The award recognizes an individual as a superior leader in hockey and as a contributing member of society. It honors an individual who leads by positive example through on-ice performance, motivation of team members and a dedication to community activities and charitable causes.
Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel and NHL fans in compiling a list of potential candidates. However, the selection of the three finalists and the ultimate winner is Messier's alone.
The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards that will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and on CBC in Canada.
Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup champion and 16-time NHL ® All-Star in his 25 NHL seasons, is widely viewed as one of the greatest sports leaders of all time. Among his numerous hockey and humanitarian honors, the naming of the Mark Messier Skyway at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey for his 15 years of dedication and commitment to help raise millions of dollars to benefit children with cancer and other serious blood disorders is one of the most special.
Following are the finalists for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, presented by Bridgestone in alphabetical order:
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Since signing with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, Zdeno Chara has led the team on a relentlessly upward climb that this season saw Boston finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Since his naming as captain before the 2006-07 season, the Bruins have gone from missing the playoffs a second straight year to winning 41 games and qualifying for the 2008 postseason to going 53-19-10 this past season. Chara's goal totals in his three seasons with the Bruins have gone from 11 to 17 to 19. He has been named a finalist for the Norris Trophy for the second straight year and the third time in his career. The man-mountain from Trencin, Slovakia, similarly has been driven to scale impressive heights off the ice – last summer, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to focus attention on Right to Play, the international charitable organization that uses sport and play to enhance child development in areas of disadvantage. Chara also raised $18,000 for Right to Play by winning the Hardest Shot competition at 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend after getting his competitors, the NHL and the NHLPA to contribute to a pot to go to the victor's charity of choice.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Though not yet 22 years old, Sidney Crosby already has established himself as one of the NHL's most respected on-ice leaders as well as a dedicated contributor to his community. On the ice, Crosby's legend preceded him to the NHL as he was designated hockey's next transcendent player at an early age. He has lived up to all the hype, winning both the League's MVP award (Hart Trophy) and scoring title (Ross Trophy) in his second season (2006-07), becoming the youngest player in NHL history to reach the 100- and 200-points plateaus and being named the youngest team captain in NHL history on May 31, 2007. Crosby has received the most votes in fan balloting for all three NHL All-Star Games during his career. And he has led the Penguins, who missed the playoffs the three seasons prior to his debut, to three straight postseason appearances and berths in the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. Crosby hosts a suite for underprivileged children at every Penguins home game in conjunction with the Make a Wish Foundation. He funds and serves as an on-ice instructor for the Penguins' Learn to Play Program that introduces the game to youngsters and, with support from Reebok, outfits them from head to toe.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Growing up in Edmonton idolizing Messier, Iginla has spent his 12 seasons in the NHL following in the Hall of Famer's leadership footsteps. Like Messier, Iginla plays with a combination of superior skill and fierce toughness. Like Messier, he leads his team both with motivational words and fearless deeds. Iginla has led the NHL in goal-scoring twice, won the Art Ross Trophy in 2002 and scored a playoffs-leading 13 goals while driving the Flames to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. A five-time NHL All-Star and two-time Canadian Olympian, Iginla is a pillar of the Calgary community. Since 2000, he has been an ambassador for KidSport Calgary, which purchases equipment and pays registration fees for disadvantaged families, and donates $2,000 for every goal he scores. He supports the Juvenile Diabetes and Doctors Without Borders foundations and is a member of the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation. Iginla is generous and tireless in donating his money and time to a variety of other causes, including literacy programs, hockey diversity initiatives and youth hockey programs. He was awarded the 2004 NHL Foundation Award for community service and the 2004 King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his humanitarian contributions.
Previous winners of the Mark Messier Leadership Award
2006-07 – Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings
2007-08 – Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs