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But don't worry, the Flames left-winger won't be heading to the ceremony sans shoes

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Don't fret, fashionistas.

"I don't even own a pair of red socks,'' reports Johnny Gaudreau.

"If I do end up winning, I probably won't do the same speech or take my shoes off.

"He didn't even bring a suit from Czech. He bought a new suit, new shoes, new dress socks when he got there. I don't even think he brought the suit home with him. I think he just left it or donated it.

"That was a bit … ridiculous.

"Funny, but ridiculous."

Two summers ago, inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, as everyone doubtless recalls, the Calder-nominated will-o-the-wisp Flames' left-winger was part of the audience left in stitches when line-mate Jiri Hudler loped up on stage to collect the Lady Byng Trophy loafer-less, wiggling a pair of red toe-huggers.

New brogues purchased specifically for the awards ceremony, Hudler explained, were angrily pinching his instep.

So he ditched them.

As one of three 2017 Byng finalists for the July 21 shindig back in Vegas, Gaudreau plans on adopting a more traditional dress code if his name is called.

"It's just nice to recognized,'' he said Sunday afternoon, a day before jetting off to Newark and on to Milan, Italy, for the opening of Team USA's quest for World Championship gold.

The Byng is awarded annually to the "player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The criteria certainly fits Gaudreau and his game. 

Over 72 starts this past season, he incurred only four penalty minutes - two minors - while accumulating 61 points.

"On one of them,'' he protested jokingly, "somebody else got the high-stick up, I got the penalty. And there was the one for embellishment. But I was high-sticked on that one so I'm not sure how (I got called)."

No stranger to personal accolades, a former Hobey Baker Award receipient and a Calder finalist two years ago, Gaudreau also finished fourth in balloting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Byng a year ago.

The awards, he says, are a fun time.

"I've only been to Vegas once, that was two years (ago). I brought my whole family out there, you don't get to spend much time with them during the season. And I spent time with friends, too, did a little gambling, which was fun, and got to some shows, as well.

"When you get to do things like this, they're always something I look forward to. 

"Just being a part of the weekend and being around the best players is a lot of fun."

The names inscribed on the Byng trophy's base - Gretzky, Hull (Bobby and Brett), Bossy, Sakic, Dionne, Mikita, Keon and Kelly, to list but a few - are a legendary lot.

The Byng may be a good-behaviour recognition but for goal-scoring/point-producing winners, it's meant fighting through a thicket of whacks and hacks and interference while keeping their tempers in tow and resisting the only-too-natural urge to hit back when fouled.

For instance: a two-time recipient of the honour (1987 and '89) while plying his trade here at the Saddledome, right-winger Joe Mullen, was as stubbornly tough an hombre in his fashion as anyone ever to pull on the Flaming C.

The Hockey Hall of Famer from Hell's Kitchen, N.Y., was also, like Gaudreau, a Boston College standout before graduating to the pros.

"People say 'gentlemen's award','' said Gaudreau, "but I know I try to play hard every night and stay out of the box so I can be on the ice.

"On the ice is where I help the team."

The other finalists announced Sunday by the NHL were St. Louis Blues' right winger Vladimir Tarasenko - 75 points and 12 penalty minutes - and Minnesota centre Mikael Granlund - 69 points, 12 PIM.

"Two great players,'' acknowledged Gaudreau. "They stay out of the box, as well.

"Granlund had a great year, one of his best, and Tarasenko's always a fun player to watch. I got to know him a bit over a couple All Stars and he's always been really, really nice to me.

"Both are very deserving.

"I'd say I'm in good company."

So, shoes on or off, are they.


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