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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 parts.

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 business.

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 HHHAAAVVVLATTT…”

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 award.

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 straight bizarro.

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 matters.

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 had come.

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 ‘Ludes”.

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.

Jeff Beer is living a complete sentence.

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by Alejandro Bustos

Forget Sports
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Kent Bruyneel


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