Saturday, May 2, 2009

The NHL Awards, And How They are Determined

Much has been made recently about the omission of Pekka Rinne from consideration for the Calder Award, given to the Rookie of the Year in the NHL, and Shea Weber for the Norris Trophy. Rinne was certainly worthy of consideration, compiling numbers similar to Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets, one of the finalists. Weber had an outstanding campaign, certainly worthy of the recognition for the Norris. Curious about the process, I contacted Kevin Allen, a hockey writer for USA Today and President of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA). Kevin told me there are 160 voting members of the PHWA out of the 270 total members of the organization. These writers vote for the following awards: Hart, Norris, Calder, Selke, and Lady Byng. Additionally, they vote for the All Rookie team and the NHL All Star team. According to Alan Adams, secretary of the PHWA, the membership in this group has declined markedly over the past year, continuing a trend of declining membership, and includes some bloggers (mostly affiliated with a newspaper) and part time writers. I understand from Kevin that John Glennon is a member of the PHWA, but calls to Glennon to confirm this were not returned.

Anyone that has followed the newspaper business knows that circulation- and staff- is shrinking. Hockey coverage for the Predators, for instance, is now relegated to home games, with wire reports providing game coverage for road games. This is true for many teams in the NHL now. This leads one to ask how extensive is the knowledge of a player like Rinne or Weber by writers/bloggers in other markets? A player may be seen for a game once every couple of years in a market such as Toronto, which has a high concentration of PHWA members. Does this affect the voting for one of these awards? While I have no empirical evidence that it does, one can't help but believe that the lack of exposure that a player in Nashville has is going to hurt in the voting for these awards. If Nashville has one member of the PHWA, and there is a concentration of members in a market like Toronto, where do you think the interest and exposure will lie?

While the dissemination of information about the league and its players has moved to other channels, such as bloggers, the fact remains that a player in a non-traditional market is going to have to put up eye popping numbers to be considered for a major hockey award, as many of the bloggers that provide excellent coverage are not members of the PHWA. Since the Tennessean and other traditional media outlets are pulling back their coverage, perhaps it is time to recognize what bloggers bring to hockey coverage in their local markets and accept them into the PHWA.

All of this points to the fact that players in non-traditional markets will face an uphill battle to receive the recognition they are due. Bloggers like the Forechecker and Preds on the Glass that are starting to receive national recognition and following will be the new conduits to get the message out about the play of of budding stars in their local markets. Time for the PHWA to recognize the realities of the marketplace and let their membership reflect those realities.


  1. Great article that is right on point. The Preds will always be fighting an uphill battle for recognition with the system geared as it is today. The PHWA is really loaded with Canadian market and big city media that is virtually impossible to overcome in situations like Pekka's. Mason had the Canadian press behind him as he was a national hero in juniors so the fact that he was in Columbus did not hinder him in the voting. Even with a different group of voters it was the same for Sully as he is well liked in Canada, Chicago and other larger markets. As newspapers continue to decline something will have to change but it won't be anytime soon. Thanks for the kind words for POTG. One of our goals is to try have appeal in other markets and have guests from all over on the radio show to try to increase Preds awareness all across North America. I really appreciate your recognition of that. Dirk (Forechecker) is one of the best at what he does anywhere and is recognized for it my many traditional pundits.

    John is a member of the PHWA and I believe i recall that he voted Mason, Ryan and Pekka for the Calder. I was somewhat concerned that he didn't pull a "homer" and vote Pekka #1 but I guess that's what he is a pro and I'm still learning.

  2. I'm not so sure that teams like Columbus and Anaheim, where two of the Calder nominees come from, are really teams in the spotlight for writers in Toronto. Nashville's not neglected any more than the Blue Jackets or Hurricanes, etc., would be.

    That Mason was a high profile junior star would have more to do with it than any favouritism for a team in Ohio.

    I saw hundreds of games this year and picked Rinne third. He didn't start enough games to finish higher than that: