A Caniac in Vegas: The NHL Awards


It was a windowless, generic hotel meeting room. Rectangle tables lined the floors and flat screen televisions graced the end of every aisle. Host Jay Mohr worked the crowd with biting and Thomas age jokes. “The Bruins are tasty we learned,” teased Mohr. Although, my favorite zinger was directed at my former hometown hero, “LeBron retired before the finals.”

Kevin Smith escorted Cobie Smulders decked out in a Bruins sweater to present the James Norris Memorial Trophy to Nicklas Lidstrom. The experienced Red Winger was pleased to be left out of the old man jokes. “It is surreal,” Lidstrom admits, “having reached seven Norris’ especially at this stage of my career, having played for 20 years and reached the age of 40. So I’m proud to still be able to play at this level and win another one.”

The following honor went to Daniel Sedin. The Art Ross Trophy is presented to the player who leads the league in scoring points. Sedin also claimed the Ted Lindsay Award for the most outstanding player. The left winger was also nominated for the Hart memorial Trophy which was awarded to Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks. “I was happy for Corey,” shares Sedin, “he carried that team through a lot of injuries and the final stats he had was unbelieveable, he helped them make the playoffs, which is great.”

Criss Angel awkwardly announced Ryan Kesler as the recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy. On his successful season Kesler stated, “Yea, things, you know, kind of happened for me this year. 41 goals and then being named for the Selke, it’s a season I’ll never forget.”

The Canucks center spoke of their Stanley Cup shortcomings, “It’s still hard to swallow now, but I’m sure in the next couple weeks we’re going to look back and realize it was a great season, and we came one game away.”

Canes own Rod Brind’Amour won the award in 2006 and 2007.

Following hardware was given to Dan Bylsma for the Jack Adams Award, and Zdeno Chara was awarded the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

Chara took a few minutes to discuss the parade in Boston, “Unbelievable. So exciting, everyone was so happy and it made us happy when we saw all these generations of people, not just people in the crowd but the old-timers coming out into the streets and from the windows, so happy.”

Ok, ok…we all know what moment I was truly waiting to hear…

The next award, the Calder Memorial Trophy, clearly had a special place in my Hurricane heart. As George Stroumboulopoulos and Jeremy Roenick introduced the nominees my heart raced. It raced out of pride for our young rookie that means so much to hockey in the south. It beat erratically for the young star as I couldn’t imagine being 19 years old and experiencing a moment most players go their whole career without tasting.

As Jeff Skinner’s name was read off the card, I beamed. Skinner became the first rookie to take the honor for the Hurricanes. He accomplished this goal with admirable feats, such as being the youngest player to lead rookies in scoring with 63 points, ranked third with his peers in goals scored and second in helpers, and competed in the All-Star Game in Raleigh.

Jeff’s speech was interrupted by girls shouting proclamations of love (I kicked all their arses later), but he flashed his signature smile and made it through the nerve-wracking experience. “I mean, I don’t know, it’s not something I’m used to doing, so maybe I should have practiced more,” Skinny joked.

I waited in the media room for Jeff to be brought up for interviews and cursed at being in the same room as him. Call it hockey superstition. As I did with Manny Ramirez for nearly two decades, I am adamant on keeping my sports idols on a pedestal and far from my untrusting reach. If Skinny has a bad upcoming season, I will never forgive myself.

So, I stood at the back of the crowd and listened to interviews with a smile.

“No, I just got a text from bunch of them saying ‘good luck’ and, I mean, those guys have helped me so much,” the rookie says of his teammates, “the adjustment I think they made it so much smoother for me and they’ve supported me the whole way and it’s been a lot of fun having them.”

Skinner has not had a restful off-season thus far. Between the World Championships and a New York City junket, the Canes player has not had much time to relax. “It’s nice to get home and back into a routine and start the summer off.”

He left the room, looking amazing in his black classic suit by the way, and I sent him a mental, “Congratulations my Skinny love.” No contact was made, and I pray that will be the saving grace from my delusion jinx theory. Actually, the only contact made was a 3:00 am make-out session with his poster upon a Palms pillar. Was it good for you Skinner?

I’ll wrap up the other winners and the after party once I recover from remembering Jeff in that beautiful suit. It may be days, so don’t hold your breath.