— The Red Wings have been a fixture at the NHL Awards Show for more than a decade. But, there was something a little different about the 2008 edition hosted at the Elgin Theater on Thursday night.
It wasn't just that 10 members of the organization were a part of Thursday night's festivities, including trophy winners Pavel Datsyuk (Selke and Lady Byng), Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek, who shared the Jennings, and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who won his sixth Norris Trophy in the last seven years to validate his status as the best defenseman of his generation.
"As much as all this is special, it's more special because we won the (Stanley) Cup," coach Mike Babcock said.
Babcock finished as second runner-up to Washington's Bruce Boudreau in the voting for the Jack Adams Trophy, given to the NHL's best coach. But even that disappointment couldn't put a damper on the night for Babcock.
"That's what makes (tonight) special — because we won the Cup together and we are being recognized now individually," he said. "I'm a big believer that when you have team success, individual success comes with it."
There was plenty of individual success to go around for the freshly minted 2008 champions, who claimed their title last week with a Game 6 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Clearly, Lidstrom was the headliner as he staked his claim as the best defenseman of the last two decades. Only Hall of Fame defenders Bobby Orr (eight) and Doug Harvey (seven) have won the Norris more often than the Red Wings' captain.
For Lidstrom, this year's award was special — not only for the award, but the fact that he could share it with his family and many of his teammates.
"It’s been great," Lidstrom said. "Last year, we got here like two minutes before the show started and missed everything. This year, we made sure that we got here early and were able to experience everything. I was able to walk down the red carpet with my family, and they were able to see what this was all about. It's been fantastic."
Henrik Zetterberg, who finished as second runner-up to Datsyuk in the voting for the Selke, also discussed the family element to this year's award ceremony during the pre-event availability.
"We took the plane this morning and had our families with us and it was fun," he said. "We'll spend the night here tonight, and it's going to be good. It's going to be a lot of fun and, hopefully, we can get some trophies to pack home tomorrow. It's going to be a good ending to a pretty good year."
It was an even more special ending when the NHL debuted the Lifetime Achievement Award and made Detroit legend Gordie Howe the inaugural recipient. Mr. Hockey, who was celebrated in recorded speeches by Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Johnny Bower and Brian McFarlane, the former Hockey Night in Canada announcer, received a standing ovation after his thank you speech.
There were other Detroit players involved in the evening's proceedings as well.
Osgood and Hasek shared the Jennings Trophy. Hasek was on hand, but Osgood was not present, unable to get back from a West Coast swing celebrating the Cup that featured a few TV stops.
"He’s a little tired from sitting on the TV," Hasek joked, "so he couldn’t make it."
Chris Chelios, up for the Masterton Trophy, also wasn't present. Chelios finished as a runner-up, along with Edmonton’s Fernando Pisani, to Toronto's Jason Blake in the voting for the player adjudged to "best exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Blake was diagnosed before the season started with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare, but treatable form of cancer, yet he played in all 82 regular-season games — one of three Toronto players to do so this season.
Scotty Bowman, who coached the Red Wings to the three titles before this one, was the other member of the organization on hand Thursday night. Bowman, who is a consultant to the Red Wings these days, joined Cammi Granato in presenting Boudreau with the Jack Adams Award.
When all was said and done, Lidstrom was as happy for all his honored teammates as he was for himself. As captain of the Red Wings, he has made it one of his hallmarks to always put his teammates in the spotlight before himself. He did not deviate from that course of action Thursday night.
"Those guys are superstars in this League," Lidstrom said of his teammates on hand in Toronto. "It's great for them to get the recognition, too. I think they got a lot of recognition in the Final and winning the Cup. But they really deserve this, too."
In fact, he wished more of his teammates could have shared in Thursday's celebration. But the contingent of Red Wings in Toronto on this night would have to suffice.
"I'm very proud of the team and what we have accomplished," he said. "In the regular season, winning the Presidents' Trophy. Then we responded in the Playoffs, too. I think that developed into a lot of players being here, just with the way the season developed. I'm very proud of having a few teammates here, as well."