|Ducks GM Brian Burke along with Phil Housley, Bob Naegele, and Ted Lindsay are this year's Lester Patrick award winners.|
Three of the four winners of the prestigious award, which is given annually by the NHL and USA Hockey to recipients deemed worthy for their contributions to ice hockey in the United States, hail from one of the nation’s greatest hockey states.
Former NHL defenseman Phil Housley, Anaheim Ducks General Manager Brian Burke, and former Minnesota Wild majority owner Bob Naegele all grew up playing games of shinny on the frozen lakes of Minnesota.
Hockey Hall of Famer and Detroit Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay said he has no ties to the North Star State, but no one can deny his worth to the game of hockey in America, which is why he joins the three Minnesotans as this year’s honored winners.
“It means that your mother and father taught you right and you did what you were supposed to do,” Lindsay told NHL.com of what he believes the Lester Patrick Award signifies. “What you did was right and appreciated by people in the community.”
Naegele said the historical nature of the award, which is named after the New York Rangers' former GM and coach and was first given to Jack Adams in 1966, makes the achievement even greater.
“The people who have received it have made such outstanding contributions to the sport,” Naegele told NHL.com. “You like to be able to make a positive impact on history and this certainly falls into that category.”
Burke is so humbled by the award that he’s wondering how his name got on a list with guys like Housley, Naegele and Lindsay.
“I think it’s like Sesame Street, that old song that says, ‘Three of these things belong together and one of them is not the same,’” Burke told NHL.com. “I don’t know I got the list with the other three guys. To me it’s a huge honor. It’s a very important award. It’s certainly something I dreamed of winning.”
For Housley, who grew up in St. Paul and now coaches high school hockey in Stillwater, Minn., a suburb about 20 minutes east of the Twin Cities, the award honors all his record-setting achievements from a 21-year career in the NHL.
Housley retired in 2004 having recorded 1,232 points in 1,495 games. Both were NHL records for an American-born player until Chris Chelios played his 1,496th game on Nov. 24, 2006 and Mike Modano scored his 1,233rd point roughly a year later.
Housley never won a Norris Trophy – mainly because he played in the same era as Raymond Bourque, Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch and Chelios – or a Stanley Cup, but that only makes the Lester Patrick Award one of his greatest honors in the game of hockey.
He was also inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Any award you receive is a great honor, especially something that involves USA Hockey,” Housley told NHL.com. “When you start your journey as a young kid you are playing because you love the game and have a passion for the game. When USA Hockey gave me a chance to play on a national team before I got drafted in 1982, you’re thinking, ‘This is a big chance,’ but you’re never thinking of setting out to get awards and be honored. Being able to receive these awards is something that is a privilege to me.”
For Burke, who was born in New England but raised in Edina, Minn., the Award honors his achievements as an NHL executive. He was the first GM to bring a Stanley Cup winner to California when the Ducks won it in 2007, and was recently tabbed by USA Hockey to put together the team the Americans will take to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Since Burke joined the Vancouver Canucks front office in 1987 – Burke owns a B.A. from Providence College and a J.D. from Harvard, and was a player agent from 1981-87 – he has established himself as one of the League’s major power brokers.
“When I worked for Gary Bettman at the League (from 1993-98), I started going to the luncheon every year and seeing the guys that won it and how special it was to them and the pride they received when they won it,” Burke said. “I knew it was a big deal, but I hadn’t fully appreciated it until I saw the guys that I knew personally win it.”
Naegele’s most important achievement to hockey in the United States is something Minnesota Wild fans honor with every sellout of the Xcel Energy Center. Naegele played a chief role in bringing the NHL back to state in 1997, four years after the North Stars departed for Dallas.
|"When USA Hockey gave me a chance to play on a national team before I got drafted in 1982, you’re thinking, ‘This is a big chance,’ but you’re never thinking of setting out to get awards and be honored. Being able to receive these awards is something that is a privilege to me.” - Phil Housley|
While Naegele viewed bringing the NHL back to Minnesota as “an impossible challenge,” Minnesota fans see the Wild as an impossible dream that came true. Winning the Lester Patrick Award has a similar feel to the 68-year-old former owner.
“The impossible came true, and when I receive this I’ll receive it on behalf of all of the folks who made it possible,” Naegele said. “That would be all the hockey fans in Minnesota and everybody who helped take Cinderella to the ball.”
Lindsay is the only Canadian-born winner this year, but he has spent all of his adult life in Detroit, save for a three-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Hockey Hall of Famer was part of the dynastic Red Wings team that won four Stanley Cups in the 1950s, but his contributions to hockey in the United States stretch beyond his play in the NHL.
Lindsay said he and Detroit teammate Marty Pavelich established the first hockey school in North America back in the 1950s. It was in Port Huron, Mich., and was attended mostly by American-born youngsters.
“By the second or third year, Marty and I were having dinner in Port Huron, and we were talking about how we thought there would be a heck of a lot of good hockey players coming out of the U.S.,” Lindsay said. “We were talking Michigan at the time because that’s what we knew, but it has proven true.”
Lindsay was also a trendsetter among players in the six-team NHL. He was the chief pioneer in getting the NHL to allow for a players’ association.
“You don’t do these things looking for accolades,” Lindsay said. “You do them because you believe in what you’re doing.”
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org