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Rutherford, Sullivan Honored to Share Award

They were named the Dapper Dan "Co-Sportsmen of the Year"

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Back in the early 1970s, during his three seasons as a goaltender for the Penguins, Jim Rutherford would attend the Dapper Dan awards ceremony and just marvel at the Pittsburgh icons being honored.

"It was a such a special event," Rutherford recalled. "When I came to those dinners in the 70s, the legends that were winning those awards were Chuck Noll, Roberto Clemente, Johnny Majors. Real icons. Great memories from those days."

And as he would watch those wonderful people receive their awards, Rutherford would let his mind wander.

"When I played here decades ago, I used to come here as a player and I used to think, 'what a cool award,'" he said. "'Wouldn't it be nice to win that?'"

And now Rutherford - who returned to Pittsburgh years after his playing days to be general manager of the team - can finally say that he has.

He and head coach Mike Sullivan, who teamed up to lead the team to the 2016 Stanley Cup, were named the Dapper Dan "Co-Sportsmen of the Year." They were honored at the 81st Annual Dinner and Sports Auction on Wednesday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

"It's been a long road to get here," Rutherford smiled. "It's a real honor. I'm honored to share it with coach Sullivan."

As Rutherford joked during his speech, "One of the reasons I returned was to win the Dapper Dan."

Rutherford knows firsthand the history of the event, which was created in 1936 by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams as a sports club where sharply-dressed businessmen called "Dapper Dans" staged sporting events to raise money for local charities (today, the beneficiary of Dapper Dan Charities is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania).

However, Sullivan had to do some research to learn about past recipients - and he was just as impressed with the names he read.

"It's a who's who of Pittsburgh sports," Sullivan said. "So to be mentioned in that conversation is quite an honor."

Both men felt strongly that the award was not just shared between them - it was something to be shared with the whole franchise.

"I think Jim and I represent the Pittsburgh Penguins as an organization," Sullivan said. "I really think this is an organizational award. Jim and I are representing the organization and all of its different departments that it takes to win a Stanley Cup."

And both Rutherford and Sullivan made sure to articulate that in their speeches, thanking everyone from the top to the bottom, starting with owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. They also voiced their appreciation for president and CEO David Morehouse, COO Travis Williams and the rest of the hockey ops staff members and coaches in attendance.

Associate general manager Jason Botterill, assistant coaches Rick Tocchet and Jacques Martin, goalie coach Mike Bales and video coach Andy Saucier - who got a personal shoutout from Sullivan for his contribution in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay - and player development coach Mark Recchi were all there to show their support.

They all shared the stage with a number of other team owners, executives, former players and local legends. The support was remarkable, and it's something that has truly stood out to Sullivan in the year-plus that he's been here.

"For a small city, it's a major league sports town," he said. "What I really think is unique about it is just the support you get from the other respective pro sports teams. I think it's really cool. I've had the opportunity to meet Mike Tomlin and Clint Hurdle and I've gone to some of their games; I know they go to our games. To be part of that sports fraternity is a really neat feeling."

Video: Rutherford and Sullivan receive Dapper Dan award

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