"I like the vibe," Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla told NHL.com. Iginla was on hand to receive the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. "The energy has been amazing. I like the fans coming from different cities and coming here to cheer us on. And for the players, it's a little more laid-back, relaxing. It's been a great night."
The show kicked off with the arrival of the Stanley Cup -- the biggest star in hockey -- being placed on the theater's stage by Pittsburgh's Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin, Game 7 hero Max Talbot and coach Dan Bylsma.
While Pittsburgh laid claim to the Stanley Cup after a Game 7 win against Detroit just six days ago, the Pens were practically shut out in the hunt for other trophies.
Malkin picked up the Art Ross Trophy as the League's top regular-season scorer, but he finished second to Alex Ovechkin in the voting for both the Lester Pearson Trophy and the Hart Trophy, the League's two MVP awards.
That left Thursday's spotlight to fall on some other deserving candidates during the 90-minute show. There was no shortage of candidates -- present and past NHLers, as well as other celebrities -- to fill the void.
"You look around and see all the players and what they have accomplished, it's pretty amazing," Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason told NHL.com. "It's almost surreal."
Ovechkin received the Pearson Award from Vladimir Konstantinov and Igor Larionov, two Russian hockey icons who played for the Detroit championship teams in the late '90s. He received his Hart Trophy from Washington teammate Sergei Fedorov, perhaps the best Russian ever to play in the NHL.
"I'm happy that they give me that little present, that trophy," Ovechkin said, recalling that he was just a young boy back in Russia when Fedorov, Konstantinov and Larionov all played for that dynastic Detroit team
Ovechkin also went home with the Maurice Richard Trophy as the League's top goal scorer -- giving him quite a haul.
"It was a great time here," Ovechkin said. "It's a great place and a lot of good things happened here."
While Ovechkin occupied his usual place in the spotlight, the Boston Bruins were the most compelling story of this night.
Boston's season ended prematurely when the Carolina Hurricanes knocked them off in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Bruins were rewarded for their regular-season excellence by taking three of the major awards on offer.
Goalie Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie. Defenseman Zdeno Chara won the James Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman, ending Niklas Lidstrom's three-year run as the game's best blueliner. The Detroit defenseman had won six of the past seven Norris trophies. Finally, Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Trophy as the League's best coach.
Thomas and fellow Boston goalie Manny Fernandez also took home the William Jennings Trophy, given to the goaltenders (25 or more games) of the team that allowed the fewest goals during the regular season.
"You look around and see all the players and what they have accomplished, it's pretty amazing. It's almost surreal."
-- Calder Winner Steve Mason
"I've been more worried about getting my name on a roster than getting my name on the Vezina Trophy," Thomas said in his remarks.
Julien, his coach, was OK with turning the disappointment of May into the glory of this June night.
"For me, I wouldn't trade this," Julien told NHL.com. "It's great to see my players get rewarded for what they gave (our organization) this year."
Julien was presented with his award by Pat Burns, a three-time Jack Adams winner and Julien's close friend. Burns is fighting cancer and the moment between the two men was one of the most poignant of the night.
Despite the Bruins' dominance, there was plenty of room for other stars to step to the forefront.
Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk may have lost out to Ovechkin in both MVP votes, but he still took home his second-straight Frank Selke Award and fourth-straight Lady Byng.
Mason, the young Columbus goalie, won the Calder as the League's best rookie. Nashville's Steve Sullivan won the Masterton Trophy, Edmonton's Ethan Moreau won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo won the Scotiabank/NHL Fan Fav Award, Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets won the NHL Foundation Player Award and Montreal legend Jean Beliveau received the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award.