Until VS gets their act in gear and actually starts airing the NHL Awards Show they promised us at 7:00, we’ll just have to keep you occupied, Gentle Reader, with the tragic and exhilarating tale of the Great NHL Awards Show Debacle of 2003 (which is probably just going to disappoint, but here goes anyway):
We have over the years tried our hardest to avoid the NHL Awards show because it is filled with so many cringe-worthy moments. And not cringing it’s-so-bad-it’s-funny moments. Cringing it’s-so-bad-I-want-to-scrub-my-brain-and-forget-I-ever-liked-this-sport moments. However, in the 5 or 6 times we have actually sat down to watch them, no moment was more cringe-worthy that the Great NHL Awards Show Debacle of 2003. Some history: We had a crazy, crazy ex-roommate, whom we shall call X to protect her identity. X had many foibles (some lovable, most not) but among them was her constant badgering of people into making bets with her. She always — always — won the bets she made, especially the hockey bets. And what was especially annoying about the fact that she won all of her hockey bets was that she was a relative newbie. She would propose something utterly outlandish, and we, the more tenured fans, would say, “Well, there’s no way that could happen,” accept the bet, then find ourselves later having our faces rubbed in it after the impossible happened. And for all that she had tons of practice winning bets, she had yet to learn how to be gracious in victory. (And heaven forbid you should opt out when she barked during a hockey argument, “Want to bet?” — Schnookie once tried that in a discussion of Pando’s short-handed goal totals. Schnookie thought he had two, but X was confident he only had one. When X screamed, “Wanna bet?”, Schnookie backed down and said, “No, you’re probably right.” “NO!” X turned purple with rage, “Do you want to bet me?” Schnookie, meekly: “Um, no I don’t. I’m wrong. You’re right.” X, frothing at the mouth: “Then tell me when!” Schnookie, confused: “What?” X, psychotic with rage: “Tell me when Pando scored that second short-handed goal. What game was it? TELL ME WHEN!”)
And so it was with that type of fan that we settled down to watch the NHL Awards in 2003. X was especially excited because two of her non-Devils favorites were up for awards: Zetterberg for the Calder (we had not known up until that very evening that Zetterberg was “her boy”), and Mogilny for the Lady Byng. Now, X had once excoriated Pookie for happening to randomly own a mug with a Maple Leafs logo on it (she used it to hold pens on her desk), but on the night of the Great Debacle, X broke out a Maple Leafs Mogilny “89″ T-shirt. WTF? Where had that come from? But she would brook no argument that her favored players were going to win their awards, despite the fact that anyone who had watched a single game in the last month of the season, featuring any team, know the Blues’ Barrett Jackman was going to win the Calder. And for some stupid reason, we didn’t bet her on it. We knew we had her, and we let her off the hook entirely. When the presentation of the Calder came up, she was on the edge of her seat, whispering Zetterberg’s name, smugly regarding us as too uncouth to understand the true greatness of Zetterberg… and then he didn’t win. And our hearts to were too far broken at the missed opportunity for us to even think to scream, “Tell me when! Tell me when Zetterberg won the Calder!” But she recovered quickly from her Zetterberg devastation, because she was in high spirits when Mogilny did take home the Lady Byng. When his name was announced she actually leapt to her feet and screamed as if he had just scored a Cup-winning goal… and Mogilny himself was so disinterested in winning the award that he sent his team’s trainer to accept it on his behalf. X failed to recognize that she was overdoing it just a little bit, and even more than that, failed to see how rapturously celebrating a Leaf’s Lady Byng win was somehow in contradiction to her firmly-held belief that Pookie’s random Leafs mug was an atrocity. And while this might not sound like that much of a debacle to you, Gentle Reader, it’s just because you didn’t have to live with her.
– For some reason the Awards Show is still not on. It’s 7:40, and we’re still staring numbly at this “Tap Out” disgustingness. It should be said, that we are vacillating right now between fury at VS for not airing the Awards show when they said they would, and soul crushing sadness that we are being robbed of what was going to be, pathetically, the highlight of our week. Bastards.
– We flip from VS on our satellite to VS on our (Comcast) cable, hoping Directv made a programming mistake. No dice. When we flip back, the NHL Road Trip commercial is on. We perk up — this has to be a good sign! But alas, we return to watching this over-tattooed midget and his vulgar friends discussing their ultimate fighting short shorts in a Vegas hotel room.
– Oh, what is this? A little scroll bar appears at the bottom of our screen. VS is telling us something… they’re telling us… that they have no more respect for the NHL than NBC does, apparently. The Awards Show has been completely preempted by this ass-stupid fighting reality show and will be shown at 11PM. Fuck them. But how pathetic are we? We’ll be back here at 11, ready to liveblog more “What in the fucking hell? Tap Out is still on???”
– By the way, as soon as this “Tap Out” shit started, Boomer decided she wanted to be an ultimate fighter, like the cool dude wearing his jockstrap outside his short shorts. Then she discovered the name “Punkass” was already taken, and her dream died a painful death. One more reason this show sucked: it made Boomer have to give up on her life’s aspirations.
– Okay, it’s 10:50 and we’re back. We felt bad ditching the comment thread earlier, but we didn’t want this to be spoiled for us, not even the tiniest bit. During the last winter Olympics we ended up watching one day of programming on TiVo delay (we know, shocking, right? Pookie had to work that Saturday…), and a friend of ours called up to discuss the Olympics from her non-sports fan perspective. Schnookie tried to nip the discussion in the bud because she didn’t want to find out anything about what had happened in the short-track speed skating that afternoon, and our friend tried to play it coy. “Oh, I won’t say anything,” she smugged, “Except that the results were very surprising.” Well, the only result that would have surprised the NBC announcers would have been that American hero Apollo Anton Ohno hadn’t won, which is exactly what Schnookie deduced. “So Ohno lost, eh?” she asked. This was met with stunned silence; our friend had not fathomed that we would have known something about the athletes going in, because, well, she’s not a sports fan. The point of this story is that even when you think you’re not giving away what happened, people can still figure out from the hints you give. So we didn’t mean to be rude, but, well… so we were rude. What can we say? Our brains (and manners) were addled by too much “Tap Out”.
– Speaking of “Tap Out”, at least the Preakness pregame thing actually had something to do with a major sporting event. Okay, a major gambling event. But “Tap Out”? Really? (We fully put forth that the NHL Awards Show is hardly a major sporting event either, though.)
– It’s 10:58 and VS is showing the world’s least interesting boxing match. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to be over in two minutes. Christ! There are two more rounds and each round is three minutes of these guys collapsing onto each other and nuzzling? We’d almost trade this for “Tap Out”.
– It’s 11:02. It took only 120 seconds past the scheduled start of the Awards Show for Pookie to get nostalgic for “Tap Out”. “At least that was interesting to watch for how disgusting it was. This is just boring.”
– The boxing is now being presented in a split screen. Pookie: “I feel like I’m watching this as a bug!”
Then the screen goes black — is this a sign of better things to come? (Although we fully put forth that the NHL Awards Show is not something worth sitting up for to see it start at 11:00 on a work night.) No, it’s just that the boxing is blinking out. Pookie, optimistically: “When the screen went black there I felt for a moment like I’d finally gouged my own eyes out.”
– The fans at this boxing event look as bored as we do. Seriously, VS, you totally ruined our nights. We’ve been stuck in a state of suspended animation for the last 4 hours and we’re still waiting to be treated to two hours of excruciatingly lame jokes and acceptance speeches from men who have no business doing any kind of public speaking.
– Oh my God!! There’s a “Tap Out” marathon coming up on Wednesday! And Pookie has to work that night… no fair!
– Hasim Rahman is your winner, people. But really? We’re all losers.
– Schnookie has a moment of panic: just as the fight we were watching comes to an end, all of a sudden we’re seeing two little guys boxing. “Wait, they’re showing us a different fight now?” Pookie assures her it’s just a recap, but Schnookie is still suspicious. We would not put it past VS at this point to toss another delay in our evening so they can show more boring boxing.
– It’s 11:12. The boxing is, we think, over. We are fairly confident the next program to start will be Pro Bass Fishing. (Pookie: “It’s not even going to be bass fishing. It’s going to be, like, flounder fishing. Or clam digging.”)
– Get the fuck out! It’s a red carpet! With NHL people on it! And, like, three fans watching. Pahlsson looks nicely turned out and Kessel looks really prommy. Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudy give us some chit-chat and a really puffy Marty Brodeur passes, without note, behind them.
– Yay! Sid! He also looks prommy, but not quite as much as last year. He is wandering sort of randomly, trying desperately to find a fan to sign an autograph for. He seems to struggle walking on dry land, and no amount of tuxedo fabric is capable of keeping that caboose contained. He is informed during this lame interview that “everyone wants to know who he’s wearing”. Just like at the All Star Game he says he’s wearing “Giovanni.” Schnookie: “Ah, Giovanni, of the caboose draping.” (And what we would give for Sid, next time he’s asked what he listens to on his iPod, to say “NPR”. A note to Sid’s handlers: “Everything” is not a suitable answer for “what music do you listen to?” Pick a benign, popular artist and make him say that. It’s not that hard.)
– We cut to Oake and Kelly with Marty, whose tie is hypnotizing Pookie. He is also the size of a Thanksgiving parade balloon. Boomer doesn’t seem to notice, though, as she asks, “Does he look slimmer?” Pookie, aghast: “NO! He looks like a barrel! He looks like he’s going to go over Niagara Falls on his way out of Toronto.” We concede his new short haircut makes the top of his head look slimmer. Marty revels in the opportunity to make fun of Pando for the fact that, while Marty apparently has reason to own his tux, Pando had to rent. (He cracks that he offered to lend a tux to Pando, and we can only hope Pando bristled, “Thanks, but I’d be swimming in it, fatty.”) We adore during this interview how Marty leaps on the opportunity to remind everyone that the NHL keeps changing the rules to keep him from being able to play to his best ability. He is such a miracle of passive-aggressive cockiness.
– We get a quick cut to Brind’Amour. Is that an actual, real way to wear a tie? Or can he not even do that right?
– Luongo suddenly jumps into Marty’s interview and he seems to be wearing Jaromir Jagr’s hair, circa 1997. As he imposes himself into the interview, Marty gives him this disdainful, measuring look from head to toe. When Luongo is asked about becoming a “superstar”, Marty’s gets this look on his face like, “Are you kidding me?” (Luongo admits to owning his tux, saying it’s his “wedding suit”, and Oake jokes that Roberto is the only guy amongst the four of them who can still fit in his wedding suit. Pookie: “I kind of wish he turned to Marty there and said, ‘Unless you got married in a barrel, of course.’”)
– Vinny Lecavalier’s companion is his doppelganger. Only she’s handsomer.
– We get to the interview with a couple of actors, and our first clue that the professional athlete portion of this red carpet sequence is over is that it suddenly looks like they’re shooting through vaseline. Pookie keeps hitting the “fast forward” button to try to make this insipid interview stop. We stayed up for this?
– Everyone seems very calm on that red carpet for the raccoon we know is there.
– This interview with the guy from “Ed” and this Barenaked loser will not end. And suddenly we’re being assured that something called “Finger Eleven” is going to “rock out”. We would seriously throw our hands up right now and give this up, except we suddenly realize the little crawl is telling us fun facts about Pando. He was the Devils’ unsung hero! He could become the first US-born player to ever win the Selke! He shares a birthday with Paul Stastny! He’s married to a raccoon!
– We finally get a reprieve from the “entertainment” participants of tonight’s event and cut to Jordan Staal with Oake. Gronk also looks prommy, and Pookie says a bit disappointedly, “He doesn’t look like he’s gotten any smarter since the hockey season ended.” Wait, Oake just forgot Paul Stastny’s name. For reals. Because, you know, it’s not like there’s never been anybody in the NHL before with that name, to help him out. And in a moment we hope will go down as the nadir of Scott Oake’s broadcasting career, he has to ask Jordan Staal for help. The two bang their foreheads together a few times in the hopes of getting their respective singular brain cells to collide to help form a thought. It comes to naught.
– We cut to Cassie Campbell interviewing Gary Bettman about the NHL’s support of Diabetes research charities, and then she interviews some random kid who explains, “I like hockey.” Well, good for you, kid. Because no one else at the NHL Awards Show likes hockey.
– Back to Oake, who manages to remember both Vinnie Lecavalier’s and Marty St. Louis’ names. Vinnie does not look prommy. Vinnie looks like a million bucks. St. Louis, however, is shorter than the potted plant next to him and is working over a piece of chewing gum. He does not look like a million bucks.
– The crawl informs us Marty Brodeur shares his birthday with Orson Welles, George Clooney, Rudolph Valentino and Sigmund Freud. He probably laughed at Pando, “I share my birthday with famous people, and you share yours with Paul Stastny. How’s that rented tux fit?” And Pando, we hope, grumbled, “It fits fine, fatty.”
– We get an interview from earlier (when the red carpet was empty) with Hank Lundqvist. Now, despite him being a Ranger, we think he’s crazy hot. But we do not approve at all that he looks like he’s wearing a tuxedo t-shirt instead of an actual suit.
– We are relieved that the red carpet is finally over, but no sooner are we inside the theater than we wish we could go back to that awful canned patter from outside, because a wretchedly awful music act is performing. Could they be showing us the highlight reel that’s on the big screen behind them? Please? Pookie sighs heavily, “God, this must be so awful to have to go to. Poor Pando.” Schnookie: “I hope he’s shit-faced already.”
– This song will not end. Pookie declares, “You know what I’m going to listen to tomorrow on my iPod? Everything. Except this.”
– The audience is still milling about aimlessly as Ron McLean is introduced. What did McLean do in a previous life to get stuck doing this thirteen times?
– A crowd shot shows us Nick Lidstrom clapping like a robot.
– McLean makes some sort of “Chris Chelios is so old that…” joke in re the host theater having been built in 1913. We’re ashamed to admit we didn’t hear it because we were laughing at our own really stupidly bad “Chris Chelios is so old that…” joke.
– McLean cracks a joke about Jagsie finding backchecking funny, and there is a subdued little “Boooo” from the crowd. Schnookie: “Too soon?”
– Another crowd shot after a puzzling and, not surprisingly, unfunny clip of Messier wandering in the woods with the Cup shows Sid, looking terribly pained. Priceless. He seems to be reconsidering being the best player in the world, as he’s calculating having to sit through this crap every year for the rest of his career.
– Pahlsson, Pronger and Nieder get to accompany the Cup on stage. Pookie exclaims, “Is that Nieder? I didn’t recognize him!” Schnookie: “It’s because he’s not wearing his old-man slippers and cardigan.” He does look like his tuxedo pants are actually pajama bottoms, though.
– The Lester Pearson Award is given first; some politico is handing it out. We weren’t paying attention to his introduction because, even though we’re “liveblogging” this, we’re also not paying attention. The politico dude shows off that he speaks French, and we half expect him to reveal he’s actually Pierre McGuire wearing a mask.
The award goes to Sid, who nods in response like, “Well, yeah. I mean, duh.” His caboose practically busts through our TV screen as he waddles up to the podium. He has clearly had some very excellent media training, because he seems to have a custom-cut piece of paper with his speech on it that was designed specifically to slip effortlessly out of his jacket pocket. Does Giovanni provide that paper with the suit, or does Sid have a stationer we should all be hearing about? We start cracking up at how lame his speech is, but zzzzzzzzzzz… (Actually, typically Sid, it seemed like a very lonely sort of speech. Everything he does seems lonely.)
– After commercial, McLean and Vinnie Lecavalier are on stage for the presentation of the Richard Trophy. McLean leads us into a video tribute from various luminaries gushing about Vinnie by saying, “Let’s hear what the people have to say about you.” Vinnie looks strangely angry, like, “What, people are talking about me?” We are not surprised to see Jean Beliveau on this tribute; we suspect he’s probably recorded tributes to all the players in the NHL, just in case. After the tribute, McLean says, “Tell us about your grandfather,” and Vinnie says, “Yeah, obviously Jean Beliveau…” and pauses, allowing Schnookie to finish for him, “Is not my grandfather.”
– It’s Selke time! We quickly slip into our Pando sweaters so we can cheer obnoxiously loudly in the off chance Pando wins. Oh that intro was really sad. Brind’Amour and Pahlsson have actual stats, and the voiceover for Pando practically says, “Jay Pandolfo shares a birthday with Paul Stastny.” And the best part, the superPando part, is that on the splitscreen that shows the three finalists, Pando is almost completely obscured by the random dude sitting in front of him. Brind’Amour wins. Of course. Because he’s the only one of these three anyone’s ever heard of. (It’s actually pretty cute when he teases his kid about wanting an Ovechkin sweater.)
– There is a sequence in which McLean calls back to Doug Gilmour making fun of a sweater he once wore on air, then gets back at him by showing footage of the awful tuxedo Gilmour wore in ’93 to win the Selke. He cracks at the end that Doug “looks good in anything.” Pookie: “Except a Devils sweater.”
– Kessel wins the Masterton. Good for him. He does not get his speech paper from Giovanni; his speech is written on what looks like about 15 huge crumpled sheets of paper. Christ. How many pages does he have there? It was a very short speech, but he must have written it with a jumbo crayon or something, because he’s trucking around enough paper for the Great American Novel.
– Calder Trophy. Why do they bother with scripted banter between the trophy presenters? Dale Hawerchuk just falls apart trying to keep up with William Fichtner. The intros for the three finalists does not mention that Paul Stastny shares a birthday with Pando. We’re shocked — Malkin wins! And he will do anything to not have to speak in English, including sending Therien to pick up the award for him. We wish Therien would say, “Geno asked me to say that it was his great coach that made his season so good.” (Staalsie looks enormously relieved to not have to make a speech.)
– Sid gets dragged on stage to for the Art Ross and his mic cuts out. Pookie: “His caboose is throwing off too much interference.” John Tavares is included in the video tribute to Sid, and we like to think Sid’s thinking, “I will cut you, bitch!” This sequence is a delight. Seriously, has there ever been an 19-year-old more adorkably codgerish than Sid? It is especially sadly endearing how he waxes poetic (in as much as he is ever poetic) about his “fond memories” of playing hockey in the Maritimes.
– Shaye (???) presents the Lady Byng, and they are making these female hockey fans ashamed. Sure, we’re willing to blog at length about which players cleaned up the nicest tonight, but we bristle when we have to listen to this kind of crap. Yes, we’re hypocrites. Perhaps because he’s the only one of the finalists not to show up, Datsyuk wins the Byng.
– Gentle Readers, put your hands up for Finger Eleven! Actually, on second thought, don’t. They don’t deserve it.
– “Little Mosque On The Prairie” people give us, via video, the rundown of the first-team all stars. The shot of Ovie is, of course, of him being gooftacular off the ice, the one of Nieder makes him look like a homeless crazy man, and the one of Marty looks like it’s about 15 years old. They read the names off too quickly for anyone to clap.
– The Canadiens team doctor presents the King Clancy trophy to Saku Koivu. We get some crowd shots during the presentation; Lecavalier looks like he would like for this show to be over, Kessel is doing a good job of knowing the camera is going to be on him during this, and Sid gives great “I’d like to hunt down non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and kick its ass!” face. Saku is not there to accept the award, but the crowd gives a warm ovation anyway. The next crowd shot is of Kessel, no longer doing a good job of looking like he knows the camera’s going to be on him during this sequence. Nieder is directly behind him, and looks enough like a cranky old man that we kind of hope he’ll lean forward, smack Kessel on the back of the head, and growl, “Quit fidgeting and pay attention!”
– McLean and Pat Quinn have a weird, lengthy introduction of Shane Doan, who then joins Quinn to present the Jack Adams. Uh, why not just have Doan start this out on stage with Quinn? Was he in the bathroom? By the way, Doaner cleans up very nicely. Vigneault wins it, and as he takes the stage we get a fleeting glimpse of Pando sitting across the aisle from him. And Mrs. Pando? Apparently not actually a raccoon. Huh. That’s kind of disappointing.
– Marty is shown, stony-faced, in the crowd politely clapping for the Jennings guys. He is so over the Jennings.
– The “Ed” guy and Larry Murphy present the Norris. Their banter is so lame it makes the rest of this show seem like Shakespeare. Damn. That was brutal. Lidstrom wins (Nieder actually looks disappointed), and we’re glad to see it because he’s on Pando’s side of the theater. Pando looks very alert and animated applauding him, probably because he’s one of the guys who was included in Lidstrom’s highlight reel not scoring.
– The Vezina presentation patter leaves us slackjawed in horror. A cut to Luongo shows he feels exactly the same way. Marty’s intro voiceover mentions he led the league in minutes played. Pookie, through gritted teeth: “Yeah, no shit.” We leap to our feet and scream like a playoff overtime goal was scored because Marty wins. He is sitting right in front of Pando, but doesn’t turn to shake hands with him or anything. He stops to shake hands with Lou, who has brought Jacques Caron as his date. Marty’s speech is his usual, charming, passive-aggressive cocky self, cracking jokes about how everyone in the Devils organization (and its fans) can just suck it up because he’s going to play as many minutes as he damn well pleases until the day he dies. Or something like that.
– Gordie Howe comes out to present the Hart Trophy. As far as we’re concerned, Gordie Howe can do whatever the hell he wants presenting this. He walks on water. We met him at the All-Star Game in 1997, and seriously, he was the sweetest, nicest guy in the history of the universe. And we adore his suit; that blue shirt rocks. The split screen of the finalists is hilarious. Surly Marty and Luongo are in shadows on the sides, and Sid is bathed in white light in the center, gazing upward, his lipgloss beaming, ready for his coronation. Sid rectifies the grievous omission from his earlier acceptance speech and remembers this time to thank his training staff. They’ll be needed, too, after Marty makes good on what he’s probably thinking right now: “I will cut you, bitch!”
– Sid has barely finished speaking when McLean rushes us to the conclusion of this delightful affair. One last pan of the applauding crowd shows Pando, who deserved better.