Think that title is a stretch? It’s not so much of one as long as people keep piping up about wanting to rename the NHL awards. This isn’t a new topic of discussion. The CBCs Elliotte Friedman wrote on it a while back and Y!’s Puck Daddy contributor Sean Leahy brought it up again this past weekend asking the question “Pass or Fail: Renaming the NHL’s awards“. The theme was continued this morning on XM Home Ice by host Mike Ross who endorsed the idea and then went into a debate with his co-hosts. All of this more recent talk is generally thanks to Glen Healy of HNiC and formerly a Director of Affairs at the Player’s Association who has had some unkind things to say about Jack Adams amongst others as the reason to force the name changes. Other people, just want more current names so that new fans can identify with the more recent heroes of the game.
The names need to stay the same for two reasons. The first one is the one that most people on my side of the argument go with: Tradition. These names were chosen for one of three reasons. First the person donated the trophy (Stanley Cup, Lady Bing, Prince of Wales, Hart Trophy). Second they had something to do with the founding or building of the league (Conn-Smythe, Calder, Art-Ross, Campbell Bowl, Norris) or finally, they were named for a player (Rocket, Vezina). That is by no means a definitive listing but you get the point.
The second reason is one that is not talked about and it is something that is very very dangerous. That is corporate naming rights. I joked with Jonathan Moncrief of examiner.com who covers the Los Angeles Kings about the naming of their intermission report this past weekend. It was the Taiwan Tourism intermission report. That name is well and good for a period of time between periods of hockey. However it is that mentality that anything and everything is available for the right price that will lead to true ridiculousness with the NHL awards and the destruction of history.
I know the current intent is to rename the awards for something/someone more current. For instance changing the name of the Calder Trophy to the Mario Lemieux Trophy. That’s a noble idea even if I don’t agree with it. However what happens once that dam is broke? Once it has become acceptable to rename the awards how far off is it to have a company buy the naming rights of a trophy when the league hits a lean time, or when they need to bail out an ailing franchise?
The NHL has something that the NFL and even Major League baseball don’t have. Legitimate rich tradition that thus far is unmarred by the fingers of corporate America. The Stanley Cup is 117 years old this year. The Vezina, Lady Bing, and some of the other awards have been around since the 1920s or earlier. When I was a new hockey fan in the early 1980s I took it upon myself to learn the history, not to have it changed to the Bobby Orr award for my own convenience. I see no reason to do it now nor was it even a thought in my head at age 5 or 10. I thought “they gave these awards these names for a good reason“.
The next time someone says they support changing the names of the awards, ask them what they think the new name of the Stanley Cup should be. They will say something like “oh we’d never go that far“. Sure, you hope they don’t. There is a wall in place right now. Don’t take bricks out of it so Nike and Reebok can bulldoze what’s left.
Stick-tap to OneSmugPug for the MCI-Worldcom title.
One more to Mick Kern of XM Home Ice’s War Room for dropping the article on air today in the first segment.
About the Author: Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL Hockey Blogger, Father, Husband, IT Geek, former player, and NHL 11 EASHL addict. Oz has been cited for his work on XM Radio's NHL Home Ice, Penguins HD Radio, and Y!'s Puck Daddy Blog. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/ozman51 Xbox: ozman51