DGB Grab Bag: NHL Awards Are Exactly What We Want, Getting Old, and Doughnuts

So many of us want to make fun of the NHL, and the awards show always delivers. Stop complaining—you get to complain!

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Jun 22 2018, 1:30pm

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Three Stars of Comedy

The third star: Jack Campbell – This may have been the only legitimately funny moment from the NHL Awards.

And yes, we'll have more on the Awards in a bit. Sit tight.

The second star: David Leggio – The veteran minor league goalie had some thoughts on golf.

The punchline, of course, is that Leggio's trademark is cheating like hell in a vaguely legal way. It was kind of his thing.

The first star: Kelly Cohen – She's a political reporter in Washington, DC. She's also apparently a Capitals fan, and found out about Barry Trotz while she happened to be at work—and on live television.

Somebody make sure there's a camera on her when John Carlson signs for $58 million.

Be It Resolved

The NHL draft begins tonight, and it will be a mildly depressing event for us old-timers. This is it—the draft in which most of the kids taken won't even have been alive for the 20th century. We're officially into the 2000 cohort. We are all so, so old.

But every tragedy brings opportunity, and we can find some here. For years, NHL stars have been choosing jersey numbers based on their birth year. Sidney Crosby was born in 1987, and he wears No. 87. Connor McDavid was born in 1997, so he wears No. 97. Other examples include Patrick Kane's No. 88, Vladimir Tarasenko's No. 91, Evgeny Kuznetsov's No. 92, and Jesse Puljujarvi's No. 98.

But this year's draft class won't be able to do that, because the NHL doesn't allow players to wear No. 0 or No. 00. It used to—John Davidson, Neil Sheehy, and Martin Biron all wore either zero or double-zero during their careers. But at some point in the late 90s, the NHL decided to outlaw the number, apparently because it was causing some sort of database problem.

I don't know what kind of database the league was running back in the 1990s, but I'm guessing it's had an upgrade or two since then (although anyone who's tried to use the league's stats site might wonder). We have self-driving cars and virtual reality now; we could probably come up with a database that can handle a zero.

So let's do it. Let's use this year's draft as an excuse to bring back the number zero. It would give players a chance to show a little bit of personality. Not much, granted, but in today's NHL, every little bit helps.

This will actually be the second straight draft in which most of the players picked won't be able to do that. Last year, most of the top prospects had been born in 1999, and the NHL retired No. 99 league-wide when Wayne Gretzky played his final game. That was the right call, and nobody would want the pressure of wearing the Great One's number (except maybe Josh Ho-Sang). There's a good reason not to allow players to wear No. 99, so we should stick with that rule.

But No. 0 and No. 00? They're not hurting anyone. Let's give tonight's draftees some options. And who knows, maybe a few established NHLers would like to show off their inner Al Oliver. It would be kind of fun to see which player would want to be patient zero of, well, zero.

So be it resolved: Databases be damned, let's break out the doughnuts. There was a time when the league wasn't shy about offering those. Let's bring those days back.

Obscure Former Player of the Week

The Sabres will make the first overall pick in tonight's draft when they officially add elite blueline prospect Rasmus Dahlin to the organization. It's the third time in franchise history that the Sabres pick first, and the first since they picked Pierre Turgeon back in 1987. The only other time came in their very first draft, way back in 1970. That was the year that saw the expansion Sabres and Canucks forced to rely on a novelty roulette wheel to figure out who would get Gilbert Perreault.

The Sabres eventually won the spin and made Perreault the first draft pick in franchise history. But as important as it is to nail the first overall pick, true contenders are built in the rounds that follow. So for this week's obscure player, let's go with the second player ever picked by the Sabres: winger Butch Deadmarsh.

Deadmarsh was a power forward who was coming off a strong junior season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He was known for his physical style, not to mention his kickass name. ("Butch" was actually a nickname; his given name was Ernest, which admittedly wasn't quite as intimidating.) He'd play ten games for the expansion Sabres that year, but didn't record a point. He'd get 46 more games over the next two seasons, scoring just twice, before a 1973 trade sent him to Atlanta for Norm Gratton. He was also drafted by the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers that summer, but stayed in the NHL and was slightly more productive in Atlanta, scoring a career-high six goals during the 1973-74 season. That was enough to attract the attention of the expansion Kansas City Scouts, who picked Deadmarsh in the expansion draft—the third different way he'd been drafted in his pro career.

He'd play 20 games for the Scouts in their inaugural season, which by this point was his third different stint with a first-year NHL expansion team. That would end up being his last NHL action, as he'd head to the WHA and spend four seasons playing for five teams, including a 26-goal year with the Calgary Cowboys, a team whose entire roster-building strategy seemed to consist of acquiring players who sounded like characters in an old Spaghetti Western movie. (In addition to Butch, the Cowboys also featured names like Wally Olds, Pat Westrum, Danny Lawson, and Wayne Wood.)

His final NHL totals were 137 games, 12 goals, 17 points, and approximately zero craps given. And if the name sounds familiar, he's the second cousin of former NHLer Adam Deadmarsh.

Outrage of the Week

The issue: The NHL Awards were handed out on Wednesday, which means we got to watch the league's annual attempt to be hip and funny: The NHL Awards show!

The outrage: It was terrible. Embarrassing. Cringeworthy. You know, the usual.

Is it justified: No, dammit, and I will fight all of you over this.

Did the show have some less-than-inspiring moments? Sure, maybe it did. There was an extended ventriloquist bit that kind of died. There was a magic trick that went wrong. There was that glorified ad for NHL 19. There was plenty of awkward banter. There was a little kid interviewing players.

Look, let's just say there was a lot.

Some things worked. The treatment of various real-world tragedies were all well done. Brian Boyle's speech was touching. Scott Foster showed up. There was a long Keenan Thompson sketch that never really worked but did feature an old man yelling "Ass Man" for some reason. They got in an "Alexander Ovechkin drunk in the Bellagio fountain" bit, although it lasted three seconds instead of the entire show like it should have.

So sure, a few hits, many more misses. And everyone watching made fun of it, and complained about how terrible the whole thing was.

In other words, it was exactly what it's supposed to be.

I've always been a fan of the NHL awards. Something inside of me just loves the fact that the most boring, traditional league in the world suddenly decides to get weird for one night out of the year. Whether the NHL is trying to be hip or going for the dramatic or trying their hand at sketch comedy, the awards are always fun. Sometimes unintentionally so, but fun is fun. We don't have anywhere near enough of it in this league, so let's take what we can get.

This year was no different. It wasn't second-row guy good, although really, what ever could be? But it was fine.

But that's not good enough for you. You had to talk about how terrible it was. Well I'm not having it.

Folks, we live in a world that has fans, and those fans want to make fun of the NHL. Who's gonna give them material? You? Jay Mohr? The NHL Awards have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for the awkwardness and you curse the ventriloquist. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what they know; that the Stanley Cup sketch's death, while tragic, gave you something to complain about. And Chaka Khan's existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, gave you something to complain about. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about on Twitter, you want the NHL Awards to be terrible. You need them to be terrible. They use words like banter, magic, ass man. Well, ass man is technically two words but you get the point. They use those words as the backbone of a life spent producing terrible awards shows. You use them as a punchline. And that's the whole point, because punchlines are awesome. But Gary Bettman has neither the time nor the inclination to explain himself to a fan who can't wait to make fun of the cringeworthy entertainment he provides, and then questions the manner in which he provides it. He would rather you just booed him and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a deck of cards, and present the Mark Messier Leadership Award For Excellence In The Field of Leadership. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think on the NHL Awards show!

[Checks earpiece]

Right, I'm being told that 90 percent of the people reading this are too young to remember A Few Good Men and have no idea what I'm talking about. We are all so, so old.

Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown

On that note, let's remember the time Chris Jericho got to present an award.

  • It's 2002, and our old pal Ron MacLean is here to introduce the presenters for the next award. They're noted hockey fan David Boreanaz, who you may know as "That Guy Who's Always Starring in a Show You've Never Watched but Still Gets advertised During a Football Game," and Chris Jericho, who you may know as the Man of 1,004 Holds. Never let it be said that the NHL can't bring in the big names.
  • No, I don't know why this clip is in black-and-white. I'm assuming it's just a VHS glitch, but I can't rule out the possibility that the NHL went all avant-garde on us back in the pre-lockout days when we weren't paying attention.
  • No countdown? No fireworks? No light-up jacket? This Chris Jericho entrance sucks.
  • Jericho and Boreanaz do a little bit where they act like they want to fight but it's obvious that they really don't. As a result, they were both immediately offered contracts to join the Ottawa Senators in time for their next playoff series against the Maple Leafs.
  • (Why yes, this entire section is just going to be pro wrestling references and jokes about the Pat Quinn-era Leafs and their rivals. I'm not sure why you would have been expecting anything different.)
  • After a little off-the-cuff joking about cleaning up somebody else's mess that somehow doesn't include a punchline about Rejean Houle, we get to the award. It's the Selke, and after Jericho and Boreanaz read through some completely natural dialog, we're onto the nominees: Craig Conroy, Jere Lehtinen, and Michael Peca.
  • I like how the nominees are all just a woman's voice telling us what we need to know, and then a man awkwardly interjecting random facts. The 2002 NHL awards basically invented Twitter.
  • Wait, Craig Conroy "scored a point in almost every game"? Fact check: Not true.
  • If you turn on YouTube's closed captioning, it thinks that Jere Lehtinen just earned his fourth "sake bottle." Or, as Stanley Cup champion Alexander Ovechkin calls it, "pre-gaming."
  • We're told that Peca is "a survivor," which sounds weird until they get to the part where "fans voted him onto the island." Man, even 16 years ago this reference was two years out of date. Was the NHL ever cool? Don't answer that.
  • We cut back to our presenters, and my favorite moment of the clip, as Jericho starts opening the envelope and then randomly mentions that he's a Flames fan. That's a Grade-A psych out on Conroy, right? He must have already been halfway out of his seat to accept the award when Jericho drops "It didn't work" and announces Peca as the winner instead. He may as well have gone full heel here and told Conroy that he'd never, eeee-ver win an NHL award. (He'd have been right.)
  • Wait, Chris Jericho is "a huge Flames fan"? Since when? His dad played for the Bruins, Kings, Rangers, and Blues. And Jericho is always parading around in a Jets jersey. He's basically their official celebrity fan at this point. I realize the Jets were between teams back in 2002, but you can't just jump ship to a Smythe Division rival for a decade and then act like it's no big deal. You don't see Bret Hart walking around in an Oilers jersey. Wait, bad example. Man, I'm starting to think that some of the pro wrestlers may not be on the level.
  • Anyways, Peca wins, and then takes forever to make it from the front row to the stage. If you remember, this was just a few weeks after he had his little incident with Darcy Tucker, in which Tucker threw a totally legal hit and Peca tried to draw a penalty by rolling around the ice, leaving the game, missing the rest of the series, having surgery on his ACL, and missing the first month of the following season. Nice try, Mike!
  • Which was the better swerve: Jericho turning on A.J. Styles, or Peca signing with the Maple Leafs in 2006 and somehow becoming Tucker's best pal? I'm still stunned that little festival of friendship didn't end with somebody going through a flatscreen TV.
  • Peca begins his acceptance speech by referring to some "tough years," presumably a reference to his contract dispute and season-long holdout from the Sabres. We also get a Charles Wang sighting and a Mike Milbury shoutout, in case you were wondering if all of this ended well for the Islanders.
  • "I think we're all here tonight because we've all got great teammates. I want to thank Alexei Yashin for being here tonight…" [record scratch] . I can't tell if this is serious, in which case it's kind of sad, or if Peca is making a joke, in which case it's the greatest moment in NHL awards show history.
  • Peca closes out our clip with a genuinely nice moment: Wishing his wife Kristin a happy anniversary and saying hello to "My little guy Trevor."
  • By the way, that little guy was born in 2000, and is now a 6'1" forward who recently committed to the NCAA's Miami RedHawks. Have I mentioned that we are all so old? We are all so very old.

Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at nhlgrabbag@gmail.com.