2018 NHL Awards Strike Balance Between Celebratory & Somber

Hockey is a brotherhood. When one faces tragedy, it’s felt throughout. We’ve seen it in the past, with teams stepping up to bring light to sensitive subjects because they lost their own. From Aurora, Colorado in 2012 to Orlando, Florida in 2016, senseless acts of violence have taken far too many lives.

This year, the NHL faced three tragedies that shook everyone to the core. Another stark reminder of how our country remains broken, the league took action to help those affected. Inviting the first responders from the Las Vegas shooting, members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hockey team and most survivors of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team to share in a night of celebration was the right move.

For players, seeing survivors of such devastating events brought perspective. Hearing the stories of what those directly affected lived through was heartbreaking, yet inspiring. Those powerful tales helped shape the 2018 NHL Awards show.

It wasn’t all somber though. The NHL appropriately mixed humor in when announcing less serious awards, such as who would grace the cover of Xbox’s 2019 NHL game.

NHL Awards Highlight Games Positive Impact

While news stations across the country focused on the details of what happened in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14 and Las Vegas on Oct. 1, the NHL tried to find ways to help those affected begin the healing process. It may not have been on display all season long because there are 31 teams and only a select few gain national television exposure on any given night, but there was work being done behind the scenes.

Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo gave an emotional speech prior to their game against the Capitals. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

A week after 17 lives were claimed and dozens more were injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland native Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers honored victims of the Valentine’s Day shooting. The goaltender then delivered an emotional speech that lasted nearly three minutes.

If that wasn’t enough, the Panthers announced they would fly the Stoneman Douglas High School hockey team to and from Minnesota for the national tournament in late March. The team earned that right by winning the Florida state championship mere days after enduring tragedy at school.

The icing on the cake, however, came recently. The NHL invited the school’s club hockey team to be recognized at this year’s annual awards show. They joined fellow survivors in paying tribute to the lives lost during the horrifying events that unfolded in the past year.

NHL Awards Offered Reprieve For Those Affected

Luongo and the Panthers impact on helping to heal the South Florida community of Parkland was one inspirational story. There were others.

Before a regular season game was played, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights found themselves in the midst of a difficult situation. They had to rally around their city in the wake of an awful tragedy on the Vegas strip as October began.


When the Knights kicked off their home schedule nine days after the terrible events of Oct. 1, they had one first responder accompany each player onto the ice. They then allowed survivors to participate in the first ceremonial puck drop in franchise history.

After that, Deryk Engelland stepped up to the microphone and delivered a powerful speech to those affected by the horrific events that unfolded on Oct. 1.

The team then went out and set all kinds of expansion team records. Put simply, they were the greatest expansion team ever.

Not only did Vegas set numerous regular season records for first-year teams, they won the Western Conference Championship. That earned them a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

During the 2018 awards, they took home multiple honors. Those included a Jack Adams Trophy to head coach Gerard Gallant, General Manager of the Year honors to George McPhee, the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (for sportsmanship) to William Karlsson, and the Mark Messier Leadership Award to Engelland.

It wasn’t all about the players though. It offered three separate communities a brief reprieve from their daily lives, some of which have been deeply scarred.

New NHL Award a Perfect Tribute to Games Impact on Society Today

For all the lives impacted by Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, the story that resonated most with the hockey community was that of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.

Members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team
Members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Less than three months after the deadly bus crash that altered their lives forever, 10 survivors reunited for the first time this week.

The NHL then honored late Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan with the inaugural Willie O’Ree Community Hero award. His was one of 16 lives lost in an accident that shook the hockey world to its core.

Players were inspired by the stories of bravery exhibited by all those honored. These men and women displayed the fight this country needs today, something that often times flies under the radar in the immediate aftermath of such devastating events.

Hockey might be a game, but the NHL showed on Wednesday night why it’s also a family. Their willingness to help others in times of need provides a shining example of kindness to a world that needs more love and less tragedies.