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.