I may be the only one, but I actually enjoyed the NHL Awards show this year. Thankfully, they chose to forego having the painfully unfunny Jay Mohr as the host for the third year running, instead choosing to go with no host at all. It turned out to be a good decision: the celebrity presenters were hit and miss, but considering they were only on stage for a few minutes at a time, the misses didn’t ruin the show and the hits didn’t overstay their welcome.
It wasn’t perfect by any means: the entire feel of the show doesn’t really fit the humble, team-first style of hockey and they’re a little too desperate to validate their celebrity guests by naming the specific team that they’re a fan of and that they really do go to the games. But overall, it was an enjoyable and functional show: there were a few laughs, a few endearing moments, and NHL players received NHL awards. Considering that’s the entire point of the exercise, it was a success.
After the jump, the highlights and lowlights of the NHL Awards.
- Nickelback were about as terrible as expected, but at the very least they’re not Chaka Khan and it’s more than likely that a decently high percentage of NHL players have Nickelback on their iPods. As much as I can’t stand them, they somehow sell a lot of records, so I’ve come to accept that a lot of people have terrible taste in music. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Through the magic of PVR, I fast forwarded through their two performances as soon as I confirmed that they were awful.
- Matthew Perry was the first presenter and the majority of his material consisted of making fun of his oown celebrity status, pointing out it’s not 1995. No one laughed the first time, but he kept at it and it got funnier each time. By the end, he got some good laughs. His self-effacing routine worked just fine.
- Instead of envelopes, the names of each award winner were hidden in a giant hinged puck. They were completely absurd and simultaneously fantastic.
- The first real stumble of the evening (unless you consider Erik Karlsson winning the Norris a stumble) was Adam Pally as the second celebrity presenter. His entire schtick was that he thought he was presenting the Hart Trophy and had to be corrected by a frantic man with a headset and clipboard. He then threw to a highlight video by announcing that he’s drunk. The entire joke is that the NHL Awards Show is amateur hour. Just a thought: wait until you’ve have established the professionalism of the show before making those kinds of jokes. By leading with it, you make the show actually look amateurish.
- While the show didn’t technically have a host, the role of host was taken by a series of sketches featuring Will Arnett impersonating Brendan Shanahan in parodies of his suspension videos. They were legitimately funny and grew increasingly absurd throughout the show. It also gave us some of the best one-liners of the night, like “I’m Brendan Shanahan of the NHL’s Department of Sweet Justice,” “I’m the almighty Brendan Shanahan of the National Department of Ass-Kicking,” and “Buy deodorant.”
- One of the best moments from Arnett’s videos came when the camera cut to Shanahan himself in the audience as he sat with a bemused expression, clearly not knowing how to react. One of the worst came when the camera cut to Gary Bettman after he made an appearance in one of the videos and he attempted the most terrifying wink at the camera that I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure he learned how to wink from Lucille Bluth.
- The other recurring element of the show featured Kevin Smith and it was nowhere near as good. In black and white videos, he stood in front of a mic in an empty club like he was performing stand-up comedy. It was a painful attempt at trying to be raw and unscripted and it just came off as pointless. And I like Kevin Smith, except for when he wrote a scene in which Batman peed his pants.
- I liked Tracy Morgan’s spoof of HBO 24/7, but it fell just short of excellence. Instead of just editing Morgan into 24/7 footage, it would have been even more entertaining to actually film a few scenes of Tortorella or Bryzgalov actually interacting with him.
- Cory Monteith had the best burn of the night, saying to Matthew Perry, “My mom thinks you’re really funny.” Ouch.
- Ken Hitchcock’s acceptance speech for the Jack Adams was one of the best of the night, highlighted by a superb one-liner when thanking other NHL head coaches: “Darryl Sutter, I wish you woulda stayed in Viking.”
- The worst sketch of the evening had a great concept: just like the NHL players enjoy themselves in Las Vegas, so too does the Stanley Cup, with the Cup rolling into town in the back of a limousine and enjoying VIP treatment. It hit it’s lowest point in a low-rent club scene featuring the Cup sitting on a stool while a number of girls danced arrythmically nearby. What the sketch really needed was more of Lord Stanley at the roulette table losing next month’s rent, getting drunk at the bar, marrying a random chorus girl courtesy of a priest dressed as Elvis, and eventually lying passed out in a gutter. But that might have been a pinch too edgy for the exceptionally safe show.
- Erin Andrews with the worst burn of the night: “I just heard the Devils got another penalty, which should give me enough time to hand out three quick awards.” Too soon. Way too soon.
- Elliott and Halak may have won the Jennings Trophy, Stamkos the Rocket Richard, and Malkin the Art Ross, but we’re not going to let them talk. Are you kidding me? We need more time for a second performance by Nickelback. Let’s keep them in shadows the entire time like they’re witnesses identifying suspects in a lineup.
- On the plus side for the production, they had the nominees for each award sitting in aisle seats one behind the other, allowing them to frame all three in the same shot. It was a nice touch.
- Landeskog, on the importance of family: “I want to thank my family, I’m really close to my family. For them to be here – except Mom, she’s in Hawaii working on her tan.”
- When Joshua Jackson (Charlie Conway!) apologized in advance for a bad joke, I steeled myself but was not prepared for the terrible, terrible pun that came out. Jackson even went out of his way to point out that he didn’t write it. Whoever did write it, you’re an awful human being. Just the worst. If you were on American Idol, VotefortheWorst.com would endorse you. If you were on Jersey Shore, you’d be Angelina. I’m not even going to repeat the joke here. It was that bad. To quote Donald Trump, “Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t shown it.” Wait, wrong quote: ”You’re fired.”
- I have no idea why so many shows insist on reading tweets on-air. Heidi Androl had the unenviable job of reading out twitter handles and hashtags and it was painful. Tweets are not meant to be read aloud. Just don’t do it.
- Kevin Connelly, apparently from Entourage, presented the Selke. Incredibly, he managed to show less personality than the players.
- On the other hand, I love Modern Family and I love Eric Stonestreet: “It’s my job to keep this moving like a Tortorella press conference.” His later Kris Angel joke was better. He was actually loose and genuine. Love that guy.
- Like the Jennings, Richard, and Art Ross winners, they put Alfredsson with his King Clancy award, Fisher with his NHL Foundation Player Award, and Doan with his Mark Messier Award in shadow as well. They didn’t get to talk, but Mark Messier did. Boo! Go home! Nobody likes you! Yes, I am a Canucks fan, why do you ask?
- Brian Campbell on getting married next week: “It’s busy times ahead.” I’m sure.
- The most painful celebrity presenter was Cheryl Burke, who made like she was looking for a new partner for Dancing with the Stars and made Steven Stamkos dip her. Her entire functional purpose for being there was to introduce the second Nickelback performance of the evening. So…maybe just don’t have her on the show at all.
- I was surprised to see the Alien/human hybrid from Alien Resurrection on hand to present the Vezina Award until I realized it was just Ray Liotta.
- Henrik Lundqvist’s hair is absurdly perfect and his casual f-bomb was hilarious. Stop being so awesome, Henrik, it’s not fair to the rest of us.
- It’s not a proper NHL Awards show until one of the celebrity presenters screws up a name. I just didn’t expect it to be Vince Vaughn who announced the Hart Trophy winner as “Evgawnee Malkin.” Really, Vince? You’re hockey fan cred just took a major hit.
- Best acceptance speech of the night goes to Malkin’s Hart Trophy speech, leading with “Should I read my last speech again?” in reference to his Ted Lindsay acceptance. He followed up that great one-liner with a brief, but emotional speech about Sergei Gonchar: “He’s my best friend.” The only problem was that my HD feed got all blurry at that point and some form of liquid began leaking from my eyes. Bizarre.