Here we are again, Gentle Reader, another awards show. Last year VS tried to best us by putting everything on an “unintentional” four-and-a-half-hour delay filled with TapOut and boxing, so this year we beat them to the punch. Thanks to the Red Carpet event starting on NHL Network at the ungodly hour of 6PM (seriously, NHL, what is your problem? Wait, don’t answer that. We really don’t have enough time to start delving into it), we decided to have a leisurely evening, and watch all this excitement on our own time. Tape delay us once, VS, shame on you. Tape delay us twice? Shame on us.
– Our recording jumps right in with an interview with Nick Lidstrom, who we agree looks like he’s just returned from a months-long vacation. There is no doubt that the man is a robot.
– We segue into an interview with Mike Babcock after a stats screen shows us how many Norrises Lidstrom has won, and the NHL Network studio host leads us in by saying Lidstrom plays in a system implemented by Babcock. Pookie: “I actually think Babcock coaches a system implemented by Lidstrom, but whatever.” As he blathers on in his dolty, annoying voice, we can’t help but notice that robot Lidstrom was interviewed in front of a sparkling clean Starbucks, while Babcock’s in front of a boarded-up store called “Illicit”. Telling. (Walking behind Babcock? An extravagantly foxy Zetterberg. In case anyone wondered whether he cleaned up nicely.)
– What the hell? Last year when VS carried the red carpet feature, they had all kinds of painful, boring filler that was all actual red-carpet material. NHL Network, though, gives it the On The Fly treatment, cutting away from the substance to give us “pertinent” stats screens. What kind of red carpet event has stats screens?
– We get an interview with Backstrom. We are unimpressed. Surprisingly. He’s also not gushing over his teammate and coach being up for awards, no matter how his interviewer tries to get him to do so.
– Next up? Patrick/Pete Kane. The only explanation for his hair would be that he showered in the car on the way over. Pookie: “He looks like a twerp. I think I’m going to vote for Toews.” Kane sounds like he is tempting fate when he explains in his interview that he didn’t miss any games this past season because, well, he’s invincible. When the camera pans back to a wide angle of the crowd, we see that there is a random ladder set up right at the entrance to the theater. Pookie: “Look at that! They’ve set up a ladder just so Pete can walk under it and suffer his career-ending injury tonight!”
– After Pete Kane, we get to talk to Pookie’s new boyfriend. Schnookie, after a long pause: “That’s Toews?” Pookie, after a longer pause: “Yeeeeeah. He looks like his head was stuck in a [Mimes a sliding door opening and shutting].” Toews opens his mouth to respond to a question, and Schnookie asks, “Is he a Shattuck boy?” As his dullardly tones, laced with entitlement, drone on, Pookie asks, “How can you tell?”
– Having wrapped up the Calder finalists’ interviews, we cut to a sideline reporter who says of the race for that trophy, “It’s a real toss-up between Toews and Kane… and Backstrom.” Wow. That’s some great insight. Pookie: “I didn’t catch that guy’s name before this started. I think it’s Obvious McObviouston.”
– We move on to the Norris, and get to chat with Chara, who looks so tanned you’d think he just finished up winning the Stanley Cup as captain of the Red Wings. Just as we start discussing his charity climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the interviewer asks him where he’s been spending his summer and what plans he’s got. The most shocking revelation of this year’s All-Star Game was how twinkly Chara is, and he has no shortage of that twinkle when he smilingly shrugs that he’s been in Boston, Florida, is planning a charity thing for Right To Play in Africa, then will be in Boston…” Yeah, it’ll just be a spot of mountain climbing. Maybe a bit of a hike. No biggie. We really like Chara. (Maybe liking Chara is a result of learning to dislike Gionta…?)
– NHL Network gives us a stats screen about how many Norrises Lidstrom has won, and then says we’re going to chat with Dion Phaneuf next. Boomer: “I really hope he didn’t waste any time writing his acceptance speech.” We suspect Dion started writing his Norris acceptance speech when he got drafted into Juniors.
– Phaneuf’s shirt is staggeringly hilarious. He’s wearing a perfectly cromulent stripe-patterned tuxedo, but the shirt has this awful white-on-white print that isn’t quite cool enough to be described as bandana print. Before we can even really wrap our minds around how bad the whole get-up looks, the simpering interviewer starts begging Phaneuf to let her interview his guest. Elisha Cuthbert is very conspicuously standing off to the side, fake-talking with a group of people, her back to the camera. As Phaneuf squeaks repeatedly in his girlish voice that he’d kind of rather she didn’t, the interviewer slips around him, grabs Cuthbert, and wheedles her to talk. Cuthbert pretends she’s not delighted, then airily waves that she has no idea what designer she’s wearing, then coos that she’s just there to support Dion. All three parties in this exchange then stand there looking pleased with themselves.
– We go to an interview with Evgeni Nabokov next, and he looks darling, as always. Pookie: “Ten bucks says Marty’s not even there tonight.”
– After the Nabokov interview, a stats screen pops up with the Vezina winners since 2000. The list is: Olaf Kolzig, Dominik Hasek, Jose Theodore, Martin Brodeur, Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Brodeur. Pookie: “Which of these names is not like the others?” Schnookie: “Martin Brodeur.” Pookie: “Ouch. I was thinking Jose, but… ZING!” And really, Kolzig, Theodore, post-2000 Hasek and Kipprusoff are all totally of a kind, so Marty really is the name that sticks out.
– It seems Hank Lundqvist most not have come either, because instead of interviews, we’re now getting a Vezina-finalists highlight reel. We zap over it. It’s a good thing we’ve got the fast-forwarding on, because next up is a round of Jack Adams finalists’ interviews. Yawn.
– Ack! The fast-forward screeches to a halt when Vinny “Future Devil” Lecavalier appears on the screen. What has he done to himself? His close-cropped haircut is simply not working at all; Pookie says slowly, “I don’t think his head is the right shape for that.” Is he trying to show off to Lou that he can be a Devils kind of closely-shorn guy? After some discussion, we decide there’s a Devils logo shaved into the back of his head. And after deciding that, we’re totally on board with this haircut.
– Now that we’ve realized we can zap over this, we can’t stop ourselves. We dash through the Hart finalist highlight reel, and then continue zapping when the interview with Ovechkin starts. Boomer reaches her breaking point now, wondering how a guy with as much money and free time as Alex Ovechkin has can’t clean up better than this. His hair is giving us the heebie-jeebies. Also, Rod Brind’Amour proved conclusively last year that wearing a tie like that is not a sound sartorial decision. Ovechkin is just demonstrating that point in a weaker, more watered-down way.
– Iginla follows on Ovechkin’s heels, and he’s also wearing a terrible “outside-the-collar” tie. But his collar tips are folded kind of demurely, and the arrangement looks a bit like origami, so he’s got that going for him. He’s also impossibly charming, honestly laughing that he knows he’s not winning any awards.
– Ray Shero gets to fill in for Evgeni Malkin, who slunk past all the cameras. You know what Shero doesn’t do? Rentals.
– Has the red carpet content ended? We’re now watching what seems to be an “every single finalist for everything” highlight reel. When the highlight reel ends, we get to interview Bill Daly, which answers our question. Yes, the red carpet content is over.
– Because NHL Network has another 20 minutes to fill, we get to talk to Ted Leonsis. Whee. We listen to the sideline guys going on about how an Ovechkin/Green tandem is the bestest 1-2 punch in the hockey universe (Pookie: “It seems the minute someone says the name “Ovechkin”, everyone forgets all about Crosby”), then re-start the fast-forward when we cut to a Gary Bettman interview. This show is officially really boring now.
– We finish off with an interview with the show’s co-host, Craig Simpson. Seriously. A Craig Simpson interview. Zzzzzzz… He flatlines while talking up the opening act, Stompin’ Tom. You know what, Gentle Reader? We think we’re ready for the real show now.
– Oh, thank heavens. It’s time for the real show.
– Sweet! Coronation Street! How utterly fantastic is it that after last year’s fiasco, VS and CBC still can’t figure out how to share this broadcast? After a few minutes of Coronation Street, we are treated to a snipped of the Draft Lottery show, and then we cut, in progress, to Ron MacLean’s intro blather. We missed Stompin’ Tom! Thank you a billion times over, CBC and VS, for sparing us that.
– Fuck you, CBC and VS, for not cutting in a few minutes later, and sparing us revisiting the stupid Petr Sykora OT goal (Schnookie: “The NHL is admitting that there wasn’t a single other moment in this entire season that anyone cares about, I guess.”) and the thoroughly uninteresting story of how the Pens ate pizza during the OT intermissions. Really, isn’t it only a story when they don’t eat pizza during OT intermissions? Whatever. MacLean is talking so quickly it’s easier just not to try to pay attention.
– What the hell? MacLean moves on to revisit the Ice Bowl, setting up for it with an enormously labored Singin’ In The Rain back story. Pookie: “What the fuck? This is like a tour of all of Pookie’s least favorite moments of the season.”
– We have no idea what MacLean is talking about anymore. Something about Brian Burke. We can’t hear him over Boomer wailing that he is an impossibly terrible host. “I keep forgetting about him hosting this,” she explains, “And every year it gets worse than the year before.” Pookie: “No it doesn’t. Every year it’s equally bad, because it can’t get worse.”
– Martin St. Louis presents the Pearson Award, and we are stumped by his haircut. He looks like he’s wearing the top of someone else’s head, but we can’t figure out whose. Ovechkin wins, and at one point stumbles over his speech, then pauses with a chuckle. The crowd breaks into applause. Pookie: “Look at him! He just graced them all with Fun!”
– We come back from commercial, and Hasek is on the stage with MacLean. They have an exchange about the Portugal/Czech game in the Euro Cup from yesterday, and we can’t really tell whether that was just two people who are incapable of sounding normal when they speak or whether that was poorly scripted. Hasek rambles goofily while accepting the Jennings.
– MacLean introduces Craig Simpson by leaning down to address the youth hockey kids clustered at the front of the stage and enthusing his introduction in tones that are normally reserved for announcing the imminent arrival of Santa Claus. Not a single kid looks interested. Considering Simpson’s job here seems to be reading a vague script about young people in hockey and then ceding the spotlight to a highlight reel of young, good NHLers, we can’t blame them. The highlight reel goes on and on and on, and is framed on the screen so that the picture part is a tiny swath of the middle, framed by giant empty white banners, and as the goals and saves all start to blur together, Pookie says through gritted teeth, “They are forgetting someone.” The show’s producers just barely save themselves by tossing a nanosecond of Zach in right at the end.
– We pause for a moment, and Pookie declares, “I’ve just reached the point in this show when I realize again how terrible it is.” Boomer: “I was there one minute into Ron MacLean’s intro.”
– Carbonneau presents the Selke, and he sounds strangely like he has a speech impediment rather than a French Canadian accent. The players themselves are introduced by a youth hockey player reading a script on tape, because the only thing that could make this experience any worse would be child actors. Datsyuk wins (we’re stunned Madden showed up, by the way), and as he shuffles around the podium with his speech paper, Pookie exclaims, “He looks like a composer.” A composer with a head made out of candy corn, that is. He wins our hearts and minds by halting through a very short, simple speech, then apologizes, “I want to speak longer, but… my English… short.” See, Malkin? It’s not hard.
– Cassie Campbell and Adam Graves present the King Clancy, and Graves is wearing a shiny suit. A shiny three-piece suit. That is a ton of shiny material there. The captain of the 2008-2009 Devils, Vinny Lecavalier, wins it. We are totally over our initial concerns with his haircut. DAMN, but he can work it. We rewind and watch a few times as he suavely makes his way up to the stage, high fiving all the little kids, looking like a zillion bucks, then neglects to actually take his trophy. He then pours it on by speaking in French to conclude his off-the-cuff speech, and really, in the words of alix, he was just singing directly to our ovaries. He’s going to be such a great Devil.
– With Vinny’s cooing still echoing in our womanly bits, we get back to the show. Paused on our TV, Gravy’s suit looks like it’s made out of garbage bags. When Boomer discovers that we just gave Vinny the Devils’ C, she asks, “What’s Patty going to say about that?” Pause. Schnookie: “Um, Langer’s our captain.” Yeah. It’s a really good time for the Devils right now. Future’s so bright, and all. Sigh. We settle into a momentary depressed funk, before Schnookie asks, “So when we get Vinny, are we going to have to unretire 4?”
– Finally we resume the show, now that the glare off Gravy’s suit has burned a permanent shadow onto our screen. It’s Masterton time, the moment we finally get an answer to the debate that’s consumed the hockey universe – which is worse: leukemia, ulcerative colitis, or crippling old age? The NHL is nothing if not a traditional outfit, so the cancer wins.
– There is a very odd interlude while Simpson introduces the youth hockey kids in the house to us. He leans over to interview a kid sitting next to him, and the kid says he’s “12 turning 13.” Simpson goes off-script for a moment and chuckles, “That’s how it usually works.” The candid exchange serves to throw into sharp relief how stilted the scripted crap is.
– Red Kelly presents the Lady Byng, and we all get to settle into our “uncomfortable visit to a grandparent in an old folks home” moment. Pookie: “He is no Gordie Howe.” Schnookie, having tuned out for a moment: “What’s his name again? And what award are we presenting?” As the trophy intro rambles on, Pookie says, “If you’re not really watching or listening closely, this sounds like the audio from a Fireside Chat.” Datsyuk wins, and flat-out laps Ovechkin as everyone’s favorite goofy Russian of the evening by stepping up to the podium and saying, “Hi again.” He then explains that he was too nervous during his first award acceptance and left the sheet of paper with his speech on it at the podium, so now he doesn’t know what to say. He waves to the crowd, says, “Thanks,” and then giggles that this speech really is short.
– We come back from a commercial to see Ovechkin propped up between Simpson and MacLean, accepting the Art Ross and Rocket Richard. MacLean asks Ovie which of his professional-athlete parents gave him his scoring touch, and Ovie predictably answers, “Both.” MacLean responds to this like a 14-year-old girl pretending to be stupid to impress the high-school football player she’s hoping will ask her to the big dance. He twists a bit on his feet, buckling his knees coquettishly, and squeezes his face in a big, fake, “Oh you’re so funny!” expression. Maybe Boomer was right, and this performance by MacLean actually is worse than last year’s.
– Cammi Granato and Scotty Bowman present the Jack Adams, and Cammi has clearly not been taking teleprompter-reading tips from her husband. Boudreau wins and blubbers about how unprepared he is, because “a year ago I never would have believed I’d be here.” Yeah, but this morning you knew you’d be here, didn’t you, Bruce? Couldn’t you have prepared a speech then? He proceeds to deliver a carefully-rehearsed speech.
– MacLean subjects us all to a painfully unfunny Sean Avery joke, and the camera cuts to Pommerdoodle (looking impossibly adorable in his tux) in the crowd, reacting to the punchline. He looks puzzled, and not unlike he’s thinking, “Boomer’s right. This is way worse than last year!”
– Mike Bossy and Wendell Clark present the Calder, and they’re surprisingly good. Can they host next year? We race to pull on our Blackhawks Toews t-shirts, ready to erupt like he’s just scored a Cup-winning goal… and then Pete Kane breaks our hearts. We will never forgive him. The moment is alleviated somewhat by Wendell Clark hilariously not being able to figure out where in the envelope the winner’s name is, and Bossy not being able to keep himself from cracking up at him. Next year’s show should be all Bossy, Clark, and Datsyuk. Pete’s speech starts off with Pookie wondering, “Do you think he manages to work ‘First Overall’ in everything he says?” and ends with us feeling totally squicked out thanks to his crack about keeping his teammates away from his three “beautiful” younger sisters. Dude, Pete’s 19 years old. Pookie: “That is just so disgusting, unless they’re triplets and they’re, like, six months younger than him.” After the speech ends, MacLean piles on with the squick by saying it was a speech that Brenden Morrow needed, “but now it’s too late”. We’ve now crossed from “this show is terrible” into “I can’t wait to scrub my brain” territory.
– The NHL Awards show is the one hockey venue in which Gary Bettman doesn’t get booed. He presents the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award, and reads the intro like a particularly undynamic school principal. Gordie is the winner (because Gordie is the winner at everything, period), and we think he’s wearing the same suit he had on last year. The award seems to be a video tribute from Wayne. Oh, wait, it’s a video tribute called “Letters to Gordie”, from several all-time greats. We’ll throw ours in the ring: Dear Gordie – You are the only player from before our time as fans who we care about. Hugs and kisses, IPB.
– After Gordie’s acceptance speech, the show completely falls off the rails. The unstoppable action screeches to a halt with a relatively pointless (albeit still charming) interview with Iginla, then Bill Daly and a robot kid promote the admirable fundraising the NHL Awards has done for the Canadian Diabetes foundation, then Simpson settles down on the steps of the stage to interview another youth player, and then we’re given a highlight reel of old players. We decide this Old Fart reel was put together just to make us feel ancient.
– Paul Coffey and some Canadian actor woodenly present the Norris. Their delivery does nothing to dispel the amazing tension – who will win? Who??? We can’t handle it! The suspense! Oh, right. Lidstrom.
– Billy Smith and Alan Doyle (???) present the Vezina after a really awkward intro from Simpson. They… do not share a Bossy/Clark kind of chemistry. Marty wins, and seriously, the wonderfulness that is Marty is summed up perfectly in the moments during his walking up to the stage. He smirks the most magnificent, “Well of course” as he lurches to his feet from where he was slouching in his seat, turns to shake Lou’s hand in the row behind him, waves to someone else in Lou’s row, then starts with The Swagger. His suit looks like he bought it on the way to the show, and as he rolls up to the stage, Boomer cracks in her Marty voice, “Oh, was this formal?” Sadly, he doesn’t look like a barrel this year; Pookie wonders if he’s gone on the Madden Diet. The cocky smirk nearly breaks our television as he says in his off-the-cuff speech, “It’s always nice to be able to compete with these guys,” and then he cracks himself up suggesting this might be his last Vezina. He passhole-aggressholes in Lou’s direction that he’s psyched “to get a better team” this summer, and then he moves on to thanking his teammates. He airily mentions how important his teammates are because of how often he plays, and then he proceeds to explain that he needs guys like Madden and Pandolfo in front of him. The camera cuts to a stony-faced Madden, who is shooting daggers with his eyes toward the stage, and everyone tries to pretend they didn’t notice that Marty didn’t thank a single defenseman by name. Probably because he doesn’t know any of his defensemen by name.
– Bob Gainey presents the Hart, and there is all the suspense of the Norris presentation with none of the foxy Swedish robots. For a guy who’s being talked up as the dynamo personality that Sid isn’t, Ovechkin gives a thoroughly humdrum speech. He needs to go to Datsyuk’s School Of Charming Russian-ness.
– Finally, it’s over. Fortunately, the dreadfulness of this event only takes about 11 ½ months to forget, so we’ll be back here next year, ready to be shocked by exactly how bad it is. We hope to see you there.