by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
The NHL had their annual awards show earlier this week and given that everyone else has been very polite and nodded and patted Jay Mohr on the head, I guess it is going to fall to me to be the cranky old person in the group.
This isn’t easy and this column actually runs counter to my world view. See, here’s the thing. In any other circumstance, if someone had said, “Jas! Make a choice right now: Awards show or Jay Mohr?” It would have been easy because I hate awards shows and like Jay Mohr. Last Wednesday’s affair didn’t leave me hating Mohr so much as I wanted him to hush and go do more brilliant things like “Suicide Kings” and “Action”. (Seriously, pretend you never saw him on this and rent those DVDs posthaste.)
In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights and lowlights. Did you know Snoop Dogg was slated to appear? It was only mentioned in, oh, every commercial. Due to a scheduling conflict, his appearance was prerecorded. Aside from wearing a hockey sweater with NHL logos on it, I’m not sure what any of his song had to do with Hockey other than a shoutout to Clutterbuck. At the time, my first response was that he probably picked him because his name rhymes with, uh, duck. Little did I know…
We then got our initial dose of comedy! jokes! The first of many, many gambling jokes which seem to have been recycled from last year, possibly as part of Gary Bettman’s “Green NHL” initiative. I almost wish they would move the awards around so that everyone would have to find new material.
Here are a few other topics that need to be retired from the dias:
“I don’t understand icing…”
Hockey For Dummies. I’m just saying.
“Chris Chelios is so old…”
…and he can still kick your ass.
“Where are all the black people?”
Willie O’Ree, Dustin Byfulglien, Joel Ward, Grant Fuhr, Jarome Iginla, Francis Bouillon, Kevin Weekes, and Evander Kane would like a word with you.
“(insert name here) is a big, scary man.”
At the very least, pick someone who is actually big and scary. The person they name is usually very popular (this year it was Oveckin) but not necessarily the biggest, scariest guy there. I dunno, maybe comedians scare easily.
Also? Jokes where there is some confusion about the definitions of hooking, time in the box or anything else that sounds like it came from Michael Scott? No….Just. No.
After that came the first award, the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. What hurt was realizing that Wahlberg was able to make jokes that show he does know something about hockey and might have made a better host. Either that or his announcing the winner was Tie Domi instead of Tyler Myers was possibly a slipup. I don’t want to know.
Myers gave a nice speech while consulting what I have come to believe was regulation NHL folded paper. He did mention that his friends and teammates were more excited to be there than he was. Given the hooting in the background, I believed him.
The next award was the Selke. This must have been the point in the proceedings where waves were sent out to make people confess things because co-presenter Natasha Henstridge admitted that even after the explanation, she had no idea what the award was for. Datsyuk gave a sweet speech from the heart sans notes.
The Ross Trophy was awarded to Aitch Sedin on the the carpet. The award ceremonies on the carpet were actually much more relaxed and better presented than the ones in the theatre. Go figure.
This was followed by footage of banter with some of the Chicago Blackhawks in one of the balcony-ish, boothy areas. Patrick Kane proceeded to grab a bunny, which was kind of like watching a twelve-year-old put on his dad’s Shriners Fez and grab his dishier related-by-marriage relatives at a reunion. It was also just as awesome.
Someone somewhere decided that we would all need entertaining at this point. I guess in their minds nothing exemplifies that nexus point between hockey and fine art like Cirque du Soleil. Goodness knows watching Shea Weber makes me think, “You know what would make this complete? Men in mascara contorting to the songs of Lennon and McCartney on a set that looks like a cross between a Magritte painting and the entrance to a suburban Target.”
Cue J-Mo with some off the cuff jokes about Cirque and then back to the festivities.
The contenders for the Ted Lindsay Trophy were Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Henrik Sedin. Even though Crosby was flawlessly turned out in a suit and tie, there is something abut him that makes him look like he’s wearing his dad’s suit to the prom. He’s probably going to continue to have that “kid in the room” aura when he’s forty. Henrik Sedin was also nicely turned out and did very well for what I think was his first visit to the awards. He seemed very excited to be there and I hope he had a good time. Then there was Alexander Ovechkin who wore his tieless, casual, perfect-but-only-for-Alex look the way he wears his outsized personality on the ice during a game.
Ovechkin won, gave a shoutout to his posse (“Yo guys! What’s up?”) and then made the mistake of waiting for the applause and laughter to die down. ESPN humorist Reese Waters, who had already gone onstage to start his segment deserves a nod here for letting Ovi finish his speech.
Once Ovi concluded with a very Russian “What a life!” Waters did a fairly good job of introducing the short taped piece he had written for Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. They managed to get a lot of humor out of what has become the elephant in the room when it comes to North American hockey: the rivalry that never seems to let up between Canada and the US. They also devoted at least a few seconds to trying to find words that rhyme with “Duck” in a way that was obvious but still funny. Loved the film, loved them, it made me think that this show would benefit from fewer non-sports celebrities and more of the humor that seems to develop organically from within the league.
The Rocket Richard was presented on the red carpet to Crosby and Stamkos, who were polite and gracious.
The Jack Adams was given to a very deserving Dave Tippett. It’s always nice to see someone from Nashville get a nod, but this was quite decidedly Tippett’s year.
Jamie Kennedy, D.B.Sweeney and Jay Mohr belabored the presentation of the Vezina Trophy but he moment was salvaged by a gracious speech from Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller.
Jose Theodore provided grace and gravity in his acceptance of the Masterton for his work in providing respite care for pediatric oncology patients.
Shane Doan created a bookend moment for the Desert Dogs and their fans, friends and family with his speech after winning the King Clancy.
What else? Duncan Keith got the Norris, Messier picked Crosby for his namesake trophy, Ryan Miller took the Founders Trophy, Sedin was great when he took home the Hart.
The Lady Byng was a bit of surprise because I think most people were expecting Datsyuk to win it again. The winner, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis, proved to have sharper comedic chops than any of the professionals.
My advice for next year is to lose the “professionals”. They’re unfunny speedbumps at best. We really don’t need to see C- or D-list actors presenting just because they’re from Canada or once dated a player or three. (Yeah, I’m looking at whoever decided that VS should actually devote time to Alyssa Milano’s thoughts about the draft. She really didn’t have any beyond, “I just LOVE hockey! And I used to date a player! Giggle! Giggle!” Quelle surpise.) This is the NHL’s night to shine. Let the players, coaches and press who love this game allow those who have been tapped and chosen to have their moment. There is no need to force the humor or humanity because, just as it is always present in the game, it is destined to come out in this recognition of it.
Ovechkin and St. Louis are just two of many good candidates from within the league who could host it far better than anyone has so far. Joe Thronton, Marty Turco, Chad LaRose, Marc Savard and Wade Belak would have done the league proud and are frankly hammy enough to give it shot. Just ask them if they’d be good hosts! I’m sure they would have plenty to say about the subject.
Coming next: Where did hockey come from? Ah, Best Beloved, we shall see how birch branches and cork evolved into titanium sticks and frozen rubber!