LOS ANGELES -- Three captains who got their teams in the Conference Finals, including one that has his team two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup, are this year's finalists for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, presented by Bridgestone.
Dustin Brown of the Kings, Shane Doan of the Coyotes and Ryan Callahan of the Rangers are the finalists. The winner will be announced at the 2012 NHL Awards on June 20 in Las Vegas.
"Three players that have had incredible seasons on the ice, leading their teams to tremendous successes throughout the season and playoffs," Messier said. "Their work in the community is incredible. The professionalism that they have all displayed on and off the ice in the communities, raising awareness with the children, they're inspiring."
Speaking specifically about Brown, who has 16 points in the Kings' 16 playoff games, Messier said it's not at all surprising to him that Brown is the captain of a team that is up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.
Late Windsor man honored by Messier
Knudsen's foundation, Knobby's Kids, received a grant in the amount of $5,000 from Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. It was accepted on Knudsen's behalf by his son, Robert Knudsen, Jr.
"It is really important that individuals like Robert Knudsen be recognized for the positive impact they have had on lives of impressionable young children," Messier said. "For that reason, I am proud to lend my name to this award. I am thrilled that 'Knobby’s Kids' will continue to benefit from his lifetime of dedication to youth hockey.”
Knudsen was a founding member of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association. According to a press release, he was so devoted to the sport that he took out a second mortgage on his own home to keep the league alive.
This is the fourth year Messier and Bridgestone have honored a leader in the youth hockey community with this award.
"It continues to inspire all of us by the people we come across through submissions and of course the winners," Messier said.
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"His initiatives in the community, the foundations he's started, they're remarkable for a young man of his stature," Messier said. "To be able to have that presence to not only play while doing the things that you're responsible for as a captain for the hockey team, but to have the initiative to go beyond that and really reach out in the community and help the children out, I think that's remarkable.
"Of course you get recognition by playing well in the playoffs. I think we're seeing a lot more of Dustin Brown and what he's meant to this organization over the last few years in this Stanley Cup Playoffs."\
Messier also has a great appreciation for what Brown and the Kings are doing this postseason; the history they've already made by going 10-0 on the road and are trying to make by going 14-2 in the playoffs so far.
Messier was a major part of the last and only team in NHL history to go 16-2 in the playoffs. With Hockey Hall of Fame members Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri leading the way, the Edmonton Oilers went 16-2 in the 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Like the Kings, the Oilers were 12-2 through the first three rounds, with one loss in the first round, a four-game sweep in the second and one loss in the third round. The '88 Oilers then swept the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Kings will attempt to up 3-0 on the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
"It certainly doesn't feel like 16-2 when you're in the middle of it," Messier recalled. "I remember talking to people and I was trying to explain it to them how difficult it was, and they're like, 'You only lost a couple of games in the playoff run, it couldn't have been that hard.' Every game feels like it's a do-or-die situation. When you're in the middle of it you don't feel like you're 14-2."
"I will always remember, any Stanley Cup, win or lose, how difficult it was," he continued. "You're all trying to get 16 wins, trying to figure out how to do it. But [with] today's parity, with the way the game is right now, 10 wins in a row on the road in the playoffs, losing two games to this point, is pretty remarkable.
"It was a lot of hockey that year (in 1987-88), a lot of hard hockey, so I can certainly appreciate what they're going through, the position they're in, and how hard they had to work to get there. Then to be able to continue to do it is another thing."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl