Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A look back at seven defunct NHL awards (and whether we should bring them back)

We’re far enough into the season that we can start having debates about who should win the various awards and trophies, or at least who might be the frontrunners right now. Does Connor McDavid reclaim the Hart or would one of the Bruins’ top forwards have something to say about that? Does John Carlson’s record-breaking offense mean the Norris conversation is already over? Is Barry Trotz going to become the first coach in over 30 years to win back-to-back Jack Adams Trophies? And who exactly is the favorite for the Art Ross, the Presidents’ Trophy and even the Stanley Cup?

Maybe you think it’s too early for all of this. If so, you’re wrong. Awards debates are one of my favorite parts of being a sports fan. I wish there were more of them. And maybe there should be.

After all, while the NHL has plenty of awards today, it used to have more. We’ve seen several come and go over the years. So today, let’s look back at seven awards that the NHL used to give out and try to figure out whether there’s a case to be made for the NHL bringing a few of them back.

The O’Brien Trophy

Awarded to: The Stanley Cup runner-up, among other things.

The O’Brien Trophy has a long and varied history, one that predates the founding of the NHL. It was originally created in 1910 by the National Hockey Association and recognized the league’s champion. The NHL adopted it in 1918 and it was awarded to the league champ back in the days when the Stanley Cup could still be won by teams from other leagues. Once the NHL assumed control of the Cup in 1928, the O’Brien was given to the Canadian team with the most points, before becoming the consolation prize for the Cup final loser from 1939 until 1950, when it was retired for good.

Not seen since: 1950, making the Rangers the last team to earn it.

Should we bring it back?: Absolutely. The O’Brien Trophy was fantastic.

The question is what we use it for. It’s tempting to go with the “best Canadian team” concept, since it would be nice for a Canadian hockey team to be able to win something again.

But I think we have to go with the Cup runner-up idea. Just think about every old person you know who loses their minds over kids getting participation trophies. Now picture them reacting to the news that the NHL would be giving out a trophy for losing in the Cup final. Their heads would explode. So that’s one benefit.

Even better, imagine the team that just lost the Stanley Cup having to skate up and accept a trophy from Gary Bettman right afterwards. You think NHL player are unreasonably reluctant to touch the conference championship trophies? Wait until you see Bettman calling up the losing captain to get the “At Least You Tried” award. Could we even last three years before somebody took a sledgehammer to the thing on live television? We need to find out.

(One possible problem with this idea: The O’Brien Trophy is also the name of basketball’s adorable little knick-knack, which would cause confusion and give the please-like-my-sport people something to be insufferable about. Let’s make a note that we may need to sue the NBA to get them to change the name. We had it first.)

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