Bad jokes, pass-the-Kleenex speeches, heart-wrenching reunions, a hometown sweep, and one super-tight MVP race — the 2018 NHL Awards had a little bit of everything.
Here are the 13 things you need to know from hockey’s annual Las Vegas gala.
Hall in a photo finish
“Wow,” Hall told the audience. “I was super nervous until I just saw that Humboldt tribute, and it really puts everything into perspective for me.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 21, 2018
Hall became the first New Jersey Devil to win the league MVP, the first player to win with a team that didn’t originally draft him since Joe Thornton in 2006, and only the second left wing to win since the Original Six era. Hall is also the first Hart winner who didn’t finish top-four in scoring since Mark Messier did it in 1992.
“It really could’ve been anyone up here,” Hall admitted. “I’m super interested to see the voting after and see how close it was.”
The scoring was the tightest of the night, with Hall’s 1,264 ballot points nudging out Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon’s 1,194. Hall beat MacKinnon in first-place votes by a score of 72-60.
Adam Larsson did not receive any Hart votes this year.
McDavid ‘shocked’ to win
“I’m actually shocked,” Connor McDavid said as he accepted his second consecutive Ted Lindsay Award for the most outstanding player as voted by his peers.
McDavid, who also scooped the Art Ross, only finished fifth in Hart voting because his Oilers whiffed on the playoffs. He became the first player to win the Lindsay twice before the age of 22 and seemed genuinely touched that his fellow players believe he’s the best.
“To the city of Edmonton, thank you for being patient with us,” McDavid said. “We’ll be back. I promise.”
Boyle delivers night’s best speech
What a year for Brian Boyle, diagnosed with bone marrow cancer at the start of training camp, the centre of affection during all-star weekend, and being the first voice to speak at the opening of Wednesday’s host-free NHL Awards show.
Boyle’s rambling, raw and heartstring-tugging acceptance speech for his Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy hit all the right notes.
“My heart’s racing,” he confessed, to rousing cheers of support.
Boyle spoke of great tragedies — Parkland, Vegas, Humboldt — and personal ones.
“Sometimes the road isn’t how you want it to be paved, but you have to keep working,” he said.
Did we mention the awards fell on his fourth wedding anniversary with wife Lauren?
What happens in Vegas is Ovechkin still partying
The funnest bit of the gala was introduced by O.G. Wonder Woman–turned–Washington Capitals superfan Lynda Carter, who threw to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom celebrating with the Stanley Cup on a mini manmade island in front of the Bellagio as the famous geysers soaked them and House of Pain’s “Jump Around” blared.
“Lynda! We found fountains!” Ovie screamed, like a kid running through the sprinkler till infinity.
Hockey does sincerity better than comedy
Wisely, the awards kept the jokey bits to a minimum — a setup featuring ventriloquist Terry Fator fell painfully flat, and even the excellent Kenan Thompson couldn’t save a Keeper of the Cup sketch — and devoted its efforts to honouring heroes within the community.
The Parkland and Vegas shootings were all treated with respect, and players from Marjory Stoneman Douglas were brought onstage.
The reunion of the surviving Humboldt Broncos, honoured in an excellent five-minute video tribute, brought tears to eyes and an auditorium to its feet.
Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, one of the 16 who died in the crash, was honoured as the inaugural recipient of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. In Haugan’s memory, $10,000 will be donated to a charity that was important to him, the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association.
NHL recruits perfect presenter for Rinne’s Vezina
Always the bridesmaid never the bride, Pekka Rinne finally broke through and won his Vezina. It only took being a finalist four times. The Predators’ last line of defence held back tears during his emotional acceptance speech, thanking his family, fans and teammates.
Somewhere in Pittsburgh, Matt Murray was moved:
Whom the league called upon to present Rinne with his trophy was a stroke of brilliance. And, no, we’re not talking about Jim Belushi, who made us wince through a Thunder Down Under joke.
Chicago Blackhawks emergency backup goalie Scott Foster, the accountant with the perfect 1.000 NHL save percentage, got the nod.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck was the runner-up for the Vezina, which is voted on by the 31 GMs. Notably, third-place finisher Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t receive a single first-place vote, but Toronto’s Frederik Andersen (fourth) did get one first-place vote.
Barzal wins in landslide, but it should’ve been unanimous
The Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, the first rookie in a dozen years to crush the 80-point mark, won the Calder Trophy in the night’s most lopsided victory: a whopping 160 first-place votes.
Only four writers cast their ballot elsewhere. Vancouver’s Brock Boeser got two first-place nods and Yanni Gourde and Clayton Keller received one each.
Classy, sparkly Hedman wins first Norris
All class, from his glittery suit to his shoutout to the Humboldt Broncos right off the top of his speech, Victor Hedman deservedly captured the first of what could be multiple Norris trophies. Gracious to the other finlaists, Hedman quipped that he was going to steal P.K. Subban’s spin-o-rama and work it into his repertoire next season.
For those who believe the writers favour offence too heavily when casting Norris ballots, Washington’s John Carlson won the D-men scoring race but only received three first-place votes. (He should be able to buy all the votes he wants after this summer’s payday, however.)
Goosebumps. I’m so fortunate to play with Heddy and to learn from him https://t.co/vCibF3d2so
— Mikhail Sergachev (@sergachev31) June 21, 2018
EA Sports makes a wise choice
P.K. Subban was up for both the Norris and King Clancy, but his consolation prize should serve both his personal brand and the gaming industry well. Easily one of the most marketable hockey players on the planet, Subban received the (overdue?) honour of being named the NHL 19 cover boy.
— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) June 21, 2018
There is no science to the mysterious Lady Byng
Easily the most subjective trophy hockey writers are asked to award, the final tally of the Lady Byng ballots featured 56 different players with at least one vote. Twenty-one different players received at least one first-place vote.
Despite the madness, Vegas sniper William Karlsson and his custom Knights-lined suit deserved to win. Wild Bill finished third overall in goal (43) while registering the fewest penalty minutes (12) among the NHL’s top 40 scorers. Karlsson’s plus-49 rating was only the highest plus/minus by anyone since 2009-10.
Wild Bill made a point to shoutout linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, at which point a Florida man smashed his television set with his own sneaker.
Kopitar blocks Bergeron from making history
Anze Kopitar’s brilliant bounce-back season earned him 70 first-place votes for the Selke, giving him the trophy for the second time in three seasons. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, a finalist for an incredible seven consecutive seasons, finished third behind Sean Couturier. This means Bergeron is stuck tied with Bob Gainey with four Selke victories.
Kopitar made a point to thank Bergeron for letting him win a Selke now and again.
The Golden Knights’ home-ice advantage carries into award season
We knew Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant would win the Jack Adams in a walk (Turk took 102 of 108 first-place votes), but the Golden Misfits went a perfect 4-for-4, winning every major trophy in which they had a finalist.
De facto captain Deryk Engelland captured the Mark Messier Leadership Award, crafty architect George McPhee cruised with the GM of the Year honours, and Wild Bill won the Lady Byng. For those scoring at home, Marc-Andre Fleury finished fifth in the Vezina race.
An interesting note on the Jack Adams voting: 17 different coaches received top-three votes, including Florida’s rookie bench boss Bob Boughner, who did not make the playoffs.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) June 21, 2018
Sedins go out winners
Awesome to see Daniel and Henrik Sedin named as co-winners of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. A $40,000 donation from the NHL Foundation will go to a charity of their choice. A fitting way to wrap their 17 years of service.