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Mark Messier Selects Winner Of Mark Messier Award For Player Who Best Exemplifies Qualities Of Mark Messier

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 26: Mark Messier is shown on the red carpet prior to the 2023 NHL Awards, held on June 26, 2023, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The hardest thing in hockey to explain to new fans is not offside. It's not icing. It's that there's a Mark Messier award, presented to the player who personifies the leadership qualities of Mark Messier, and the winner is chosen by Mark Messier. And everyone just pretends this is normal.

Tuesday night saw Mark Messier awarding the the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award to Rangers captain Jacob Trouba. Fine; Trouba's very involved with philanthropic causes and local youth hockey programs. I think that when they write the history of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, they will not say that the 2023–24 winner besmirched the fine tradition of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

The NHL has too many awards; I don't think this is controversial. A full two-thirds of them aren't even presented during the NHL Awards show. But at least some of them have cool backstories. One cannot say the same for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, presented annually "to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey.” The backstory to this award is that in 2006 someone in the NHL wondered, Wouldn't it be fun if we created a Mark Messier award, with the winners chosen by Mark Messier? Seventeen seasons later, we have our answer: No, it wouldn't.

The selection process is robust. According to the NHL's official awards guide:

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from team and League personnel to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone.

(Historians of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award will note that it was originally called the Mark Messier Leader of the Year Award, and that monthly awards were handed out during the season before an ultimate winner named at the end. The monthly awards were scrapped after one season and the award renamed, leaving Chris Chelios the first and only recipient of the Mark Messier Leader of the Year Award. One assumes it is his most treasured laurel.)

Most NHL awards are chosen by voting: media members, or GMs, or the players themselves. The Mark Messier award is no different, when you think about it: It is chosen by a vote of Mark Messier. And unlike some awards we could name, the ballot was not secret. Trouba won unanimously, picked by 100 percent of the voter.

Once again, I would like to emphasize that this is real. It is a real NHL award.

Some might say this award is totally unnecessary. There's already one award for "outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct," and a separate one for "leadership qualities on and off the ice," and there used to be one—predating the Mark Messier award but not outliving it—for "[applying] the core values of hockey to enrich the lives of people in his community." To these people I say: You're never going to win the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award with that attitude.

Jacob Trouba knows what's up. "One of the first things I did when I was named captain was read your book," Trouba told Mark Messier upon receiving the Mark Messier award. That kind of leadership is how you win the Mark Messier award for leadership presented by Mark Messier. 

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