The Awards Experience
I got to experience the NHL awards, and boy was it, uh, something.
Before we get into further and increasingly weird detail, I'd like to thank Travis Hughes and SBNation for the opportunity I was presented with. When I was given this chance, I really had no idea what to write. But as the event unfolded over the course of two days, it became clear that things were about to get weird.
So I figured I'd document my experience. However strange it got. In all honesty, it fits perfectly. I am, after all, a blogger that was given the opportunity to do so because I say stupid junk on Twitter. What are things supposed to be if not weird?
The NHL Awards are an opulent, bizarre event. Award shows are this by default. Glitz and glamour and extravagance. It makes some amount of sense for the movie or music industries, where the occupation is by default given a certain filigreed shine. Hockey players are not movie stars, though, and treating them as such is bound to put some players in some pretty uncomfortable situations.
For example, movie stars aren't often put in the uncomfortable position of fielding questions from unapproved strangers at a time when dark clouds could be following them around. Players like Brent Burns or, specifically, Patrick Marleau are in a place they may not necessarily want to be: surrounded by potentially hostile (or, perhaps termed better, intensely inquisitive) reporters.
The whole event is weird. Hockey players aren't accustomed to the over-the-top formal spotlight and reporters are even less well-equipped to handle it. Giving hockey its Hollywood moment each and every year is comical for a number of reasons. Hockey is a sport that prides itself on a blue collar approach, on busted teeth and broken noses, and on heavy hits and pugilists. Though attention is paid to the sport's natural attractiveness, the game's pulchritude falls behind in spades to the spotlight shone on the other forces governing the game. However, on award night, attention shifts from the brutal to the beautiful for some reason, and the league makes a huge deal about it.
Hockey players don't adore the spotlight or seek it out, they're not used to it, and they mostly don't care about it. Almost everyone involved seems like they'd rather be somewhere else. Which is pretty much how you end up with pictures like this one of Brent Burns.
Day one was basically just a media availability session, which was as well organized as an event can be if your plan is to throw players into a blender. A loud room filled with multiple interviews going on at once, many people requesting one-on-one interviews, and not many people particularly wanting to be there. It's an interesting dynamic handled fairly well by all involved.
The first thing I witnessed upon entering the clubhouse in which the thing was held was Dominic Moore looking as if he were fresh out of a workout, surrounded by a small scrum. The capital letter on a strange day. It should be noted that a golf event followed the media session, so things like Gary Bettman walking in decked out in his cleated shoes or Ryan Getzlaf wearing a hat aren't shocking, but still bizarre on the whole.
The most interesting moment of the media session came at the hands of Patrick Marleau. For one, his scrum was small so I was able to actually hear everything that was being said. Two, I didn't want to launch him into the sun. Lastly, I was also genuinely curious about what he had to say. I let the other reporters do the work, and they asked the right questions.
At the same time, this kinda sucks, doesn't it? Patrick Marleau is here to be honored for his tremendous efforts as a player and yet, because of the circumstances of his playoff exit and the Sharks in general, he is forced into an uncomfortable situation (that he handled well). It all adds to the bizarre, almost bloodthirsty nature that surrounds media in general. "Answers at all costs. Answers are everything. Answers to everything at all times." I'm sure Ryan O'Reilly felt the same way about his contract talks, as did Claude Giroux when asked about Scott Hartnell's sudden departure from the team. Of course, it's the name of the game, and I don't have any real sympathy for these millionaire athletes, but it all adds to the general bizarre nature of the event. "Congrats, but also, why does your life suck?"
The highlights of day one were small and generally only important to myself. I told Zdeno Chara that he wasn't that tall, made fun of Brent Burns' goofy outfit, listened in on the forever-sad Patrick Marleau, and failed to grab Chris Pronger's attention despite yelling at him from about five feet.
The day of the awards was actually slightly less interesting, somehow. The award show itself was fine, even if almost all of the winners were foregone conclusions. Patrice Bergeron was always going to win the Selke, Sidney Crosby was always going to take home the Hart, and Dustin Brown was always going to make the most of an opportunity to make the majority of the country hate him. Perhaps the lone moment of real joy was when Tuukka Rask rightfully sent Semyon Varlamov home empty-handed. All in all, a successful if somewhat boring night.
I watched on from the media room, where they didn't have the correct channel displayed to start, and then could not successfully change the channel without a solid 10 minutes of effort. Only the winners were made available to the media, and even those exchanges were brief and disorganized. They announced the players out of order, players and executives that got announced didn't show up until long after their expected time of arrival, and confusion seemed to reign throughout. The highlight of this ordeal was Patrick Roy's sudden, unannounced arrival and Adrian Dater promptly muttering, "shit!" before scampering up to the stage where Roy's scrum was held.
Similarly, Dustin Brown walked into the room unannounced, and I accidentally knocked over my chair when I got up to go listen in. However, I blame some of this on my ridiculous height. I don't know what my legs are doing most of the time.
Dustin Brown was the only King to speak to the media after two days of awards stuff. He does not think that two cups in three years makes the Kings a dynasty, so I'll make sure I ask him if the Kings are a dynasty when they win their third in four years. He felt as if the second cup win was more satisfying than the first, which is basically how most Kings fans feel if my understanding is correct. He felt honored by his award win, mostly because Mark Messier was the one that has the heaviest input on the award. He felt a lot worse after being eliminated in 2013 than he did after 2010 or 2011 since he had then learned of the sweet taste of victory. Pretty standard stuff.
No award for Anze Kopitar, which is okay with me. Patrice Bergeron is a wonderful hockey player. Given the nature of the Selke award, I have little doubt we will again see Kopitar in the running next year, should he stay healthy. In fact, I'd wager that a good season from Kopitar will basically lock up the award. There's simply too much desire from the media to pay homage to players for lifetime achievement as opposed to seasonal accomplishment. I don't really mind this with regards to the Selke. It's a tough award to vote for. Kopi will get his someday.
Dean Lombardi left empty handed, which is perhaps the greatest upset of the entire award show, though few will talk about it. Say what you will about his Regehr acquisition and extension, but his actual 2013/14 season was superb. He lost to a man that traded Dustin Penner to make space for another forward only to not ever trade for that forward. The other man he was in competition with acquired Doug Murray. Like, without a gun held to his head. Just went out and got him. Also, that same man is once again teetering on the edge of Contract Hell with superstar P.K. Subban. Yet Lombardi left without a trophy.
Well, besides the Stanley Cup. Which isn't too bad, I guess.
Of course, me being who I am, I livetweeted the whole thing. I also took a bunch of pictures. Some of them are kind of funny. You can read my twitter recap here. All in all, it was a fun and bizarre experience and I'd both jump at the chance to do it again next year and not be terribly disappointed if I didn't get asked back. It's a spectacle, but an unnecessary one that leaves you wondering "why" with such alarming regularity that you realize it probably doesn't need to exist in its current incarnation.