Today marks the 13th anniversary of the death of Hurricane’s player Steve Chiasson. Chiasson died in a single vehicle accident after leaving a team party on May 3rd, 1999. The accident was a tragedy no matter how you slice it but knowing maybe it could have been avoided had Chiasson not gotten behind the wheel after drinking makes it harder to swallow.
I don’t really remember Steve on the ice, but I do remember hearing on the news that he had been killed. I do however think of him every year as the players on the team select the winner of the Steve Chiasson Award which according to the official Hurricanes’ website, “goes annually to the player that best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.” This year’s winner was captain Eric Staal and Tim Gleason received the honor last year. Rod Brind’Amour won the award five times.
I have always had unresolved feelings about the name of the award because of the circumstances of Chiasson’s death. Before I continue I want to emphasize I am in no way saying this death was not sad or a tragedy. I am not condemning the man at all or judging his life or his character. It just has always seemed strange to me that the team named the award after him.
I had a really interesting conversation on Twitter today about this with my “tweeps” Nancy and Julie. Of course we all agreed that this event was tragic and Julie said, “I do feel for his family. But if he had killed someone else instead of himself he’d be a villain.” That is an interesting point and I can’t help but wonder, did Chiasson become a team hero because he died or was he someone the team would have named an award after anyway? Nancy hypothesized “the award was prob [sic] more to honor the person that he was, not the circumstances that led to his death.” I can only speculate the intentions of those who created the award and think that is what they had in mind.
Of course memorial awards made me instantly wonder if the team would ever name an award after Josef Vasicek who died in the tragic Lokomotiv Jaroslavl plane crash last summer. Yes Caniacs, my memory faltered and I forgot the “Good Guy Award,” which is given to a player for playing nice with the media, was renamed for “Big Joe.” Not surprisingly Jay Harrison is the most recent recipient.
Then Julie asked, “…how come there aren’t awards named after bigger Canes legends – like Francis, Wesley & Brind’Amour?” That is an excellent question and something I was wondering as well. Nancy wisely pointed out that these are fairly recently retired and thinks “Awards named after them are coming.” I can see that being the case as I guess teams want the namesake’s hockey equipment from their last appearance to dry before they name an award after them.
How are the decisions made to honor a player by naming an award after them? Is a memorial award a “given” when someone dies tragically, unexpectedly or way too young? How long should a team wait before naming an award after a retired player? I honestly have no definitive answers to these questions myself, but on a day like today and with the NHL Awards coming up I certainly mull over them.
Many thanks to Nancy and Julie for sharing their thoughts. Have any opinions on the naming of awards? Feel free to share them in the comments section. Cardiac Cane would love to hear your thoughts. (I think we can all agree impaired driving is a bad thing so let’s not debate that issue please!) To learn more about Steve Chiasson, and Josef Vasicek check out the links at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Please note, pictures of these players were not omitted as a slight. There were no photos of them that I had approval to use.