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While the Adam Sandlers, Steve Martins, and Chris Rocks of the world are the most famous people to come from “SNL,” the performers who were “lifers” land among the most talented. Kenan Thompson is one of those performers who stood the test of time, much like Darrell Hammond and Tim Meadows.
So, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising just how great Thompson was as a host of the 2019 NHL Awards, but either way, he knocked it out of the park on Wednesday.
It says a lot about the quality of the show that, even deep into the telecast – award shows are long, basically always – people were still laughing and smiling. From the emotions of Carey Price surprising a young fan, to Robin Lehner‘s speech about mental health, to the bonkers segments with “Tony Babcock,” the show had a little bit of everything.
And Thompson’s fantastic monologue really set a fun tone with legitimately great jokes.
Considering that the NHL wouldn’t want Thompson to go scorched earth like Norm MacDonald did during that unforgettable ESPYS appearance, this was a great mix of funny and wholesome.
Though, that’s not to say that there weren’t any spicy zingers.
- Watch as the Tampa Bay Lightning go stone-faced when Thompson makes a great barb about the Bolts getting swept.
- Enjoy the juxtaposition of many hockey people generally not reacting to jokes while their significant others laugh like the rest of us.
- Enjoy some great deep cuts, from jokes you’d be more likely to expect, to a really creative bit about The Pope Mobile being a penalty box on wheels, and the Pope getting five minutes for “cross-checking.” (Thompson deserved cheers, not boos, for that one.)
- Also, Thompson has a point about the Blues using “Gloria” instead of the actual Blues.
Overall, the 2019 NHL Awards are going to be a tough act to follow. Here’s hoping Thompson gets to try it in 2020, because he (and basically everyone else involved, Jillian Fisher was a great addition, too) did a truly fantastic job.
While it’s not quite at the same level as Thompson’s monologue, the cold open included John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Laila Anderson (!), so you might enjoy it, too:
A lot naturally happened during the 2019 NHL Awards and there are still some winners left to highlight. Before we do that though, let’s recap some of tonight’s big winners:
GM of the Year: Don Sweeney
Selke Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly
Jack Adams: Barry Trotz
Now let’s tackle the other winners.
King Clancy Trophy: Jason Zucker,
Zucker and his wife Carly began the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio with a $160,000 donation and have raised over $1.2 million in under a year. The project allows kids and their families at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital to watch Minnesota Wild games in a space that mimics the experience of being at the game.
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award: Wayne Simmonds
Before being traded to the Nashville Predators in February, Simmonds was deeply involved with the Flyers’ community efforts. Among other things, he was a board member for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation for six years. He also spent four years as an honorary chairman of their annual golf tournament, which is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser.
Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award: Rico Phillips
Things didn’t go as planned for Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning once the postseason began, but the 2019 NHL Awards serve as a helpful reminder that they made history through the 82-game regular season.
No Lightning player enjoyed a better season than Kucherov, and he was awarded appropriately on Wednesday. Kucherov won the 2019 Hart Trophy, which joins the 2019 Ted Lindsay Award (the player-voted version of the Hart), and the scoring title, i.e. the 2019 Art Ross Trophy.
He also enjoyed a wonderfully awkward comic segment with “Tony Babcock,” aka Thomas Middleditch, so it was a big night for Kucherov.
Kucherov beat finalists Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) for the Hart Trophy, which is the sort of sentence you lead with when you’re making a Hall of Fame argument.
Here are the voting results:
Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy last year, McDavid captured the 2016-17 Hart Trophy, and Sidney Crosby last won it in 2013-14.
The 2019 NHL Awards celebrates the best players and moments in hockey, but it’s also a great reminder of how much of an impact players can make off the ice.
As you can see from this roundup, Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker won the King Clancy for his humanitarian work, while the Willie O’Ree Community Award went to Rico Phillips, who’s doing tremendous work in Flint, Michigan.
Those were great moments, but the most emotional moment happened when Carey Price surprised young Montreal Canadiens fan Anderson Whitehead with a jersey, hug, and what sounds like a trip to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.
Warning: you’re very likely to cry while watching this clip. At first, it seems like Price’s video is coming from off site, as he spoke of Whitehead’s mother, who died of cancer at age 44. Price then interrupted his own message, and then surprised Whitehead on stage at the 2019 NHL Awards, and … it’s a goosebumps moment.
The look of shock and surprise on Anderson Whitehead’s face is the sort of thing that will stick with most of us far beyond who won the Hart Trophy and any awards debates, and even beats out the comedy bits, which were expertly deployed by SNL’s Kenan Thompson.
(Honestly, it might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen at a sports awards show.)
As a reminder, Price first gave Anderson Whitehead a hug earlier this season, and the moment went viral:
Great stuff … and good luck booing Carey Price.
If you need some comic relief after experiencing all of those feelings, enjoy Thompson’s opening monologue, which was really good stuff. May I lead the charge in getting Thompson to do the 2020 NHL Awards, and maybe become as much of a fixture during these ceremonies as he’s been a lifer with SNL? Just throwing my vote (which doesn’t count for anything) out there.