As I always say this time of year, it’s hard to believe the first quarter of the NHL season is already gone, but it’s true.  With most teams having played at least 21-22 games, the predictions on leading candidates for the usual awards like the Hart, the Vezina, the Calder and more are flooding Internet chat rooms and online forums everywhere.  Everybody’s got an opinion it seems – least of all me!

All of this talk about who should win what has made me as nauseous as having to think about Christmas in September (OK truthfully?  Perhaps that would have been the smart thing to do!).  But it got me to thinking, and by now, you should all know this is potentially a recipe for disaster whenever it concerns me and this column.  Well maybe not.  In any event, for better or for worse, here are just some of the awards you won’t see presented at next June’s formal ceremony, but they are worthy of honorable mention in their own right.  Read on for more.

The “Bully” Award

Presented to the Philadelphia Flyers – They’re doing more than their part in helping the “Philly Flu” make a comeback of epidemic proportions.  So far, they lead the NHL in penalty minutes, not to mention number of man games lost to suspension.

The “What Goes Around Comes Around” Award

Presented to Sean Avery of the New York Rangers – He can’t leave well enough alone, and now he’ll sit for a month or so with a separated shoulder.  That’s really earning the new raise isn’t it?

The “Best Quote” Award

Presented to Derek Boogaard of the Minnesota Wild – for his “Pinky & The Brain” reference to Vancouver’s Daniel & Henrik Sedin.  "Their so-called agitators were taking liberties," he said. "As soon as I stepped on the ice, they just sort of spread out and scattered to their holes almost. They don't want to come near me or talk to me. But they think they can slash and stick and punch our skill guys. I'm not going to stand for it.  Maybe I can go after, or check Naslund and those Pinky and the Brain twins."   And the rivalry continues…

The “Did You See That”?! Award

Presented to Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers – For some of the sickest shootout moves you’re liable to see all season long, maybe ever!

The “Most Original Way To Score A Goal” Award

Also an Oiler – Dustin Penner, for deflecting a shot from the hash marks into the net – from his lower lip!!!  This was against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, no less!!!

The “Who Is That Masked Man”?! Award

Presented to Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets – What a difference an off season makes, especially in the Goaltending department.  As of this writing, Leclaire has backstopped his team to ten wins, six of them shutouts (and counting), and has managed a very stingy goals against average of 1.88 goals per game, with a save percentage of 0.931 – good enough for 3rd overall in the league  – not to mention he plays in a division forever dominated by those Men from Motown.  If he keeps this up, pretty soon everybody will know who he is, especially if the Jackets can make the playoffs for the first time.

The “Darth Vader” Award

Presented to Martin Gerber of the Ottawa Senators – Enough said.

The “Start Earning That Hefty Paycheck, Or Else”!! Award

Presented to Dustin Penner of the Edmonton Oilers – Somewhere out there, Brian Burke is laughing all the way to the bank.  Honorable mention goes to Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, both from the New York Rangers, and although it might be unfair given his announced battle with Leukemia, Jason Blake of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The “I Wish I Had A Mulligan” Award

Speaking of Brian Burke, I’ll bet he’s wishing he hadn’t put Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers…

The “Well, At Least We Got One Point” Award

Presented to Bryan McCabe of the Toronto Maple Leafs – for his own goal in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres, and for the goal he gave up to Montreal up the middle, again in overtime.  He’ll never live either play down, especially if the team misses the playoffs by one point, again.

The “What D’Ya Mean What’s Wrong With Me” ?! Award

Presented to Martin Brodeur, who, having won his 500th career game and who is edging ever so much closer to the all time shutout and wins record, has helped backstop his New Jersey Devils team back into the playoff race (if they were ever out to begin with).  The Brent Sutter transition may have taken longer than expected, but through no fault of the veteran goalie.

The “Worst Zamboni Driver” Award

Presented to whoever it was at the helm of the Zamboni at the Air Canada Centre as the Habs & Leafs were headed to a shootout.  By the time Montreal goalie Carey Price made the final save, 75% of the fans had already headed for the exits.

The “It’s Alright Boys, We’re Still In First Place - For Now”! Award

Presented to the Ottawa Senators – winners of 15 of their first 17 games, have been anything but hot since.  On the other side of the ledger, everyone’s waiting for Detroit to go through a similar streak of futility, but somehow it’s not happening – and they’d better watch their backs because the Central Division is easily this year’s most improved.

The “Don’t Look At Me, I Didn’t Tell Them To Print That”!! Award

Presented to Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment president Richard Peddie for somehow allowing the media to report both coach Paul Maurice and general manager John Ferguson Jr were next on the NHL’s chopping block.

The Gary Bettman “I Promise The Fans We Will Fix It” Award

Presented to the general manger who cast the deciding vote towards a schedule reminiscent of what it was before the lockout.  I know I’ve said it before, but to me the season isn’t complete until every team gets to play against every team at least once.  Next year we will go back to six divisional games per team to allow this to happen, and now there’s even talk about going back to 84 games.  But, evidently after 2010 the Olympics could become a mere legend.  Can’t have everything I guess.  Stay Tuned.

The “Comeback Of The Year” Award

Sandis Ozolinsh of the San Jose Sharks, fought a very personal battle with alcoholism, and got himself in the best shape of his life to prompt the Sharks to give him a tryout, and later a contract.  If he’s not the front runner for the Bill Masterton Trophy at this point, I don’t know who is.  Maybe Fernando Pisani would come a close second after battling back from a bout with ulcerative colitis.



Don’t anybody tell Jason Spezza he’s not doing his share of community service.  Not only was he the cover man for the new NHL 2K8 video game, but he also recently made an appearance at a Best Buy grand opening in Kanata.  Now for those of you who don’t check the box scores, this extra community attention on Jason’s part hasn’t been the reason for the Senators’ struggles of late – throughout the recent mini skid, Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson’s line has still been very good.  In fact, if you want my vote for the Hart right now – give it to Alfie.  Win or lose, he just brings it every night.  I’m sure he’ll get some healthy competition from Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks before all is said and done.

Chicago Blackhawks forward Tuomo Ruutu gave new meaning to the age old question “who was that masked man?” when he was mistakenly arrested and detained briefly as a suspect in a robbery attempt in a Chicago suburb.  Evidently, an armed man dressed in a black jacket, black pants and a black hat entered an apartment complex close to the United Centre and demanded cash from the manager.  Well, later on in the day while Ruutu went out for a jog, guess what he was wearing? – a black team sweat suit and black cap.  “I was just in the wrong spot at the right time.  It happens all the time,” Tuomo was quoted as saying.  Clearly understanding it was all a misunderstanding, upon his release from police custody he gave autographs to anyone who asked.

I’ve got a question for the Washington Capitals, and I’m being serious.  How do you honestly expect to get back on the winning track by hiring a former “Slap Shot” movie extra as your head coach?  Think long and hard about that one before you answer.  I mean, seriously, wouldn’t that be the same as replacing Wayne Gretzky with Mike Keenan?  At least Glen Hanlon was trying, but then again, results are what everybody looks at.  Yet Bruce Boudreau has about 2 more wins than Hanlon had in the same amount of games.  I don’t know about you, but when you start the season in first place and end up in last place before the 10 game mark, there’s a bigger problem there than coaching – especially when you consider they have two of the most exciting and dynamic players in the entire league.  Why do I get the feeling Alex Ovechkin won’t be a Capitals player much longer?

I’m guessing all wouldn’t be well with the hockey world without some controversy over in Montreal, now would it?  You have the press calling out captain Saku Koivu for his alleged troubles with the French language (which by the way he speaks fluently, I’ve seen it); you have former Habs star Guy Lafleur criticizing the current edition of the team, stating something to the effect they’re a team with four 3rd or 4th lines; coach Guy Carbonneau fuming over recent losses to New Jersey and Nashville (I mean what coach isn’t upset after a loss); and goalie Huet saying they’re a fragile team.  Sounds like everything is just fine in Montreal to me, don’t you think?!  Now if they could ever do something about their record against the rest of the Northeast Division.

Good Bye & Good Luck – To the man who has and for many years to come will continue to belt out the lyrics to “Cum On Feel The Noize” in Hockey Rinks everywhere – recently Quiet Riot’s front man Kevin DuBrow suddenly passed away at the tender age of 52.  Often imitated, never duplicated, I know bands have carried on before after losing their lead singers, but there’s just no replacing the voice.  I’m expecting a tribute CD, or at the very least a remastered version of “Metal Health” to hit store shelves any day now.

And Good Night & Good Luck goes to Wes Walz.  It seems players are taking a little longer to decide if they can still play at a high level (Scott Niedermayer anyone?), but I guess it’s best to be totally sure rather than fall victim to the Michael Jordan syndrome.

As if you needed any more reason to make alternate arrangements this holiday season if you’ve had a little too much cheer, you can look no further than former NHL player Rob Ramage.  In 2003, his drunk-driving accident resulted in the death of former Chicago Blackhawks star Keith Magnuson.  Magnuson’s wife and two children were just this past week awarded $9.5 million by a St. Louis jury as the result of a wrongful death lawsuit.  As much as the money will help, it won’t replace the memory of one of Chicago’s best all time defensemen.  Ramage, 48, has also been convicted in an Ontario court on five charges, including impaired driving causing death.  Along with the hefty settlement, he faces up to 14 years in prison.  So folks, if you’re going to indulge in the bubbly this holiday season, for heaven’s sake, don’t drive.  As I’ve always said, I want to talk to you, not about you.

I can’t believe 2007 is almost over!  Where did it go!?  In any event, it’ll be sure to be yet another classic holiday season in the great tradition of holiday seasons.  You can rest assured I’ll be back with more hockey talk before you can say “Seasons Greetings”!  I do know this – 2008 promises to be another great year on the ice, starting on January 1 in Buffalo with the next Outdoor game.  I was beginning to worry it wouldn’t be cold enough, but those worries were laid to rest last week when the white stuff started falling, and this week ice pellets are in the forecast – in fact, they’re already here!  Just groovy!  In any event, wherever you are, whatever holiday you celebrate, and whoever you’re spending it with, just have a good one – we all deserve it.


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