The forgotten arena: The Sprint Center in Kansas City

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Most of the time, NHL teams and their arenas have the same types of problems. The Islanders live in the old, Nassau Coliseum and are desperately trying to get funding for a better home on August 1. They went through a similar situation with the Lighthouse Project referendum last summer. Edmonton residents are also going through a taxpayer/arena debate revolving around a downtown home to replace Rexall Place. The teams and cities may change, but the story is usually the same: an NHL team needs a new place to play because the old arena isn’t cutting it anymore.

Then, in the middle of the United States, there’s a curious case of the Sprint Center in Kansas City. It’s peculiar because their problem is the contradicts just about every other arena dispute in any other sport. The fine folks in Kansas City have already forked out taxpayer money and have already built a beautiful, state-of-the-art building that would be great for hockey. Now they just need a team to fill the building.

Unlike the residents of Nassau County, taxpayers have already agreed to a publically funded building. They did so without the tangible benefit of a team already in town. No, their problem isn’t a suitable building—it’s getting a team to play in the building. Luc Robitaille was the point man to find a permanent tenant for Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) when the Sprint Center opened its doors in 2006.  He’s seen the obstacles to bringing hockey Kansas City.

“You have to have some kind of local buyer. I don’t know to what level were the talks in Kansas City, but there were some rumblings from time to time. But you have to have a buyer. What happened with Winnipeg is they had this buyer who was willing to do whatever it took for that.”

It’s been five years since the Sprint Center opened for business and it’s never been further from landing a team. First there was the possibility of the Pittsburgh Penguins relocating to Missouri. Then there were rumors that Boots Del Biaggio would buy the Predators to relocate the team to Kansas City. But after both of those deals fell through and the respective franchises stayed put, Kansas City and the Sprint Center have gradually fallen off the map.

A pair of preseason games with poor attendance certainly didn’t help the market’s cause either. A preseason game between the Coyotes and Kings only registered 11,603 tickets sold at the box office. The following year, the Islanders and Kings played in front of only 9,792 fans for a preseason game. It shouldn’t be surprising that Kansas City is barely even mentioned when a team is moving now.

Like Robitaille said, local ownership is a must if the Sprint Center is every going to house an NHL team. But for the market to be successful, fans in the area are going to have to be as passionate about the sport as any potential owner. True North and the residents of Winnipeg had the passion and determination to make it happen when the Atlanta Thrashers became available. Kansas City and their beautiful arena weren’t even on the radar. If the city of Glendale is unable to get a deal worked out with a new ownership group before the 2012-13 season, there’s a very good chance that the Coyotes will be on the move as well. There’s probably not a better arena in all of North America that is looking for an NHL tenant. But is there a demand to bring professional hockey back to Kansas City?

Until there is a local ownership group willing to make it happen, the building and fans will just have to settle for concerts and Big XII basketball.

Islanders’ Barry Trotz claims Jack Adams Award

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Barry Trotz left the Washington Capitals after guiding them to a Stanley Cup championship and took over a New York Islanders’ squad that many people didn’t believe in. His team shattered expectations though with their 48-27-7 record and for that he was named the Jack Adams Award winner Wednesday night. The trophy is given annually “to the coach voted as the best in the NHL” by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.

When Trotz took over the Islanders, they were coming off a 35-37-10 and they would be moving forward without their former captain and best player in John Tavares. Despite that, Trotz guided the Islanders to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 on the strength of their defense and goaltending.

This is the second time that Trotz has won the Jack Adams Award. He previously claimed it with the Washington Capitals in 2016. The only other bench boss to ever win the award twice is Al Arbour.

Trotz also surpassed Arbour for fourth place in the all-time wins list as a head coach during the 2018-19 campaign. Trotz has 810 wins, putting him behind just Ken Hitchcock (849), Joel Quenneville (890), and Scotty Bowman (1,244).

You can view the full vote below:

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Ryan O’Reilly adds Selke to 2019 trophy haul

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During his speech, Ryan O'Reilly nailed it: “this week has been a lot.” After winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy, the St. Louis Blues’ two-way forward won the 2019 Selke Trophy on Wednesday.

O’Reilly finished ahead of two strong finalists in Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) and Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights).

The Selke Trophy is simply described as “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” and ROR certainly fits that bill. O’Reilly was also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, so he was getting recognition even before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

Here are the voting results. As you can see, Sidney Crosby came close to finishing in the top three:

Anze Kopitar took home last year’s trophy, while Bergeron won his fourth Selke in 2017-18.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Masterton Trophy goes to Islanders’ Robin Lehner

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Robin Lehner had an amazing year on the ice and off the ice he became a source of inspiration for others. For that, he won the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded annually by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.”

“I’m not ashamed to say I’m mentally ill but that doesn’t mean I’m mentally weak,” Lehner said as he accepted the trophy.

He battled drug addiction and was diagnosed as bipolar and ADHD with PTSD and trauma. Before the season began, he wrote an article that appeared in The Athletic, opening up about what he went through. In it he admitted that he had “never had a sober season of hockey my entire career,” but he got help and was able to get sober.

“I am not sharing this story to make people think differently of Robin Lehner as a professional goalie,” he wrote. “I want to help make a difference and help others the way I have been helped. I want people to know that there is hope in desperation, there is healing in facing an ugly past and there is no shame in involving others in your battle.

“My journey is still new. Every day is a battle and each day a new chance to grow as a man. It is time to take the ‘crazy person’ stamp from bipolar disorder. I am working hard to become the latest to battle this unfair stigma. Our battle together is just beginning.”

After that confession, he went onto record the best season of his career. He had a 25-13-5 record, 2.13 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 46 games to help the Islanders surprise the league by posting a 48-27-7 record.

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

At 35, Mark Giordano finally wins Norris Trophy

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The 2019 Norris Trophy goes to: Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano. Giordano beat finalists Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) and Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning).

Sometimes the wording of an award can provide some insight, or perhaps semantic debates, on an award, so note that the Norris Trophy is described as: “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” Do with that, what you may.

Giordano, 35, didn’t have the instant transition into the NHL that, say, Hedman enjoyed. The 35-year-old went undrafted, and was playing in Russia as recently as 2007-08 before finally truly cementing his spot with the Flames starting in 2008-09. He’s been one of those “hidden gems” for some time, but he won’t slip under the radar any longer, as Gio is now a Norris Trophy winner.

As you can see the voting really dropped off after the top five, while John Carlson and Morgan Rielly weren’t that far from being in the top three.

Hedman won the Norris Trophy in 2018, while Burns won in 2017, so they’re probably not too upset to see Giordano get his kudos.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.