Welcome to Hockey Culture, the NBC Sports multi-platform content offering dedicated to bringing equality and inclusion to hockey. Led by NBC Sports’ Anson Carter, Hockey Culture addresses contemporary topics within the sport, aim to promote diversity around the game , and increase community engagement.
This week, Anson talks with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Kim Davis, the league’s senior executive vice-president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs. They discuss why the players and league agreed to take a two-day pause in August to stand in solidarity with the fight against racial injustice, the importance of zero tolerance at hockey’s youth level, and the approach the expansion Seattle Kraken have taken to create a diverse organization.
Bettman and Davis also give their vision of what progress in these areas looks like in five years.
The NHL will finish handing out its hardware for the 2019-20 season during a 30-minute show Monday, Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Co-hosted by Kenny Albert of NBC Sports and Scott Oake of Sportsnet, the show will take place inside Rogers Place in Edmonton, home of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The winners of the Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Calder Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award will be announced. Oilers greats Wayne Gretzky (Hart/Calder), Mark Messier (Lindsay), Grant Fuhr (Vezina), and Paul Coffey (Norris) will present the five remaining awards.
The 2020 NHL awards will be handed out to the top players, coaches, and general managers around the league during the postseason.
In normal times the 2020 NHL awards would be given out during a big to-do in Las Vegas at the end of June. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the winners will be announced in two parts. Last week NHL awards such as the Masterton, Jack Adams, Selke, and GM of the Year, among others, were revealed during the NBC Sports pre-game shows before each of the Conference Finals games.
The bigger 2019-20 NHL awards such as the Hart, Calder, Norris, Vezina, and Lindsay will be handed out Monday night at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream) before the start of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Pro Hockey Talk staff made our own votes for a collective ballot. Each place was given a numerical value with 5 points for first, 4 points for second, 3 points for third, 2 points for fourth, and 1 point for a fifth-place vote.
Votes were submitted by PHT writers Sean Leahy, James O’Brien, and Adam Gretz, as well as Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor, and Jake Abrahams, NBCSports.com Managing Editor of NHL content. All ballots were submitted before the start of the NHL Return to Play.
LEAHY: He was an expensive free agent signing, but proved to be an impactful one, finishing fourth overall in the scoring race with 95 points. The Bread Man had the most 5-on-5 points (71) and assists (46), and was a plus-40 in even strength goal differential when he was on the ice.
O’BRIEN: Carlson’s 10-point edge (75 to 65) over Josi will be tough to ignore, especially for more traditionally-minded voters. But Josi has blossomed as a player who’s better in all areas of the ice, including his own end — but also in transition, where he’s crucial at lugging the puck for the Predators. I don’t know how long Josi will be worth the $9M cap hit he’ll begin registering in 2020-21, but he was more like an $11M defenseman this season.
O’BRIEN: This was a special season for rookie defensemen — already saying something a year after Rasmus Dahlin debuted — as Hughes faced competition from the likes of Adam Fox, not just the brilliant Cale Makar. But, while it won’t count toward the Calder, we saw that Hughes is special not just because of his offensive ability, but by being one of the best all-around defensemen right out of the gate. It really feels like these playoffs are a “passing of the torch” to great young defensemen (see also: Miro Heiskanen) and Hughes enjoyed a rookie year for the ages.
LEAHY: Hellebuyck’s .929 5-on-5 save percentage was fifth-best in the NHL and his six shutouts were tops in the league. How valuable was he for Winnipeg? He helped the Jets win 31 of their 37 games during the regular season and he faced 37-or-more shots in 13 games, posting a .948 save percentage over that span.
GRETZ: O’Reilly has become one of the NHL’s best all-around players and a cornerstone piece of what has become one of the best defensive teams in hockey. He plays big minutes against other team’s top players and not only shuts them down (no forward with a minimum of 500 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time this season was on the ice for fewer shot attempts against per 60 minutes), but he also plays a tough, physical game without taking penalties. It is an incredible — and very unique — combination.
ABRAHAMS: When Johns returned to the Stars’ lineup in January following a 22-month absence, we knew he had been dealing with post-traumatic headaches, but there weren’t really any other details surrounding his time away from the game. Then, when this story from The Athletic was published in June, we learned that he had not only battled chronic pain, but also anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Johns persevered through those significant physical and mental health issues to resume his promising NHL career, and through making his story public, he hopes others dealing with emotional trauma or mental health will be encouraged to seek help.
JIM GREGORY GM of the YEAR (Presented to recognize the work of the NHL’s top general manager.)
1. Joe Sakic, Avalanche (23 pts.) 2. Kelly McCrimmon, Golden Knights (7 pts.) Jeff Gorton, Rangers (7 pts.) 3. Lou Lamoriello, Islanders (5 pts.) 4. Don Sweeney, Bruins (4 pts.) Julien BriseBois, Lightning (4 pts.)
Don Waddell, Hurricanes (4 pts.) Jarmo Kekalainen, Blue Jackets (4 pts.) 5.Chuck Fletcher, Flyers (3 pts.)
ABRAHAMS: Sakic led the Avs to the second-best regular record in the West, despite significant injuries to a number of the team’s top players (an issue that arose once again in the playoffs). Though he inherited franchise cornerstones Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, he has assembled pretty much every other aspect of the roster. From drafting and developing Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, to acquiring key pieces via trade such as Nazem Kadri, Samuel Girard, and Ryan Graves, to finding value in free agency with Joonas Donskoi and Pavel Francouz, Sakic has constructed a true Cup contender. Colorado also ranks among the league leaders in terms of available cap space, so they should be well equipped – at least, relative to other top teams – to sustain their championship window.
JACK ADAMS AWARD (Awarded to the NHL head coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”)
1. John Tortorella, Blue Jackets (21 pts.) 2. Alain Vigneault, Flyers (16 pts.) 3.Bruce Cassidy, Bruins (11 pts.) 4. Jared Bednar, Avalanche (5 pts.) 5. Mike Sullivan, Penguins, (4 pts.) 6. Dave Tippett, Oilers (3 pts.)
FINEWAX: When the 2018-19 season ended, the Blue Jackets were left for the dead as they were on the verge of losing Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel. They lost all four and were considered a bottom-three team by many, but Tortorella put together his usual great system and had them on the verge of the playoffs the whole season. They beat Toronto in the play-in series and gave the Islanders all they could handle in a tough five-game series. But his work in the regular season was outstanding as the Blue Jackets had no business making the playoffs with their roster after losing so many stars.
LADY BYNG TROPHY: (Awarded to NHL “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”)
1. Jaccob Slavin, Hurricanes (14 pts.) 2. Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (12 pts.) 3. Ryan O’Reilly, Blues (11 pts.) Ryan Suter, Wild (11 pts.) 4. Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets (8 pts.) 5. Miro Heiskanen, Stars (7 pts.) 6.Aleksander Barkov, Panthers (5 pts.) 7.Teuvo Teravainen, Hurricanes (4 pts.) 8.Brayden Point, Lightning (3 pts.) 9.Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs (2 pts.)
GRETZ: Slavin might be one of the cleanest players the league has seen in years. In almost 1,600 minutes of ice-time during the regular season, in a top-pairing role against the most skilled players in the world on a nightly basis, Slavin committed just five minor penalties for the entire season. Two of those minor penalties were delay of game puck over the glass calls. His other three penalties were a trip (the only stick infraction), a hold, and an interference. No high-sticking, no roughing, no hits to the head, no slashing. Just a clean, solid, by-the-book player that is one of the best players in the league at his position.
SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken will split its players among several American Hockey League teams for its inaugural 2021-22 season with plans for their own AHL franchise in the Palm Springs area delayed by a year.
Oak View Group and the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation announced plans Wednesday to build a sports and entertainment arena in California’s Coachella Valley that will be the future home of the Kraken’s AHL franchise, but it will not open until the 2022-23 season.
Oak View had originally partnered with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians to build an arena on 16 acres of land owned by the tribe in downtown Palm Springs with the hopes of having the arena open for the 2021-22 season. But the sides could never finalize the agreement.
“We appreciate the ongoing support and encouragement from the community and are very pleased to be partnering with the Berger Foundation who share our vision for creating a world-class venue for the Coachella Valley and what will be one of the most premier music and professional sports arenas in the world,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group.
The new location for the arena will be closer to Palm Desert. Construction on the 10,000-seat arena will begin in 2021 and have a targeted completion date of late 2022.
“This new arena will offer a great game day experience from parking to puck drop,” said Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke.
NHL, players unveil series of anti-racism initiatives
EDMONTON, Alberta — The NHL on Thursday unveiled a series of anti-racism initiatives more than eight months after Akim Aliu brought the topic to the forefront in the predominantly white sport.
The league and NHL Players’ Association are planning mandatory inclusion and diversity training for all players at camp; partnering with the Hockey Diversity Alliance to launch a grassroots program for young players of color in the Toronto area; and working together on several inclusion committees aimed at encouraging diversity among executives, pro and youth players and fans.
”We applaud NHL players for recognizing the importance of this moment and for coming together as part of a genuine movement for change,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. ”We look forward to working with all voices of change to fight for equality and broaden access to the game we all love.”
The moves come amid mounting pressure from current and former minority players for the league to take concrete steps to address systemic racism. Colorado’s Nazem Kadri, a founding member of the alliance that was formed earlier this summer, reviewed the initiatives before they were announced and believes they show progress.
”Being a part of the HDA, we tried to lay out certain policies and initiatives that affect the grassroots program and the whole education process,” Kadri said. ”One of the first things we need to do is start educating the youth, the players, the staff, so it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”
The NHL agreed to establish committees for executive, player, youth and fan inclusion after Aliu met with the Board of Governors in December following his allegations that coach Bill Peters used racist language toward him in the minors. Peters resigned from his job with Calgary, and the league began moving toward addressing racism in hockey.
Aliu told The Associated Press recently that he and other members of the HDA wanted to see the league do tangible things to make a difference. He brought up having NHL-controlled arenas serve as polling stations, something the NBA agreed to do. The two leagues share some buildings.
”The other thing is a money commitment,” Aliu said. ”The NHL has to come up with the money for the Black and brown community.”
The Toronto-area program, and another pilot program in the U.S., is a step toward that, and the league also pledged financial support for the Center for Justice Research at Texas Southern University’s research program into improving the criminal justice system.
In addition to players and NHLPA going through mandatory inclusion and diversity training, league and team employees will take part in similar programs.
”Everyone should be able to live and work in an environment that is inclusive, and one that is free from racism and discrimination in any form,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said. ”In our sport, from the NHL to youth programs, we must take actions to achieve that goal, and to make our sport available and accessible to all.”
Aliu’s revelations in late 2019 made racism in hockey a bigger conversation, and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody that set off a nationwide debate on the subject pushed it even further in the NHL. Minnesota’s Matt Dumba gave an anti-racism speech on the opening night of the playoffs and afterward became the first player to kneel during the U.S. anthem.
Aliu said the league asked Dumba to speak after it was criticized for not having a plan to address racism upon the sport’s return.
”We feel like we bailed them out,” Aliu said. ”It wasn’t about them giving us a platform, we bailed them out. They asked us to do that for them. So, I think that’s important for people to know. Now when push comes to shove, you’re going to know who was honest and what was real and what was fake. tTat’s where we are now.”
More substantive action came when players pushed to postpone two days of playoff games in the wake of the police shooting of Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Players talked at length about using their platform to bring awareness to systemic racism, and the league made it a part of its pregame presentation when games resumed.