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Viva Las Vegas Awards blog

Thursday, 06.18.2009 / 2:08 PM / Viva Las Vegas NHL Awards Blog

By NHL.com Staff

No Rain on this parade
06.18 11:45 p.m. ET

What a great awards show at the Pearl Concert Theater. Congrats to AO, the Bruins and all the other winners. It was a great night for everybody involved.

Now we are at the Rain Bar for the after party and what a scene this is.

First of all, the Stanley Cup is on a pedestal in the middle of the Palms pool. I can just see Cup keeper Phil Peitchard wading out later tonight to retrieve it.

There are a bunch of players here as well. I've already seen Brett Hull warmly greet Jeremy Roenick. I've also seen AO and Nick Lidstrom wandering around. Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero is busy accepting well-deserved congratulations on his team's Stanley Cup triumph.

All the trophies are here on display, sharing a stage with the DJ. It is the perfect Vegas scene and a great way to close the Awards experience.

It's an early flight tomorrow and then a few days rest before the Draft in Montreal. We'll see you there.

-- Shawn P. Roarke



And the winner is ...
06.18 9:02 p.m. ET

Alex Ovechkin!

Alexander the Great took home his second consecutive Hart Trophy as the NHL's regular-season MVP, beating out fellow Russians Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk.

Perhaps appropriately, another Russian star -- Sergei Fedorov, a teammate of Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals -- was one of the presenters. Fedorov is the all-time NHL scoring leader among Russian-born players, though Ovechkin is off to a good start in catching him.

"Good job, Geno and Pavel. Great year," Ovechkin said in saluting his fellow finalists.

On a more serious note, he said the award was "all about the team. All about the organziation. I'm glad I play for such a great organization."

"I like playing in Canada," he added, "but right now, my favorite city to play in is Washington. ... Next year, hopefully the Stanley Cup will be ours."


Beliveau honored with Lifetime Achievement Award
06.18 8:55 p.m. ET

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented a new award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, to Jean Beliveau, citing the Montreal legend as "a statesman for our game ... an emblem of elegance and class ... still beloved even nearly 40 years after he retired."

Beliveau was as graceful in his acceptance speech as he was during his Hall of Fame career, thanking Bettman, everyone connected with the NHL -- and his own wife and family, saying the recognition was "for my family as much as for me."


Malkin, Ovie share the stage
06.18 8:45 p.m. ET

Russian stars Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin were back for more hardware. Malkin recieved the Art Ross Trophy as the regular-season scoring leader, while Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the League in goals.

Malkin's English is getting better -- he made it through his acceptance speech despite a few nerves. Ovechkin then came on and joked that Malkin "is better than Pavel Datsyuk's English."

The two, along with Datsyuk, are the finalists for the Hart Trophy.

Chara takes home Norris
06.18 8:45 p.m. ET

It's a big night for the Boston Bruins. Zdeno Chara ended Nicklas Lidstrom's run as the NHL's best defenseman by winning the Norris Trophy, joining Claude Julien (Adams) Tim Thomas (Vezina) and Thomas and Manny Fernandez (Jennings).

At 6-foot-9, the Bruins' captain is the tallest award winner in NHL history. He said winning was a tribute to persistence.

"I wasn't supposed to make it past juniors," he said. "I hope this sends a messge to kids out there -- it's amazing what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and work hard."

Julien is Jack Adams winner; Iginla gets Messier award
06.18 8:33 p.m. ET

Boston's Claude Julien, who led the Bruins to the best record in the Eastern Conference, took home the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

Even more special to Julien was getting the award from Pat Burns, a former Adams winner who called Julien "mon ami" in announcing the award.

Julien joked about "following in Pat's footsteps" -- he's succeeded Burns as coach in Montreal, New Jersey and Boston -- and quipped that "I hope I can catch you someday -- I need a couple more Jack Adams and a Stanley Cup."

Mark Messier (who else) then presented the Mark Messier Leadership Award to Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. In his acceptance speech, the Edmonton native noted he was especially happy to receive an award "from someone I've looked up to since I began playing hockey as a kid in Alberta."

Thomas wins Vezina
06.18 8:25 p.m. ET

Few players have taken a longer route to an NHL award than Boston's Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender. Thomas traveled through the minors and even went to Europe before finding a job with Boston.

An emotional Thomas said winning the Vezina was about the last thing he ever expected to do, joking that he was usually "more concerned about making a roster than winning the Vezina."

"I never really allowed myself to believe I might win, because it seemed like a faraway dream," said Thomas, who earlier was honored along with Manny Fernandez with the Jennings Trophy, given to the team that allows this fewest goals. "I want to dedicate this to all the people who believed in me. Their belief never wavered."


Moreau wins King Clancy; Luongo's the Fan Fav
06.18 8:11 p.m. ET

Edmonton captain Ethan Moreau was honored with the King Clancy Trophy for his leadership qualities on and off the ice while making a humanitarian contribution to the community. Moreau is active in numerous charities in the Edmonton area. In his speech, he thanked the Oilers organization, his teammates and the city.

"Thanks for all your support on and off the ice," he said. "It's been a great 10 years."

Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo then received the inaugural Scotiabank Fan Fav Award, as voted by fans on NHL.com.


Datysuk wins another one
06.18 8:05 p.m. ET

Pavel Datsyuk was back on stage to pick up his fourth consecutive Lady Byng Trophy, given for sportsmanship and skillful play, just minutes after taking home the Selke Trophy.

He was a lot more confident with his English the second time around, making jokes before going through the obligatory list of thank-yous. It was appropriate that one of the presenters was Mike Bossy -- a three-time winner in his own right during a Hall of Fame career,

Datsyuk is only the second player to win the Lady Byng four times in a row. Frank Boucher of the Rangers did it from 1928-31, then won three more from 1933-35 -- the NHL then gave him the trophy and had a new one struck.


Sullivan takes home Masterton
06.18 7:56 p.m. ET

Steve Sullivan, who made it back to the Nashville lineup after missing nearly two years with a severe back injury, won the Bill Masteron Memorial Trophy, given to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."

Sullivan had 11 goals and 32 points in 42 games after returning from his injury, beating out Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios and Florida forward Richard Zednik.

In his speech, Sullivan especially thanked his teammates "for never stopping to believe in me."


First one for Ovie
06.18 7:48 p.m. ET

Alex Ovechkin earned his first hardware of the night when he received the Lester B. Pearson Award as the regular-season most outstanding player as voted by the players.

In his speech, Ovechkin joked that he was "nervous again" then paid tribute to the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins -- and especially fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin.

He also thanked his family, noting that the season included the sadness of losing his grandfather . He then thanked everyone in the Washington Capitals organization, then finished up with a smile, while noting "what a life."

Ovie, don't get comfortable. We're sure you'll be back on stage before the show is over.


Mason gets the Calder, Datsyuk the Selke
06.18 7:45 p.m. ET

Columbus rookie goaltender Steve Mason got the evening's first award, winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

Mason, whose 10 shutouts led the Blue Jackets to the first playoff berth in franchise history, beat out Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and Chicago's Kris Versteeg.

Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk took home the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward. Datsyuk had 32 goals and 97 points, but was also among the League's top plus/minus players at plus-34.

He beat out Philadelphia center Mike Richards and Vancouver center Ryan Kesler.


What a night!

06.18.2:08 p.m. ET

I never made it back to the Rio on Wednesday night to see the conclusion of the NHL Charity Shootout because of other work commitments, but I don't want to leave you guys hanging.

Unfortunately, I have to leave you hanging a little, as I can not reveal the winner. To find that out, you'll have to check out ESPN's broadcast of the event later this year.

But, I can tell you who will be at the Final Table when the broadcast airs. And, let's just put it this way, there are some NHL players that can also play a pretty mean game of poker.

Current players Roberto Luongo, Jeremy Roenick, Mats Sundin, Scott Hartnell and Kris Versteeg all made it to the Final Table. There, they were joined by retired players Glenn Anderson and Eddie Olczyk. Also at the table were poker pro Vanessa Russo and online qualifier Murray Ungurain.

Without revealing the results, it's safe to say that a fun time was had by all and the Final Table should be must-see TV for both hockey and poker fans.

Oh yeah, before I forget, Alex Ovechkin was true to his word in the poker tournament. He said before the tournament, that he wasn't a good poker player and his strategy would be to go all-in as often as possible. Well, after playing patient for almost an hour, Ovechkin went to his all-in fallback position. He pushed all his chips to the middle several times in a row before finally being called and eliminated.

--Shawn P. Roarke


What a night!
06.18.1:38 p.m. ET

Good morning from Vegas! It is another perfect day here in the desert -- sunny and not too warm -- yet!

It was also a good night in Vegas.

The Presenters Welcome Reception was unbelievable. The Sky Villa was something out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Situated on the 28th Floor of the Fantasy Tower, the two-bedroom suite overlooked the Vegas Strip and the airport.

There was also a balcony spa, a living room, a dining room, an exercise room and a full kitchen. Swanky would be an understatement. During my interview with George Maloof, the owner of The Palms Casino, I asked if I could switch to the Sky Villa from my standard room, but was understandably rebuffed.

After writing and chowing down on some amazing Mexican food -- the carnitas might be the best I have had -- on the casino floor, I met some writers at a local establishment for a drink.

The Loose Caboose is Vegas personified. It is open 24 hours -- in fact, according to Tony the barkeeper, there is not even a lock for the front door. Tony was a great host and the jukebox was spot-on, so it was sad to leave.

But, leave we did. Next on the agenda was a trip to the Playboy Club back at The Palms for another NHL event. Located on the 56th floor of the Fantasy tower, the Playboy Club showed off the Vegas Strip in all its illuminated glory. The scenery inside the club wasn't bad either.

Unfortunately, the second day on West Coast time and the second month on the road started taking its tool and exhaustion took precedence over more fun, so the night ended here for your intrepid NHL.com blogger.

After all, I had to fresh for today's full slate of events, capped by the actual NHL Awards Ceremony this evening.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Hanging with the presenters
06.17.6:38 p.m. ET
The NHL Charity Shootout Presented by PokerStars.net is still going on over at the Rio, but I've headed back to The Palms to get ready for the Presenters Welcome Reception, an opportunity to interact with some of the legendary people that will be presenting awards during Thursday's NHL Awards Show.

Among the players that will be on hand at the reception, in the Fantasy Tower (sounds fun, doesn't it?) of The Palms Hotel are current players Pat Kane and Jeremy Roenick, as well as a bevy of retired players. Stan Mikita, Mark Messier, Doug Gilmour and Pat LaFontaine are among that group.

LaFontaine is still smarting over the bad beat he took from Glenn Anderson that knocked him out of contention at Table No. 1 on Wednesday morning. Lafontaine had A-Q suited in spades when he went all in. Anderson had King-high, but hit trip-Kings by the time the hand was done.

It seems that LaFontaine destroyed Anderson the last time the two played cards together.

"He was setting me up," LaFontaine told NHL.com on the bus ride back to The Palms Hotel. LaFontaine promised to have a better showing at Wednesday night's play-in for a spot at the final table.

But, back to the Presenters Welcome Reception. Aside from the players, legendary coach Pat Burns should be on hand. Burns is fighting his third battle against cancer, but is still extremely active in hockey circles, scouting for the New Jersey Devils and doing Montreal radio on a regular basis.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Palms Owner George Maloof will also be on hand.

Both NHL.com Editor-in-Chief Bob Condor and I will be at the Presenters Welcome Reception, providing all the details right here in the Viva Las Vegas blog.

-- Shawn Roarke

Ovechkin hits the table
06.17.6:30 p.m. ET

Alex Ovechkin is playing at Table No. 2 right now, sitting next to Jeremy Roenick. Needless to say, that little corner of the table is constantly the center of attention, despite the fact that Mark Napier, Mat Sundin and Ed Olczyk are also at the table, along with poker pro Dennis Phillips, who finished third at last year's World Series of Poker.

Ovechkin didn't give himself much of a chance to advance before his round started, however. He says, in fact, that he is not that good of a poker player. So, maybe there is something that Alex the Great doesn't do well.

"I'm not a good player," Ovechkin said. "I'm just going to go all-in, probably."

And, if that plan doesn't work out in the poker tournament, Ovechkin will have more time to enjoy Vegas during his initial visit to this truly unique city.

"You can go to some show, nightlife," Ovechkin said. "It's great for us and for the fans, too."

Ovechkin is not here just for poker, though. He is a finalist for the League MVP award, the Hart Trophy, which will be presented during Thursday night's NHL Award Show from The Palms. He will also receive his award, the Art Ross Trophy, for leading the League in scoring.

Ovechkin did not want to make any predictions about what will happen Thursday when the Hart Trophy is announced. He is going up against Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk.

"I want to win," Ovechkin said. "If I don't win, I'll still be happy because I'm nominated. There's lots of players and I'm in the top three and that is a pretty good result."

As for his competition, Ovechkin says he did not watch the other two Hart finalists battle it out in this spring's memorable seven-game Stanley Cup Final between Malkin's Pittsburgh Penguins and Datsyuk's Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins won in seven games, coming back from a 2-0 series deficit. Malkin, the leading scorer in the playoffs, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

"I try to forget hockey for a couple of months and concentrate on my vacation," Ovechkin told NHL.com. "I don't want to see how the guys celebrate. I want to be in that spot, I want to win Stanley Cup."

And, he says that the training for next year's quest will begin soon. He has a few more weeks of fun and sun -- including this week's stop in Vegas -- on his vacation itinerary and then it becomes all business again in a month or so.

"Next year, it's my dream to be in the Final and take the Cup," Oveckin told NHL.com. "So, it is going to be fun."

-- Shawn Roarke

Anderson's the champ
06.17.5:05 p.m. ET

Maybe Glenn Anderson will have his picture hanging from the walls of the Rio's Amazon Ballroom, site of the WSOP. Right now, the walls are lined with pictures of past WSOP camps like Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson and Chris Moneymaker.

Anderson earned his place among those legends by becoming champion of the first table of the NHL Charity Shootout, outlasting poker pro Vanessa Russo and online qualifier Zach Tomlinson.

"I got lucky," Anderson told NHL.com. "I'm not that good a poker player."

Russo disagreed.

"He played great," Russo told NHL.com. "I can't think of one mistake he made. He played absolutely great."

Both Anderson and Russo advance to Wednesday night's Final Table. They will be joined there by the winners and runners-up from Table No. 2, going on now, and Table No. 3, later this afternoon. There will also be a play-in round before tonight's final table.

Anderson is already looking forward to his return engagement tonight at the championship table.

"It was a great time," Anderson said. "It was nice to have the guys around to crack jokes and have some fun. I really enjoyed it."   

-- Shawn Roarke


And then there were three

06.17.2009   2:58 p.m. ET

The $5,000 pot limit WSOP event is just about to start behind us here and the first table is down to three players after Glenn Anderson knocked out Georges Laraque and Roberto Luongo.

Queens were good to Anderson in both instances. Against Laraque, Anderson drew a lady on the river for a pair of queens to nullify Larague's pocket 8s. Then, against Luongo, Anderson's pocket Q beat Luongo's J kicker when both had two pairs -- 10s and 9s -- after the river.

Laraque took his bad beat in stride.

"It's not like it's your own money on the line," Laraque told NHL.com. "You still want to win., but you are raising money for charity, too.

Laraque made $2,000 for the Montral Canadiens Foundation with his play Wednesday.

Plus, Laraque told NHL.com that he isn't much of a poker player.

"I'm too hyperactive to sit for too long," he said. "I'm not a patient person and I don't like to fold. That's not a good combination for a poker player."

-- Shawn Roarke

Hitting the big time

06.17.2009 2:21 p.m. ET

I've hit the big time. I am at the Rio Convention Center -- home of the World Series of Poker -- for the NHL Charity Shootout.

Right next door some of the biggest names in poker are duking it out for the most famous bracelets in poker. But right in front of me, some of the biggest names in hocket are showing off their poker chops.

Mike Richards, Pat LaFontaine, Roberto Luongo, Georges Laraque and Glenn Anderson are sharing Table No. 1 with an online qualifier from pokerstars.net and poker pro Vanessa Russo.

Russo is showing the felt is her turf, steamrolling the field early with aggressive bets.

"C'mon Georges, don't get pushed around," someone in the crowd urged as Russo won her third-straight hand.

And just a few minutes later, Russo had her first victim in Richards, knocking him out with trip sixes. Richards drew a pair of jacks, but was called by Russo's offsuit 8-6. When the flop fell with two sixes, Richards was in trouble.

"I didn't put her on a six," Richards told NHL.com afterward.

Fourth street was no help to Richards and when the river came up the ace of hearts, Richards had a broken heart.

"It was faster than I thought," Richards said, "but it was a lot of fun."

LaFontaine was the second victim, going all-in with suited A-Q. But that wasn't good enough when Anderson flopped trip Ks.

Blinds are now up to 300 and 600 and the five remaining players are holding strong.

-- Shawn Roarke

NHL awards party takes the stage in Las Vegas
06.17.2009 / 1:18 p.m. ET

After months and months of hard work, it's time for the stars of the National Hockey League to kick back, relax and enjoy some time in Las Vegas.

The League's annual awards show will take place in Sin City for the first time, and it's promising to be a grand event. The show can be seen on Versus in the U.S. starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, and at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBC.

The festivities begin Wednesday with the NHL Charity Shootout Presented By PokerStars.net. A charity No-Limit Texas Hold 'em poker game will be held at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino and feature top stars from the NHL and the professional poker world playing to raise money for their favorite charities.

Among the NHL stars playing are Roberto Luongo, Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Richards, Jeremy Roenick, Sheldon Souray and Kris Versteeg, as well as former NHL All-Stars Pat LaFontaine, Cam Neely and Luc Robitaille. Professional poker players participating include Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer.

But that's just the appetizer to the big show Thursday at The Palms. That's where the best of the best from the 2008-09 season will compete to take home the hardware. Again the show can be seen on Versus in the U.S. starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, and at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBC.

Players, coaches, presenters and special guests will arrive on the red carpet at the Palms Hotel beginning at 6:15 p.m. ET.  NHL.com will provide streaming coverage of the red carpet arrivals.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin might need his own plane to fly home with the amount of hardware he could be leaving with. In addition to winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP last week, he's up for two awards -- the Hart Trophy as League MVP and Lester B. Pearson Award as the League's most outstanding player as voted on by the players.

Malkin joins Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin as finalists for both awards.

Datsyuk also is in line for some heavy-duty awards. In addition to the Hart and Pearson, he's a finalist for the Lady Byng and Selke trophies.

Datsyuk will go against New Jersey's Zach Parise and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis in a quest for his third-straight award for being the League's most gentlemanly player.

The Detroit center is competing against Vancouver's Ryan Kesler and Philadelphia captain Richards for his second straight Selke, awarded to the best defensive forward.

Datsyuk's teammate, Nicklas Lidstrom, is one of the finalists for the Norris Trophy. A win would give the Red Wings blueliner his seventh overall and fourth straight nod as the League's best defenseman. It also would tie him with Hall of Famer Doug Harvey for second-most Norris trophies. Standing in his way are Boston's Zdeno Chara and Washington's Mike Green.

Columbus' Steve Mason is going for a daily double, as the Blue Jackets rookie goalie is a finalist for the Vezina and Calder trophies. Joining Mason as a finalist for the top goaltender award are Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom and Boston's Tim Thomas. Chicago's Kris Versteeg and Anaheim's Bobby Ryan are Mason's competition for the top rookie trophy.

First-year San Jose coach Todd McLellan, Boston's Claude Julien and St. Louis' Andy Murray are finalists for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

The Bill Masterton Award, given to the player who best exemplifies dedication to the game, will be given to Detroit's Chris Chelios, Nashville's Steve Sullivan or Florida's Richard Zednik.

Los Angeles' Dustin Brown, Montreal's Alexei Kovalev and Columbus' Rick Nash are finalists for the NHL Foundation Player Award, in recognition of their commitment and service to charities in their communities. The winning player will receive $25,000 from the NHL Foundation to present to the charity of their choice.

Chara, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Calgary's Jarome Iginla are the finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

For the first time, the NHL will have a fan-driven award, the Scotiabank NHL FAN FAV award. Among the 10 finalists for the honor are Iginla, Mason, Crosby, Luongo, Green and Ovechkin. Also up for the award are Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, Carolina's Eric Staal, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov.

Multi-platinum recording artists Robin Thicke and Grammy-winner Chaka Khan will perform during the show, and Canadian band Arkells will play a set at the NHL Awards Party following the show. On hand to present awards will be celebrity hockey fans like rap star Snoop Dogg, singer Michael Buble, and actors William Fichtner and Lauren Holly.

Other past and present NHL stars scheduled to participate include Tony Esposito, Sergei Fedorov, Ron Francis, Doug Gilmour, Brian Leetch and Mark Messier. Former NHL coach Pat Burns, a three-time Jack Adams Award winner, also will be on hand.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory