Friday, July 2, 2010

Norris Trophy Winners

     The James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the best defenseman in the National Hockey League, was presented last week to Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. The trophy is named after an early owner of the Detroit Red Wings, who later owned the Hawks and Chicago Stadium along with his son James, Jr., and Arthur Wirtz.
     We're going to loop back around sometime soon to recall James, Jr., who was one of the most colorful characters in Chicago sports history. For now, we're going to celebrate the Blackhawks who've won the trophy that (like Junior himself) was named after the old man.

Pierre Pilote, 1963, 1964, 1965

     Pierre Pilote joined the Hawks in 1955 and was a key member of the 1961 Stanley Cup champions. In 1964-65, Pilote won his third consecutive Norris Trophy and set a new scoring record for defensemen with 59 points (on 14 goals and 45 assists). Pilote also wore the "C" as Hawks captain for several years. His scoring record was broken by Boston's Bobby Orr in 1968-69, but Pilote's place in history was secure. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Doug Wilson, 1982

     Helmets were made mandatory throughout the NHL in 1980, but players already in the league were allowed to go without one if they chose. Doug Wilson so chose, and he was the last of the Blackhawks to take the ice bare-headed. The durable, steady Wilson was an offensive-minded defenseman whose booming slapshot from the point was a hallmark of the Chicago power play. He scored 225 goals while wearing the Indian head, and his 554 assists rank third in Hawks annals (behind only Stan Mikita and Denis Savard). Wilson is currently the general manager of the San Jose Sharks.

Chris Chelios, 1993, 1996

     Chicago native Chris Chelios won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens and two with the Detroit Red Wings. In between he spent almost nine seasons with the Blackhawks, who were in the midst of a prolonged Stanley Cup drought. With the Hawks, Chelios won the Norris Trophy for the second and third times, having previously won it in 1989 for Montreal. Chelios was acquired in a 1990 trade for another Hawks legend, Denis Savard, whom he will soon join in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He appeared in seven games with the Atlanta Thrashers, at the age of 48, this past season (his 26th in the NHL), and he ranks fourth all time in games played.

Duncan Keith, 2010

     Duncan Keith is one of three hockey players in the world who won both an Olympic gold medal and the Stanley Cup in 2010. Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook--Keith's teammates on the Canadian Olympic team and the Blackhawks--are the others. Keith played all 82 regular-season games and all 22 playoff games for the Hawks, establishing himself as the best defenseman in the league. During the postseason, Keith proved his toughness and his commitment to the team (as if either were ever in doubt) when he took a puck flush in the mouth, lost seven teeth, and kept right on playing.

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