LAS VEGAS — Sidney Crosby says he took his first Hart Trophy for granted.
After fighting back from a series of concussions that threatened his career, the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t make that mistake again.
Crosby won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player at the league’s awards ceremony on Tuesday night, seven years after winning it at the tender age of 19.
"When you win it that young, you probably expect to win it maybe sooner or you might think it’s a little easier than it actually is," said Crosby. "You need to play with some good players. You need a lot things to go right and stay healthy, too."
Health has been the only thing to slow Crosby down over his nine seasons in the league. The 26-year-old was limited to 41 games in 2010-11 and just 22 the following campaign before playing 36 of 48 contests last season.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native said there were low moments during his recovery when he wondered if the concussion-like symptoms he was suffering from would ever allow him to return to the ice.
"That definitely crossed my mind and I think having gone through that and having been on the other side of it, hopefully I have a much greater appreciation for this stuff," said Crosby. "Even though you’re not playing for (personal awards), you don’t take it for granted and you try to enjoy it a little bit more."
Crosby also won the Ted Lindsay Award on Tuesday, which is voted on by the players, and also received the Art Ross Trophy after scoring a league-high 104 points.
The Penguins were plagued by injuries all season and Crosby, who scored 36 goals and added a league-high 68 assists, said that adversity helped raise his game to another level.
"I think that was a big part of it — the whole year just trying to be consistent," said Crosby, who also won Olympic gold for Canada but saw the Penguins eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. "That probably forced me to play a little bit better knowing that we all had to come together and find ways to win."
Crosby — who was a Hart Trophy finalist in both 2009-10 as well as last season — got the nod ahead of both Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers in voting for both the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award.
In what could be considered a warning to the rest of the league, he added he expects even more from himself next season.
"I feel like I can create more. I think there’s still a level I can get to," said Crosby. "I feel like before I got hurt was probably the best I’ve felt and I’d like get back to that point. I don’t feel like I got to that point this year.
"I still feel like I can improve and learn a lot more."
Meanwhile, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman, topping Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.
Keith had six goals and 55 assists in 79 games this season, tying a career-high in assists and marking the second-highest point total of his NHL career.
"It’s a pretty surreal feeling. There’s so many good defencemen in the league and I’m just proud to represent all the defencemen," Keith said after picking up his second Norris. "I know I wouldn’t be up here without good teammates and I’m lucky to have a good defence partner in Brent Seabrook, who complements my game. He’s a big reason I won in 2010 and he’s a big reason why I won this year."
Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender over fellow first-time nominees Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche.
Rask had a 36-15-6 record in helping Boston to capture its first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990. He finished first overall in shutouts (seven), second in save percentage (.930), fourth in goals-against average (2.04) and fifth in wins (36).
"It’s a great honour," said Rask. "There’s so many good goalies in the league that 10 guys could have easily won."
Bruins’ teammate Patrice Bergeron won the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward, beating out Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.
"It’s just an honour to be up against players like Jonathan and Anze," said the Boston centreman. "Hockey is such a team sport that I have to give the award to all my teammates."
Bergeron, who narrowly lost the 2013 Selke to Toews after winning it in 2012, won a league-high 1,015 faceoffs — the most by any player in the past seven seasons.
Bergeron also won the NHL Foundation Player Award, which recognizes the NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.
Even though Varlamov didn’t pick up the Vezina, the Avalanche still had a big night.
Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year after the flashy forward received 130 first-place votes from the 137 ballots cast. The 18-year-old is the youngest Calder winner ever.
"I just wanted to try to make an immediate impact and try to help the team win every night," said MacKinnon. "Some nights I did, some nights I didn’t but I definitely learned a lot from the season."
MacKinnon, also from Cole Harbour, is the second Avalanche player in the past three years to be voted the NHL’s top rookie, following captain Gabriel Landeskog’s Calder Trophy win in 2012.
"It’s cool," he added. "I was very fortunate to be brought into a good team."
Colorado’s Patrick Roy won the Jack Adams as the league’s best coach in his first year behind the Avalanche’s bench, beating out Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa’s Jon Cooper.
Roy led the Avalanche to third-place finish in the standings after the club placed 29th the year before.
"Being here was probably the thing that I was very excited about," said Roy, who won the Vezina three times during his playing days. "When I retired I never thought it would be possible. I never thought it would ever happen, to be honest with you. It’s fun to see it happening but I know why I’m receiving this trophy.
"I have a group of players that made a commitment and bought into what we wanted to do."
Ryan O’Reilly then completed the Colorado hat trick when the forward won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship. New York Rangers counterpart Dominic Moore earned the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Moore returned to the NHL this season after taking a leave of absence in the spring of 2012 in order to care for his wife, Katie, after she was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer. Katie passed away at the age of 32 in January 2013.
He established the Katie Moore Foundation (katiemoore.org), which is dedicated to helping patients and families with rare cancers through research, advocacy and community.
"Awards like this, especially this award about perseverance, is a shared thing and I’m just grateful for all the support and encouragement," said Moore. "Coming back and playing was a lot harder than I ever thought."
Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals received the Rocket Richard Trophy as the regular-season goal-scoring leader after collecting 51 in 2013-14, Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership on the ice and in the community, Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, and Anaheim’s Bob Murray won the NHL General Manager of the Year award.