The NHL awards are tributes to many stars — past and present

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The NHL awards are tributes to many stars — past and present

The Conn Smythe trophy is presented to the most valuable player of the NHL  season

The Conn Smythe trophy is presented to the most valuable player of the NHL season

The Conn Smythe trophy is presented to the most valuable player of the NHL season

The Conn Smythe trophy is presented to the most valuable player of the NHL season

By Emily Voll, Staff Writer

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Close your eyes. Imagine the melodic sounds of freshly sharpened blades, on a sparkling, unseasoned sheet of ice. Boards rumbling, sticks smashing, bodies colliding, fans chanting, goal songs blasting. The sounds of pure joy. This is our game. Our team. Our city. This is hockey.

With an electrifying atmosphere unlike any other, fans of all ages come together as one. Their sweaters mesh together like a finely woven blanket of camaraderie. Few things in life offer such certainty.

Friendships will be gained and friendships can be lost. But, where did it all start? Who were the players responsible for shaping the game that we all know and love today? Let’s go back to the beginning.

The first professional ice hockey league was the International Pro Hockey League, founded in 1904 in Michigan. After it folded, two bigger leagues emerged in Canada: the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast League (PCL). In 1914, the two leagues played a championship series, and the winner was awarded the famous silver bowl donated for Canada’s amateur hockey leagues by Lord Stanley, the English governor general of Canada, in 1892.

Over one hundred years ago, on December 19th, 1917, the new NHL made its debut in Montreal with a few teams that may sound familiar; the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators, the Quebec Bulldogs, the Toronto Arenas and, a few years later, the Brooklyn Americans.

After gaining two new teams in 1926, the Chicago Black Hawks and the Detroit Red Wings, and losing a few others, the National Hockey League’s well-known Original Six was created, consisting of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and the New York Rangers. The league would remain this way for the next 25 years, each of those teams becoming engrained in the fiber of our Country and our sports fans. Traditions were born, by both teams, and fans alike, while epic rivalries began, and the first stars of the game were created.

Some names of these early superstars of the game will be forever memorialized, as players of this day and age strive to win the trophies which received their names from these stars.

The most famous of them being the coveted Stanley Cup. Arguably the most beautiful trophy in all of sports, and also the hardest one to achieve. As stated before, the Stanley Cup came to us hockey fans back in 1892, sill about 20 years away from the birth of the National Hockey League that we know and love today. Becoming known as the “Stanley Cup” in the 1920s, the NHL tradition of etching the names of each victorious player on one of the shining silver rings came to be.

Who were these old-time superstars? What did they bring to the NHL to cause them to be the inspiration for these awards?

The Conn Smythe Trophy is an annual award gifted to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unlike the playoff MVP awards presented in the other major league sports in the United States and Canada (the Super Bowl MVP, the NBA Finals MVP, and the World Series MVP), the Conn Smythe is based on a player’s performance during the entire NHL postseason instead of just the championship game or series.

The Conn Smythe Trophy was introduced in 1964 by Maple Leaf Gardens Limited to honor Conn Smythe, the former owner, general manager, and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder. The centerpiece of the trophy is a stylized silver replica of Maple Leaf Gardens, the arena built under Smythe’s ownership of the Maple Leafs, and their home from 1931 to 1999.

The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player that is voted and deemed to be the most valuable player in the NHL’s regular season. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in all NHL cities throughout the league.

The original trophy was donated to the league in 1923 by David Hart, the father of Cecil Hart, the longtime head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. The Hart Trophy has been awarded 92 times to 56 different players since its beginnings in 1924. The trophy was first awarded at the conclusion of the 1923-24 NHL season to Frank Nighbor of the Ottawa Senators. The original Hart Trophy was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960, and the NHL began presenting a new trophy, which was dubbed the Hart Memorial Trophy in its place. With the exceptions of Tommy Anderson, Al Rollins, and José Theodore, every eligible player who won the Hart Trophy has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Wayne Gretzky won the award a record nine times during his career, eight consecutively. He has been named MVP more times The award sought after by each player in their rookie years would be the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the player who is selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition as a player in the NHL. The Calder Memorial Trophy is named in honor of Frank Calder, the former president of the NHL from its inception in 1917 to his death in 1943. Although Rookie of the Year honors were handed out beginning in 1932–33, the Calder Trophy was first presented at the conclusion of the 1936–37 NHL season. After Calder’s death in 1943 the trophy was renamed the Calder Memorial Trophy.

Goaltenders of every team and every year of their careers strive to be the chosen one for the top prize in professional goaltending. The Vezina Trophy is the annual award given to the goalkeeper who stood strongest between the pipes for their team, and is voted on by the general managers from each of the NHL clubs. The trophy’s namesake was derived from goaltending legend, Georges Vezina, goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens from 1910 until 1925, who died in 1926 of tuberculosis. The trophy was first awarded after the 1926-27 NHL season and was awarded to the top goaltender. From 1946-47 to 1981-82, the trophy went to the goaltender of the team allowing the fewest number of goals during the regular season; now the William M. Jennings trophy is awarded for this.

The William M. Jennings Trophy is an award that goes to not only the starting goaltender, but his backup as well, and is won by having the team with the fewest goals scored against them during the regular season. Back in 2013, the Blackhawks very own Corey Crawford and his former backup goaltender, Ray Emery became the recipients of this award. It is named in honor of William M Jennings, the longtime governor and president of the New York Rangers. Since its beginnings in1982, it has been awarded at the end of 32 seasons to 53 different players; mostly in tandems of two goaltenders.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is the annual award received by the top defenseman in the league, and who is deemed to have the greatest all-around ability in the position. It is named after James E. Norris, the longtime owner of the Detroit Red Wings. The James Norris Memorial Trophy has been awarded 60 times to 25 different players since its beginnings in 1954.

Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins won the award for a record eight consecutive seasons (1968–75). Doug Harvey and Niklas Linstrom have won the award seven times, while Ray Bourque won it five times. The Bostin Bruins have had the most Norris Trophies winners with 14; the Montreal Canadiens have had the second most with 12. Most recently for the Blackhawks, beloved defenseman, Duncan Keith received this award in the 2013-14 season, which was his second victory in this much sought after position.

Perhaps one of the biggest awards given at the closing of the NHL season is the Art Ross trophy. This award is given to any player who leads the National Hockey League in scoring points at the end of the regular season. It was presented to the league by former player, general manager, and head coach Art Ross. The trophy has been awarded 65 times to 27 players since its introduction in the 1947-48 NHL season. Ross is also known for his design of the official NHL puck, with slightly beveled edges for better control. The current holder is Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The trophy was first awarded at the end of the 1977-78 NHL season. It was named after Frank J. Selke, former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The Selke Trophy was the fifth and last of the major NHL awards to be introduced that have been named after general managers and owners of the Original Six teams, the other awards being the Art Ross Trophy, James Norris Memorial Trophy, The Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Jack Adams Award.

The current holder of this award is Bruins forward, Patrice Bergeron.

One of the other most sought after trophies given each year would be the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who has exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, combined with a high standard of playing ability. The trophy is named in honor of Marie Evelyn Morton or Lady Byng, wife of Viscount Byng of Vimy, a Vimy Ridge war hero who was Governor General of Canada from 1921 to 1926. Lady Byng, who was an avid hockey fan, decided to donate the trophy to the NHL in 1925. After Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers won the award seven times within eight years, Lady Byng was so impressed that she gave him the original trophy to keep. Lady Byng then donated a second trophy in 1935-36. When Lady Byng died in 1949, the NHL presented another trophy and changed the official name to the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. In 1962, the original trophy was destroyed in a fire at Boucher’s home.

The Jack Adams Award slips away from the player aspect of the game, and moves to the bench, with it being the award presented to the coach judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success, who is selected in a poll of NHL Broadcast Association members. The award is named in honor of Jack Adams, Hall of Fame player for the Toronto Arenas/St. Patricks, Vancouver Millionaires, and Ottawa Senators, also a long-time coach and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. It was first awarded at the conclusion of the 1974-75 regular season.

Ever heard of Rocket Richard? The players who receive the Maurice Richard Trophy will go down in history as a player who not only won this award, but also best demonstrated the skill sets that were set by the Canadiens legendary player, “Rocket” Richard.

The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy was donated by the Montreal Canadiens to the NHL in 1999, and was first awarded at the end of the 1998-99 NHL season. It is one of the newest of the NHL’s trophies and is named in honor of the legendary right-winger, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, who spent his eighteen-season career with the Canadiens. He led the NHL in goal scoring five times and was the first NHL player to reach the 500-goal milestone. In 1944-45, Richard became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in one season, doing so in just 50 games, the feat has been achieved by only four other players since then.

The King Clancy Trophy is given to the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice, and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. The trophy is named for Francis M. “King” Clancy, a former player for the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He would later go on to become a coach, referee, and team executive. The trophy was first awarded in 1988, and was presented to the NHL by Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballor, who called Clancy “one of the greatest humanitarians that ever lived.” It honors similar community service as the Charlie Conacher Humanitarian Award, which was retired in 1984.

The Ted Lindsay Award, formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award, is presented annually to the “most outstanding player” in the NHL, as voted on by fellow members of the NHL players association. The award was first handed out at the conclusion of the 1970-71 NHL season. It was named in honor of Lester B. Pearson, who was Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968, the recipient of the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, and a former player and coach for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s ice hockey team. On April 29, 2010, the National Hockey League Players’ Association announced that the award would be reintroduced as the Ted Lindsay Award to honor Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay for his skill, tenacity, leadership, and role in establishing the original players’ association.

And, finally, the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. This award is gifted to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular NHL season. After input from the fans, clubs and NHL personnel, Mark Messier himself picks the finalists and the winner.

In its first season, the Mark Messier Leadership Award was awarded quite differently from most other trophies in the NHL. In 2006-07, five players were honored with monthly awards as selected by the NHL based on the qualification of potential recipients, while the final decision was made by Mark Messier. The league did not announce monthly winners in the 2007-08 season, instead, at the end of the regular season, one player is chosen as the Leader of the Year. The first winner of the annual award was Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings.

The award’s namesake, Mark Messier, played in the NHL for 25 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and the Vancouver Canucks; his 1,887 regular-season points are third all-time behind Jaramir Jagr and the great Wayne Gretzky, and his 1,756 regular-season games are second only to Gordie Howe. Messier is, to date, the only person to lead two separate franchises to the Stanley Cup as captain, accomplishing this with the Oilers in 1990, and with the Rangers in 1994.

There have been many names in professional sports that will stick with us for all time. Some may become memorialized and go down in sport’s history as the namesake for a much wished for award. The players who served as the inspirations for the NHL awards were among the greatest the sport has ever seen, and serve as an ever present reminder to be the best that you can be.