after their playing careers have come to an end.
Ovechkin's story is just beginning, but you can already tell just by watching him play and feeling the energy around him, that he is already one of those players.
*Jeremy Roenick said earlier tonight that to be a hockey fan was "a calling and a way of life." There were years I never thought I'd agree with anything Roenick said and years that I found myself realizing how unique he was and how much he should be respected for that. He's right again though. Sometimes I think I didn't have a choice in being a hockey fan. It's something that becomes you. It's something you just are.
I am forever grateful to the game of hockey and thrilled each and every moment I get to celebrate that reality. Tonight is no different.