Friday, 19 June 2009

Your Friends Think You're Good

We've taken a look at a couple of individual awards that mean a great deal in terms of personal accomplishments. The Hart Trophy is awarded to the season's MVP while the Art Ross Trophy is given to the league's leading scorer each season. However, if a player truly wants a measurement on how well he has played during the season, he needs to look no further than the accolades bestowed upon him by his teammates, colleagues, and peers. With that in mind, the NHL awards the Lester B. Pearson Trophy annually to the most outstanding player from the regular season as voted by member of the National Hockey League Player's Association. How did this trophy come about? Why is it named as such? What are the interesting things about this trophy?

Lester Bowles Pearson is a pretty important Canadian figure for a number of reasons. Mr. Pearson was born in Newtonbrook, Ontario on April 23, 1897. As a teenager, Pearson was a noted athlete, starring in sports like rugby, lacrosse, and baseball for the University of Toronto.

Pearson served as a stretcher bearer at the age of 17 with the rank of Private in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. In 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he was a Flying Officer. It was here that an instructor gave Pearson the nickname of "Mike" as the instructor thought that "Lester" simply wasn't intimidating enough for a fighter pilot. A series of accidents landed him back in Canada, however, but he continued to be called by Mike as much as he was called by Lester.

After the war ended, Pearson went back to school, picking up his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Toronto. From there, he transferred to Oxford University in England where he was a star with the Oxford Canadians ice hockey team. After receiving his Master of Arts degree, Pearson returned to the University of Toronto where he coached the Varsity Blues football team and the Varsity Blues men's ice hockey team.

Pearson has represented Canada in terms of diplomatic service on a number of occasions. He was Canada's ambassador to the United States in 1945-46. He helped found both the United Nations and NATO during his time as a diplomat. The UN Charter was drafted and ratified by October 24, 1945, and NATO being officially founded on April 4, 1949 in Brussels, Belgium.

Pearson joined the Liberal Party of Canada in 1948 as the Minister of External Affairs. It was here that Pearson really excelled. In 1957, Pearson was instrumental in helping to diffuse the Suez Crisis through the work of the United Nations, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. It has been said that Pearson is the forefather of modern peace-keeping with his actions.

In 1963 and 1965, Pearson was voted in as the Prime Minister of Canada while leading the Liberal Party. While in power, Pearson combined the various sections of the Canadian military into one unit called the Canadian Armed Forced. Pearson's government instituted an immigration policy based upon merit rather than race, most of which is still used today by the Canadian Immigration Offices.

Pretty impressive stuff, eh? How many other sports have a trophy named after the leader of their country? How many have a trophy named after a Nobel Peace Prize winner? I'm going on record as saying "not many".

The NHLPA presented the Lester B. Pearson Trophy to the NHL in 1970. It is viewed in hockey circles as an equal to the Hart Trophy due to the players selecting one of their own as the best player from that season. The first recipient of the Lester B. Pearson Trophy was Boston Bruins' forward Phil Esposito in 1970-71.

Here are some interesting facts about the Lester B. Pearson Trophy:

  • Wayne Gretzky has won the Pearson Trophy the most with five wins in his career. Mario Lemieux has four wins, and Jaromir Jagr and Guy Lafleur have three wins each.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins have the most Pearson awards as a team with seven winners, followed by the Edmonton Oilers with six winners.
  • Since 1971, the Pearson has been awarded 38 times to 22 different players.
  • In 13 of those 38 occasions, the same player has won both the Hart Trophy and the Pearson Trophy in the same season.
  • In seven of those 13 occasions, the same player has won the Hart Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, and the Pearson Trophy.
  • Only two goaltenders have won the Lester B. Pearson Trophy: Mike Liut of the St. Louis Blues in 1980-81, and Dominik Hasek in 1996-97 and again in 1997-98.
  • Only one defenceman has ever won the Pearson Trophy: Bobby Orr in 1974-75.
  • Mark Messier is the only repeat winner of the Pearson Trophy to win the award on two different teams. Messier won with Edmonton in 1989-90, and won it again with the New York Rangers in 1991-92.
  • Despite their long history of success, the Montreal Canadiens have only had one player win the Pearson Trophy. Of course, Guy Lafleur won it three times in a row from 1975-78.
Tomorrow, we continue our look at the history of the NHL trophy case as the James Norris Memorial Trophy is on-deck. Congratulations to the 2009 Lester B. Pearson Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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