How Will the NHL Honor Gordie Howe?

Earlier today, Twitter user @KevinParker12 posted (and Winging it in Motown later ran with) that was offering up Detroit Red Wings jerseys for new signee Steve Ott carrying the number nine.

I joked that this is the NHL’s promised tribute to Gordie Howe, letting Ott take his retired number.

It’d be easy for the NHL’s online store to ignore retired numbers.  I know because I’ve already written code for that.

It’s a mistake that has already been fixed.  Ott is no longer listed with a number.  It can be assumed he’ll go with #29 as he’s worn it for much of his career and it’s available in Detroit.

But I want to go back to that promised tribute.  On June 16, in the aftermath of Howe’s passing, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league would “come up with something that’s an enduring testament to Gordie.”  He later called it “special and enduring and permanent.”

Specifically, that was in response to the idea of retiring Howe’s #9 league-wide, an idea that had been circulating and gained the support of none other than Wayne Gretzky, the only NHL player who currently has that honor.

The statement seems to shoot down the idea of a league-wide number retirement.  As someone who doesn’t think #99 should be retired, either, I agree with this.  It does, however, raise the question of exactly what honor the league will bestow.

The words from that statement that stick out to me are “enduring” and “permanent.”  I think it leads to two options.

One is renaming a conference or division after him.  The divisions were just renamed three years ago and the inclusion of the awkwardly-named “Metropolitan” Division (which includes Columbus and Carolina) and an Atlantic Division that extends inland to Detroit was met with derision.  Renaming the conferences and divisions after legends of the game would get around the issues that arise from geographically naming a division that stretches from Montreal to Miami.

That said, the NHL had the opportunity to eschew the geographical division names when they realigned in 2013 and opted not to.  They were the last major league in North America to go to geography-based names in 1993 and seem to have no desire to give them up.

<troll> Besides, the awkward names of the Eastern Conference can be resolved by relocating the Carolina Hurricanes to Quebec City, moving them and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the current Atlantic Division, moving the Florida teams to the current Metropolitan Division, then renaming the Atlantic to the Northeast and giving the Metropolitan the Atlantic name.  </troll>

I think the more-likely honor is renaming one of the league’s current awards after Howe.

There’s been a push on and off over the last several years for renaming the awards after more relevant personalities.  In most cases it has faced strong backlash as yet another example of the league choosing to ignore its own history.  I know that I’ve said the league should focus on educating its fans on who James Norris was rather than removing his name from its award for best defenseman in favor of Raymond Bourque or Bobby Orr.

However, if the league wanted to put Gordie Howe’s name on the MVP award, I think even those of us who prefer to preserve the historical names would have a hard time arguing against it.  Similar to the NHLPA’s renaming of the Lester B. Pearson Award after Ted Lindsay, I think the most-negative reaction you’d see is begrudging acceptance.

Of course, thinking cynically, by picking players like Lindsay and Howe to start, you get people used to the idea of renaming awards.  Then when it comes time to change the Frank J. Selke Trophy after Guy Carbonneau, then do it again for Patrice Bergeron ten years later, there’s less room for complaint.

If the league is going to honor Gordie Howe in a truly meaningful way, I’d be willing to bet they rename an award after him.  I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

Red Wings Rebound for 2-1 Win over Bruins in Opener

The Boston Bruins scored on their first shot Thursday night but Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard shut the door the rest of the way and the Red Wings rallied for a 2-1 victory in their season opener.

Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist scored second period goals to provide Detroit’s offense.

Patrice Bergeron opened the game’s scoring with 7:59 remaining in the first period, capitalizing on a turnover by Jonathan Ericsson in the Detroit zone. Bergeron blocked Ericsson’s outlet attempt at the blue line, then cut to the top of the right faceoff circle and snapped a shot past Howard.

At 3:52 of the second period, a goal eventually credited to Justin Abdelkader got the Red Wings on the board. Danny DeKeyser‘s shot from the point careened through traffic, first being deflected by Johan Franzen and then bouncing off Abdelkader before getting past Boston netminder Tuukka Rask to tie things up.

With 5:14 left in the period, Gustav Nyquist was left all alone in close to take a pass from Darren Helm and whip a shot past Rask.

Howard made sure the one goal lead was enough, stopping the final 16 shots he faced.

Rask finished the night with 22 saves on 24 shots.

Nyquist’s goal was the only power play tally of the night. Each team had four tries with the man-advantage.

The Red Wings will be back in action on Saturday when they host the Anaheim Ducks.

Detroit forward Andrej Nestrasil made his NHL debut… Forwards Daniel Cleary and Stephen Weiss and defenseman Brian Lashoff were healthy scratches for the Red Wings… Detroit was without forward Pavel Datsyuk due to injury.

Zetterberg Given NHL Foundation Player Award

The National Hockey League announced on Friday that Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg was awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award for the 2013 season.

The award recognizes the player “who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

Zetterberg received the award for his work locally in Metro Detroit and for international efforts in Ethiopia, Guatemala and Nepal.

In Detroit, Zetterberg serves as the team spokesman for the Red Wings’ annual Smoke Detector Collection and personally matches all donations to the fund.

In Ethiopia, Zetterberg and his wife, Emma, build the Chige Primary School in Kemba with Action Aid Ethiopia. He also funded an addition to the Belta Telo Middle School that will help it double in size. The Zetterbergs also support programs n Ethiopia and Guatemala that allow participants to work themselves out of poverty. The Zetterberg Foundation has financed and built six houses in Nepal for former debt slaves.

Zetterberg joins Darren McCarty as the only Red Wings to have been given the NHL Foundation Player Award. Detroit is just the second team to have had two winners, joining the Buffalo Sabres.

Pavel Datsyuk finished third in voting for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews won the award, edging out Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.

Boston’s Bergeron Claims Selke Trophy over Wings’ Datsyuk

The Detroit Red Wings were shutout of the 2012 NHL Awards Thursday night.

Pavel Datsyuk was the team’s only nominee.  A finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as best defensive forward, Datsyuk lost out to Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.

Datsyuk had won the award three times previously, in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Datsyuk was not a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which he had won for four consecutive years from 2006 to 2009.  Similarly, retired captain Nicklas Lidstrom was not up for the Norris Trophy as best defenseman, an honor he had claimed seven times in his career.

With no Red Wings claiming an award, it marks the first time in twelve seasons that the team has gone without an award winner.

Datsyuk Announced as Selke Finalist

The National Hockey League announced on Monday that the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk is one of three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.

David Backes of the St. Louis Blues and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins are the other finalists.

The Selke Trophy is awarded annually to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” as selected by the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Datsyuk has previously won the award in three consecutive years, from 2008 to 2010. He was unseated last season by Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks.

No other current Red Wings have won the Selke Trophy. Detroit’s Sergei Fedorov (1994, 1996), Steve Yzerman (2000) and Kris Draper (2004) had won it before Datsyuk.

The winner will be announced on June 20 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Red Wings End Bruins’ Streak in Shootout

Todd Bertuzzi scored on the final shot of the shootout Friday afternoon, giving the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s inaugural Thanksgiving Showdown.

Detroit’s victory ended a ten-game Boston winning streak.

Bertuzzi beat Bruins’ netminder Tuukka Rask on Detroit’s third shootout shot, swinging out to his right before backing in towards Rask and flipping ther puck past him.

Pavel Datsuyk also scored in the tiebreaker, while Nathan Horton beat Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.

The Bruins controlled play for much of the game but it was the Red Wings who scored first. With 7:17 remaining in the opening period, Valtteri Filppula carried the puck into the Boston zone and passed it off to Henrik Zetterberg, who sent it back to Filppula for a tip from the top of the crease past Rask.

Boston’s Daniel Paille tied things up at 4:05 of the second. Attempting to clear the puck from behind his net, Howard sent a pass along the boards right onto the stick of a forechecking Horton. Horton put it out to Paille, who was able to backhand a shot into the net as Howard dove to get back into position.

Datsyuk restored the Red Wings’ lead just 35 seconds later. Bertuzzi sent a pass from the right wing boards between defenseman Zdeno Chara‘s legs to Datsyuk in the right faceoff circle. As he cut to the goal alone, Datsyuk kicked the puck from his skate to his stick and batted it past Rask.

Patrice Bergeron tied the game back up at 7:52 of the third period. Zetterberg bobbled a pass in the left faceoff circle of his own end and Bergeron picked up the loose puck before driving a shot past Howard.

Howard finished the night with 41 saves on 43 Boston chances. Rask stopped 29 of Detroit’s 31 shots.

Neither team scored a power play goal. The Wings had three tries with the extra attacker while the Bruins had two.

The win temporarily put the Red Wings in first place in the Central Division, a spot they relenquished when the Chicago Blackhawks won later in the day.

Patrick Eaves, Fabian Brunnstrom and Mike Commodore were the healthy scratches for Detroit. Brunnstrom did not make the trip to Boston as the team allowed him to stay home with his wife, who is expecting their first child.

Desperate Bruins Earn Win over Red Wings

The Boston Bruins, fighting for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, picked up a much-needed win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, scoring three times in the third period to pick up a 6-3 victory.

With Detroit leading 2-1 at the end of the first period, Marco Sturm and Petr Tenkrat scored in the second to put the Bruins out in front.

Patrice Bergeron, Chuck Kobasew and Phil Kessel added third-period goals. Robert Lang scored Detroit’s only goal of the period.

The Bruins had taken an early lead on a goal by Sturm but Detroit tied it back up minutes later when Jiri Hudler scored. Nicklas Lidstrom‘s power play goal gave the Red Wings the 2-1 lead.

Boston scored on two of their five power play chances while Detroit converted on one of their three tries.

Bruins netminder Tim Thomas stopped 35 of 38 shots against. Dominik Hasek made 19 saves on 25 shots for the Red Wings.

With the loss, the Red Wings remain three points back of the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Central Division. The two teams will meet for a home-and-home series this Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Red Wings were without forward Johan Franzen, out with an upper-body injury. His spot in the lineup was filled by Tomas Holmstrom, returning from an injury of his own.

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