I knew I had to sit in front of my television to watch the annual NHL awards to keep up with the offseason stories. But really, I knew it would be painful to watch. And it was... well most of it.
It was painful first because, while the NHL awards kept the jokey bits to a minimum, they still managed to fall flat. A setup featuring ventriloquist Terry Fator was hard to watch, the segment with the talented Kenan Thompson on being a Keeper of the Cup sketch did not manage to get things back on track, and on top of it all, the poor magician screwed up his trick while announcing the Frank J. Selke Trophy winner. Magician Darcy Oake was meant to reveal fragments of a picture that would create an image of Las Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar but the fragments came out all wrong and resulted in a terrible mess of a photo that looked like nothing at all. The magician quickly announced the winner anyways and tried to scramble to put the pieces in the right order as Kopitar watched him in total disbelief.
It was awkward and painful. However, another painful part of the evening was painful because of the sorrow we felt as the NHL awards devoted its efforts to honouring heroes within the community. The Parkland and Vegas shootings were all treated with respect, and players from Marjory Stoneman Douglas were brought onstage.
The cherry on top was the moving reunion of the surviving Humboldt Broncos, honoured in an excellent five-minute video tribute, brought tears to eyes and an auditorium to its feet and made the show was it needs to be: a sincere interpretation of hockey and people coming together.
Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, one of the 16 victims of the bus crash, was honoured as the inaugural recipient of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. In Haugan’s memory, $10,000 will be donated to a charity that was important to him, the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association. His wife made a touching speech on behalf of her husband.
This is what needs to be kept in the NHL awards, along with moving speeches like the ones spoken by Bill Masterton Trophy winner Brian Boyle and Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils.
We can also accept the funny and awkward moments like Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant, who, during his acceptance speech for the Jack Adams Trophy, forgot the name of one of his grandkids.
Honest, yet funny.
That's what needs to change: less forced comedy acts, and more sincerity and honesty in honouring what hockey players, coaches and family truly are.