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New Messier award honors young leaders

by Staff
MONTREAL -- Mark Messier epitomized leadership during more than 20 seasons in the NHL. He's continuing to do it off the ice as well.

Three seasons ago, he introduced the Bridgestone Mark Messier Leadership Award to recognize an individual who leads by positive example through on-ice performance, motivation of team members and a dedication to community activities and charitable causes.

At the Bell Centre on Saturday, Messier, in conjunction with Bridgestone and the NHL, announced the addition of the Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award to honor amateur hockey players, mentors and coaches for their contributions to youth sports.

"The award will go to a Canadian or American youth hockey player or coach judged to have overcome adversity in achieving his or her own dreams or embracing community service and excelling on the ice or in the classroom," said Phil Pacsi, Vice President N.A. Consumer Tire Marketing, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations.

The year's winner, which will be announced at a later luncheon, will receive a $5,000 scholarship or grant and tickets to attend Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

"I'm very thankful that the NHL and (Commissioner) Gary Bettman felt this award worthy enough to find a sponsor (Bridgestone),'' Messier said. "We want to be proud of our athletes and want to be proud of what they're doing not only on the ice, but off the ice."

Previous winners of the Messier Leadership Award include defenseman Chris Chelios and forward Mats Sundin. Sundin's reluctance to give up on the Toronto Maple Leafs -- his team at the time -- and accept a trade to a Stanley Cup contender was one reason why he received the Messier Leadership Award last season.

Messier won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers and one with the Rangers, and is the only professional athlete to captain two different teams to championships during his career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

"Reaching out to the community for our youth is vital and I believe it's important for our players to be role models and it's important for people that are coaching and mentoring our youth to really have this great philosophy in how to do that," Messier said. "Right now, I have three young nephews playing minor hockey and I see the need for people to become more responsible."

"Whether it's on the road, on the ice or at the rink, leadership can take many forms," Pacsi said. "We are delighted to align another NHL marketing platform to the Bridgestone Brand with Mark Messier, who set the standard for leadership on the ice and off. Mark also uniquely enables Bridgestone Brand to promote and reward community leadership throughout North America."

--Mike G. Morreale

Penalty free? -- Not since 2000 when defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh of the World Team was whistled for hooking 5:51 into the third period at Air Canada Centre in Toronto has there been a penalty called in an NHL All-Star Game.

Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek wouldn't be surprised if that streak were broken on Sunday at Bell Centre.

"For sure, I wouldn't be surprised if you saw a couple of penalties in this one," Komisarek said. "You've got some big hitters in this game. I wouldn't be surprised if a few power plays were issued."

Komisarek, who ranks ninth in the NHL with 104 blocked shots and is tied for second on his team with 100 hits, is looking forward to his first All-Star experience.

"I'm really looking forward to this and I know the game is going to be something special for the fans of Montreal," Komisarek said. "It's going to be a special experience for everyone involved."

--Mike G. Morreale

Hit parade -- Players from the Eastern Conference better hope Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown doesn't suddenly get that urge.

The 6-foot, 211-pound Brown, who led the League in hits in 2007-08 and is ranked second this season, knows he'll have to temper his aggression when the 57th NHL All-Star Game is staged Sunday night. In fact, Brown's teammates in Los Angeles feel that by the time the contest is completed, the League may want to institute a new skill -- hardest hit.

"I've gotten a little flack from my teammates," Brown told "They figured the League will probably make another skill for the hardest hit. It's probably one of those things where my style of play probably isn't tailored to the All-Star type game, but I'll figure something out."

Still, Brown wasn't just named to the All-Star Game for his willingness to bang bodies. The kid does have a knack for finding the back of the net. He has 168 hits this season -- but he's also second on the Kings in goals (17) and points (33) and ranks first in game-winners (5).

"I've played in some American Hockey League All-Star games and I'm sure it's even more relaxed at this level," Brown said. "I'm just looking to have fun. It's exciting, especially here in Montreal. It's a special town for hockey, and it'll be a little nerve-racking since I'm a young guy coming in and this is my first All Star Game. I've played against everyone in this room but it's different on a personal level since I grew up watching a lot of these players, so it's kind of surreal."

--Mike G. Morreale

Kid stuff -- Honda NHL SuperSkills figured to be especially super for five Montreal youth hockey players. The local Ahuntsic Hockey Club provided young and able assistants to help hand out trophies Saturday night (Versus, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio, 7 p.m. ET).

The fortunate five were Arno Desjardins, 7; Edouard Traore, 7; Guillaume Guilmette Major, 12; Elliot Parent, 10; and Marie-Christine Major, 11. They are all hockey-playing members of the Ahuntsic club, which is a participating program in the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone initiative.

From the humble beginnings of two teams playing each in a local park during the 1950s, the Ahuntsic Braves have become one of the front-runners in minor hockey in Montreal and recognized throughout the province for their inclusive policies. What's more, Ahuntsic is 100-percent operated by volunteers.

The club's widespread footprint took its first big step in the summer of 1956, when two parents approached Borden Bossy, father of NHL Hall of Famer Mike Bossy. Later that year, two sons of another Hall of Famer, Maurice Richard, joined the club. The Canadiens' legend volunteered his time during the formative years.

Today, more than 800 youngsters play for one of Ahuntsic's 55 registered teams. The players range in age from 3 to 21. More than 200 volunteers dedicate their free time across three home arenas. On those arena walls? Some notable alumni, including Mike Bossy, Carol Vadnais, Marc Denis, Marco Baron and Normand Leveille.

-- Bob Condor

The Battling Bruin
-- Tim Thomas is known throughout the NHL for his bulldog attitude when it comes to blocking shots.

It often makes him look unorthodox, but Thomas never gives up on a play, throwing his body around in a way few other goalies in the League would even entertain. He couldn't even turn off that body-may-care attitude in the usually sedate setting of NHL All-Star Weekend.

In Round 3 of the Gatorade Elimination Shootout, Thomas made an awkward save against Patrick Marleau that saw the goalie's leg bend oddly as Thomas collapsed to the ground.

"It looked worse in the replay than it felt," Thomas said.

So was facing 15 shootout attempts by some of the League's best shooters fun for the ultra-competitive Thomas?

"It was fun  90 percent of the time," he said.

He didn't enjoy a three-shooter stretch in the first round that saw Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Modano and Ryan Getzlaf score back-to-back-to-back.

"It wasn't fun when I got scored on three times in a row," Thomas said. "I got mad. Not mad exactly, but I didn't want to get embarrassed."

And all Thomas did after that three-goal nightmare was stop 6-of-8 to close out his portion of the Elimination Shootout

--Shawn P. Roarke

"For sure, I wouldn't be surprised if you saw a couple of penalties in this one. You've got some big hitters in this game. I wouldn't be surprised if a few power plays were issued." -- Eastern Conference defenseman Mike Komisarek
You stole my move! -- Patrick Kane skated right over to rookie and fellow No. 1 Draft pick Steven Stamkos and gave him a piece of his mind -- sort of.

OK, maybe Kane didn't lash out at Stamkos, but he did say, "Come on, get your own move."

Stamkos admitted that he did, in fact, use one of Kane's moves during the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge on Saturday night, but only because Kane ripped off one of his and he was completely out of options.

"I thought he stole my behind-the-back move, so he attempted that one and I said, 'Hey, I have one last chance here,'" Stamkos told "My go-to move the goalie made a nice save on. I flipped it up, put it through my legs and tried to one-hand it, but he made a nice toe save on me."

So Stamkos went to Kane's sliding-on-the-ice routine, the one the Blackhawks' All-Star showed in the video he made that ran on Kane tried it as well during his routine but couldn't score on it. Stamkos did.

He brought the puck in and hit the deck before using his right hand to slide the puck across his body to his left side. With his stick only in his left hand, Stamkos was able to push the puck across the goal line with his blade.

"He told me that was the only thing he had in his head at the time," Kane told "Hey, it's fine. All this is great for the game. Who knows, if someone sees Ovechkin doing this on YouTube or highlights the game will get more recognition and that's good."

Kane said if given another chance, he would try to pull out some show-stopping moves like Alex Ovechkin, who won it this year with props and help from Evgeni Malkin.

"I think I got the jitters," Kane said. "There is so much hype around the thing. Everyone, including everyone in the dressing room, is expecting something amazing. Next year it would be nice to do it again if I make the game. I definitely want to try it again and maybe put some more fun in the arsenal like what Ovechkin did. That's why he takes it now."

-- Dan Rosen

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