Good on the NHL Players’ Association for its decision to rename its most valuable player award after Ted Lindsay. It’s certainly due time a player of Lindsay’s stature, who put his career on the line as a pioneer for the fledgling players’ union, is recognized for what he did.
The downside, of course, is those with absolutely no sense of history – people who were undoubtedly pleased when the NHL changed its division monikers from being named after the great builders of the game to generic geographic locations, like we didn’t know Los Angeles was in the Pacific – are starting a movement to change the names of some of the league’s most prestigious and tradition-steeped awards.
There has been talk of changing the Hart Trophy to the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, naming the Norris after Bobby Orr and the Art Ross after Gordie Howe.
Let’s not get ridiculous here. Because if we’re going to use that logic and rename the trophies to reflect more modern times and players, the first trophy that should be renamed would be the Stanley Cup. Because the person who donated the Stanley Cup has a less tenuous connection to the sport than anyone whose name bears a trophy.
Frederick Arthur Stanley – the Lord Stanley of Preston – donated the trophy in 1892 to the amateur hockey champions of Canada, despite the fact he was not born in Canada and never played a single hockey game.
It would be blasphemy to consider changing the name of the Stanley Cup, so why wouldn’t the hockey world be as indignant about changing the names of trophies that bear the names of people who made significant contributions to the game?
Jack Adams was a great player in the pre-NHL era and was the longest serving coach of all-time. Art Ross was one of the first rushing defensemen and won two Stanley Cups. Georges Vezina was the greatest goalie of his generation and his death from tuberculosis cut short a Hall of Fame career. Frank Selke built the Montreal Canadiens into the most dominant dynasty in the history of sports. Conn Smythe built Maple Leaf Gardens in six months during the depths of the Depression and was the founding father of the most loved franchise in the game. James Norris was a long-time owner in the NHL and Cecil Hart was a Stanley Cup-winning coach and GM with the Canadiens.
Lady Byng? Well, all right, you’ve got me there. She was the wife of the Governor General of Canada and donated the trophy in 1924-25, so that particular bobble is probably due for a refresh. It certainly wouldn’t be a travesty to see that trophy named after Hall of Famer Frank Boucher, who was the most gentlemanly player of all-time and won the award seven times in eight years with the New York Rangers.
A few tweaks here and there certainly wouldn’t hurt, but to dispense some of the game’s great figures by making wholesale changes to the NHL’s awards would not only be short-sighted, it would be downright disrespectful.
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Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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