NHL awards: Who should hockey's top prizes be renamed after?

The NBA announced this week that it would be renaming several of its individual awards. Perhaps it was an admission that some of the history feels somewhat outdated — with due apologies to any Maurice Podoloff stans reading this.

It’s a fun exercise to consider, so we’re adopting this to the NHL. The league desperately needs to reexamine its own history, so we’re going to copy the NBA and make some revisions of our own.

Current name: Hart Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player

New name: Wayne Gretzky Trophy

This one is a no-brainer. If Michael Jordan is the namesake of the NBA’s new Most Valuable Player Award, Gretzky has to be the recipient of hockey’s equivalent. The greatest player of all time would be an excellent choice for the NHL’s top scorer as well, but we can’t name all the awards after The Great One. No one will ever surpass his 2,857 points.

Current name: Art Ross Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s top scorer

New name: Mario Lemieux Trophy

Lemieux won the NHL scoring title six times and was one of the greatest all-around threats the league has ever seen. He was just one point away from becoming the NHL’s second 200-point scorer, notching 85 goals and 199 points during the 1988-89 campaign. He may not be the namesake of the MVP award but Lemieux was one of the best players of his era and perhaps the most physically talented player to ever take the ice .

Mario Lemieux, left, and Wayne Gretzky, right, are two of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen. (Photo via Getty)
Mario Lemieux, left, and Wayne Gretzky, right, are two of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen. (Photo via Getty)

Current name: Frank J. Selke Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward

New name: Patrice Bergeron Trophy

It feels a bit odd to give this distinction to an active player, but Bergeron is the gold standard. He is the clubhouse leader for the award this year, after submitting the best defensive season of his career in 2021-22. Boston’s captain has won this award five times and is synonymous with two-way excellence. It’s an easy choice that ought to age well.

Current name: Vezina Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s best goaltender

New name: Dominik Hasek Statue

Hasek, for my money, is the greatest goaltender of all time. The trophy should be in the form of one of Hasek’s iconic stack-the-pads saves, as the former Sabres goalie feared nothing at all and played a one-of-one style that often relied on his acrobatics. He epitomized cool and was the best goaltender of his generation.

Current name: James Norris Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman

New name: Nicklas Lidstrom Trophy

Bobby Orr is considered by some to be the NHL's best defenseman of all time, but the margin is relatively thin versus Lidstrom. Orr backed Don Cherry after he was fired from Hockey Night in Canada for racist remarks against immigrants, supported U.S. President Donald Trump's failed re-election campaign, and we figured this award could use a more contemporary lens. So we’re naming it for Lidstrom, who was effortless in his own end while providing blistering offense for the Red Wings dynasty. It would feel weird if Lidstrom wasn’t included in some capacity as one of the greatest players ever.

Current name: Conn Smythe Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s best playoff performer

New name: Patrick Roy Award

Roy emerged on the scene as a 20-year-old rookie and backstopped the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1986. It only got better from there. Roy leads all players with three playoff MVPs and always found a way to elevate his game when the circumstances mattered the most.

Considering former Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe stated he would pay $10,000 to anyone who would turn Herb Carnegie white, a disgusting act of racism that prevented Carnegie from becoming the league’s first Black player, this award is the most in need of a name change.

Current name: Calder Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s best rookie

New name: Dale Hawerchuk Trophy

Hawerchuk submitted one of the best rookie seasons ever as an 18-year-old, recording 45 goals and 103 points during the 1981-82 campaign for the Jets. He was one of the most precocious scorers ever, surpassing 100 points in six of his first NHL seasons. Hawerchuk died of stomach cancer in 2020 and having his name on an award would be an easy nod for Gretzky and Lemieux’s 1987 Canada Cup linemate.

Current name: Jack Adams Award — awarded to the NHL’s best head coach

New name: Pat Burns Award

Burns was beloved by the NHL community and, like Hawerchuk, died of cancer in November 2010. In his penultimate season, Burns led the Devils to a Stanley Cup victory in 2003 and won 501 games. He is the only three-time winner of this award, and it would be an easy choice to name it after Burns.

Current name: Lady Byng Memorial Trophy - awarded to the NHL’s most gentlemanly player

New name: Jean Beliveau Trophy

Beliveau was progressive ahead of his time. He stood up for Black and other racialized minorities in hockey and embodied the best of what the Canadiens franchise tried to espouse during its dynastic run through the 1950s and 1960s. Once offered the position of Governor General of Canada, Beliveau represented the best of what Canada had to offer and wasn’t afraid of challenging owners on labour issues. The 10-time Stanley Cup champion was the exact idea of what it means to be gentlemanly on and off the ice.

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