Ditch the Tuxedos and Let Them Drink Beer

Cup'pa JoeWhen I think of Gary Bettman, I think of the NHL Awards Show.

When I think of hockey players, I think of Nicklas Lidstrom undergoing surgery on his manhood and not missing a goddamned shift.

Therein lies my problem with what our sport does each June immediately after the Stanley Cup Finals and before the Entry Draft.

**Warning** . . . **Dire Warning** . . . if you regard entertainment awards shows on television high culture, clever, and edifying experiences, go no further with this file. You’ve been warned. 

What are we doing trying to be the Golden Globes? Worse, what are we doing trying to be the (poor man’s) ESPYs?

(Full disclosure: I’ve yet to watch a single second of either, but insomuch as one doesn’t actually need to do drugs to know they’re bad for you . . . )

How about instead we (hockey) try this in awarding our awards hardware each June: being ourselves.

Last night was an all-time record for me with the show — I had the audio on for fully 75 seconds, then lurched for the remote, muted, and went back to the computer, thereby preserving my dignity. 

What is Queen Latifah (or was it Chaka Khan?) doing singing at our awards in between the Lady Byng and the Norris presentations? At least last night the league ditched that ridiculous-looking ring of crammed children about the awards stage. (Canadian child labor law violation?) As presently constituted, the NHL’s Awards Show carries an NC-17 rating for schlock, phoniness, and vapidity. Viewing it, I shouldn’t envy Metro track jumpers

By Vegas standards, last night’s show was relatively inoffensive, but that’s not the point — it still was what the NHL has allowed it to become. Which yesterday drew the fire of the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey:

“Wrong message: The NHL will be holding its annual awards show in Las
Vegas tonight (8:30 p.m., CBC) and one of the presenters will be rap
star Snoop Dogg.

“Mr. Dogg is a former gang member, pornographer,
convicted drug dealer, admitted pimp and a follower of Louis Farrakhan,
the anti-semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. He’s currently on
probation for weapons and drugs charges but, hey, he loves hockey.”

I don’t have to be convinced that the league office puts a great deal of resources and planning into its awards night; my issue is with the substance of that labor. It’s as if the custodians of our game sit around a conference room table early every spring and say “How can we produce 90 minutes such that they’ll look like everything we’re not?” I know who Jeremy Roenick is — he’s not a moonlighting Billy Crystal. He’s a fiery, loudmouth, inordinately accomplished competitor, a long-time All-Star performer, and, when it comes to the courage of playing with devastating injuries, one serious MoFo. Not quasi MC.  

The tragedy here is that our sport’s awards are exceptional. Visitors to the Hockey Hall of Fame are afforded up-close encounters with the hardware, and they’re breathtakingly gorgeous and impressive. Moreover, they’re enshrined with the names of legends — Vezina, Norris, Smythe, Pearson, Richard — and as such carry greater significance than “American League MVP” or “NBA Rookie of the Year.” They ought to be accorded a setting and ceremony in keeping with their prestige . . . but also one in keeping with the essence and substance of our sport. 

Our athletes aren’t at their most impressive in tuxedos giving speeches; they’re at their most impressive performing. Brutally, courageously performing. That the most accomplished among them merit annual honoring is beyond dispute, but why not host an evening that’s genuine, uplifting, and inoffensive? Why not take our spectacular trophies and award them in a setting natural to our sport: a bar. Bugsy’s would be ideal — really good pizza, really cold beer, lots of hockey on the tube, always — were it a lot larger.

Seriously, get the guys in bluejeans and blazers, have Doc MC the evening, interspersing the awards with his terrific Doc tales, and raise a pint or two to another terrific season. And webcast it. 

At the very end Thursday night, the NHL was somewhat saved from itself by — guess who? — no. 8. The real news associated with Ovi’s Hart trophy wasn’t the win itself, which wasn’t unexpected, but rather the MVP’s announcement of the arrival of a new hockey landscape — one he himself has altered.

“I like playing in Canadian cities,” he said, Hart in hand, whole ‘lotta heart in his game, “but right now, my favorite city to play in is Washington.”  

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5 Responses to Ditch the Tuxedos and Let Them Drink Beer

  1. MaryRWise says:

    Queen Latifah would have been a much better choice – first, she wouldn’t have wandered around the stage searching for the pitch; second, she would have had a few beers with the boys.

  2. The Mule says:

    “Mr. Dogg” LOL!

  3. pucksandbooks says:

    I liked that part, too, Mule.

  4. DCPensFan says:

    Bugsy’s …. that’s the best place to watch a game in which you don’t have a signficant rooting interst. I’m a bit of a pacer and can’t sit still when my team is involved, so it’s a bit cramped. But a stool at that bar with a pizza, wings and brews watching somebody stomp the rags or flyers (okay fine, the Caps too)… it’s perfect.

  5. Lee (PTO) says:

    Someone could do a whole blogpost on Bugsy’s? Not me, I’ve only been there 5 or 6 times but I can FEEL the history and echoes of Good Times Past…

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