Taylor Hall took home the Hart Trophy on Wednesday night at the NHL Awards ceremony, but it was an evening of perspective that really set things right.
The night featured a reunion of the surviving Humboldt Broncos, along with the honouring of coach Darcy Haugan – one of 16 who perished in the awful crash – with inaugural Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. Money was donated to the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association on his behalf.
The program also shone a light on the Parkland school shooting and the Vegas tragedy.
Somewhere among the tears and memories, awards were handed out. But the Las Vegas event wisely insisted that some things are in fact larger and more vital than hockey, illustrating a community of players unwilling to forget and more than willing to speak to important issues.
“It’s not all about you, it’s not all about winning awards, it’s about enjoying life and doing what you love,” Hall said. “To see those kids, their dreams ripped apart and their families have to kind of heal from that, it just puts everything in perspective.”
The New Jersey Devils forward had 72 of 164 first-place votes from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and squeezed past Nathan MacKinnon and Anze Kopitar. He became the first Devil to win the MVP and, interestingly, the first player since Joe Thornton to win the MVP Hart after being traded.
George McPhee won the General Manager of the Year award for his incredible year with the Golden Knights. He was instrumental in constructing the inaugural franchise from the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft just three months ahead of training camp. The Golden Knights pulled off a 51-24-7 record and pushed through to the Stanley Cup Final.
Pekka Rinne won the Vezina Trophy. The goaltender was third in the NHL with 42 wins and helped the Nashville Predators secure their first Presidents’ Trophy. He set a Nashville record with eight shutouts.
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award for coaching the expansion team to a divisional title.
“It’s something I’ve never dreamed about. I never thought I’d be NHL Coach of the Year,” Gallant said. “It’s a great honour. I’m the head coach, but we talk about our assistant coaches all the time, we talk about the organization all the time. They’re all a big part of this award.”
Anze Kopitar took home the Selke Trophy. He led all players at his position in total ice time and was third in faceoff wins for the 2017-2018 season. His play helped the Los Angeles Kings lead the league in defence.
New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal snagged the Calder Trophy as the best rookie. He led all first-years in assists and points and was 13th overall in league scoring. He had 20 more points than the next-closest rookie, Clayton Keller of Arizona, and had three five-point games this season.
Victor Hedman won the Norris Trophy for best defenceman. He set career highs in goals and plus-minus and was ranked fifth overall in points as a blueliner.
“Every defenceman wants to get as good as you can and to get the recognition, and it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Hedman said. “Being only the third Swede is pretty special, so I’m so happy that I got to enjoy this with my family.”
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid took home the Ted Lindsay Award for the second season in a row. The most outstanding player as voted by members of the NHLPA led the league in scoring with 108 points, winning his second Art Ross in a row as well.
Other winners included William Karlsson, who won the elusive Lady Byng, and the Sedin twins. Daniel and Henrik picked up the King Clancy Award for the “player or players who best exemplify leadership qualities on and off the ice and have made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in their community.”
New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle was presented with the Masterton Trophy as the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
“This has been quite the year,” Boyle said. “We have a tremendous amount of memories, some good ones and not so good ones. We are not going to forget this year, we’re not going to forget all that we have been through. My wife and I, it has brought us closer. It’s our anniversary today. It’s pretty funny how God works sometimes. We’re so happy for it, we can look back at it at some point, but it is moving pretty fast right now.”