Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Original Six Era : All-Awards Team

Last month, the National Hockey League held their annual version of the Academy Awards in Las Vegas.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the Original Six era with a focus on silverware distribution, Based on a points system, I have formed "The Original Six Era, All-Awards Team. This team consists of one goalie, two defencemen, one centre, one right winger and one left winger. Points were assigned to winners of each of the following trophies - Art Ross (Top Scorer), Lady Byng (Gentlemanly Conduct), Vezina (Fewest Goals Against), Calder (Top Rookie), Smythe (Playoff MVP), Hart (League MVP)  and Norris (Top Defenceman).

 The years range from 1943 to 1967. There were several exceptions. The Art Ross Trophy was first awarded in 1948 and the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 1954. In the Original Six era, the Conn Smythe Trophy was only passed out on three occasions - 1965, 1966 and 1967.

The Lester Patrick Trophy "for outstanding service to hockey in the United States", first came upon the scene in 1966. In 1967, Gordie Howe was named the winner along with Charles Adams and James Norris Sr. Since this is considered a "recognition" award, no points were applied to Howe's overall score.

Each winner of a individual award was given ten points. In the case of goalies who shared in a Vezina win, five points were awarded. Remember, this is only an exhibition, please, no wagering! Here is the Original Six Era, All-Awards Team.


Jacques Plante is perhaps the greatest goalie in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. His unique style of wandering from his net to play a loose puck was a definite plus for his teammates. Also, is the fact he took a stance and insisted on wearing a goalie mask, following a injury suffered against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Gardens.

Plante won a total of 6 Vezina trophies - 1956, 57, 58, 59, 60, and 1962. In 1962, as a member of the Canadiens, Plante captured his lone Hart Trophy win.


Perhaps, the most dominate and creative rearguard of the era, Doug Harvey scored 70 points. He captured the Norris Trophy in 1955, 56, 57, 58, 1960, 61 and 62. It has been said of Harvey that his skills allowed him to control the tempo of a game. His offensive talent and mind-set made him an important member of the Montreal Canadiens. Harvey's ability to see the entire ice surface, allowed him to fed the puck to his teammates, thus creating scoring opportunities.


The honour of being the very first recipient of the Norris Trophy in 1954 goes to Kelly. It was his lone win in this category. Kelly, laid claim to 4 Lady Byng trophies, but for our purposes is only being credited with 3. His final Byng win in 1961 came as a forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kelly's ability to make the seamless switch from defence to offence provides some insight into his sense for playing the game. An argument could be made concerning Pierre Pilote in this category. His 3 consecutive Norris wins (1963, 1964 & 1965) clearly gives him a edge over Kelly when it comes to being recognized as the leagues top defenceman. However, since the focus is on overall award winners,  the edge goes to the former Red Wings defensive ace.

In addition to 1961, Red Kelly won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1951, 1953 and 1954.


Stan Mikita, a smooth play making centre for the Chicago Black Hawks, gathered his points by winning three different trophies. As the NHL leading scorer, he had his name engraved on the Art Ross Trophy in 1964, 1965 and 1967. In the final season of Original Six play, Mikita captured the Hart and Lady Byng. Early in his National Hockey League career, Stan "The Man" was considered to be one of the nastiest players in the business. His ability to tone down this aspect of his game, resulted in Mikita being the unlikely winner of a Lady Byng Trophy. The Hawks were considered an offensive powerhouse as the Original Six era came to a close, thanks to the efforts of Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull.


It was a situation feared by most goalies who faced the Chicago Black Hawks. The play would often develop deep in Chicago's zone, leaving plenty of time for the head games to sink into the goaltenders exposed noggin. A defenceman for Chicago, holding the puck behind Glenn Hall's net, waiting and waiting, for one target to come into focus. The Hawks blueliner spots the blur out of the corner of his eye. It is time for him to make his move. Without hesitation, he delivers the puck right on the tape. The fuse has been set, as Bobby Hull takes over the show. In an explosion of raw speed, "The Golden Jet" races up ice. When he reaches the opponents line, he unloads a bolt of lightning directed at an under equipped goalie.

Considered to be one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history, Hull won 3 Art Ross Trophies - 1960. 1962 and 1966. Hull was judged as being the leagues MVP (Hart) in 1965 and 1966. Also, in 1965, Hull won his only Lady Byng.


During the Original Six era, Gordie Howe and Maurice "Rocket" Richard were considered the best right wingers in the game. The two number 9's were front and centre as the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens ruled the league during the 1950s. Both Howe and Richard were skilled players, who didn't refrain from body contact. For Gordie Howe, this meant his stick became an extension of his arm. Buried in a corner with an opposition skater, Howe would jab, poke, slice and dice his counterpart. His physical escapades were a form of intimidation meant to enforce his dominance and the flow of a contest. Howe's overall body strength made him very difficult to move, once he parked himself at the edge of the crease. A typical Gordie Howe scoring chance came as a result of a rebound or scramble in front of the goal. He would create room, as his elbows would extend to protect the space he occupied. Howe possessed an accurate wrist shot and backhand.

As the feud continued between the arch rivals, Howe emerged over Richard, as the clear cut winner when it came to being crowned with individual awards. Over the span of his National Hockey League career, Howe won 6 Hart Trophies - 1952, 1953, 1957, 1956, 1960 and 1963. He won 6 Art Ross Trophies - 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1963.

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