So Don Cherry likes the idea of changing the name of some of the NHL’s year-end trophies, does he? Breaks my heart to say it, but I guess he is a bad role model after all.
Let’s not get distracted by broad notions of respecting heritage and preserving the old imperial spirit of hockey. Most of these trophies were given to the NHL specifically so that people’s memories would be preserved in perpetuity by means of some small token. The Norris Trophy was donated to the National Hockey League by the children of James Norris. The Art Ross trophy was a gift from Art Ross. The Hart Trophy, or the original one, came from David Hart. Not many people know who James Norris, Art Ross, and David Hart were, but if anyone does, it’s because of the generosity and devotion to hockey of themselves and their families.
It would be morally and spiritually unspeakable for the league to unilaterally annul these pledges and rename these objects, and the arguments given for doing so are asinine. We want to rename the Norris Trophy for Bobby Orr because… everybody already knows who Bobby Orr is? Memorials are meant for the people we all still remember, are they? Then why the heck do we call them that?
The heritage angle is relevant too, but it is only likely to confuse things. When the NHL locked out its players in 2004 and decided not to hold a Stanley Cup tournament, we were all outraged that a long tradition had been broken. But while we were lamenting for history, we weren’t quick enough to remember that the NHL doesn’t have any ethical claim at all to exclusive control of the Cup, and isn’t even its legal owner. That principle has now more or less been established by a court settlement, but in the meantime, the league succeeded in holding the Cup hostage in a labour dispute.
Now it wants to turn its other trophies, whose beauty and antiquity are the envy of all other professional sports, into cheap marketing trinkets. Unless you believe the conveniently anonymous NHL source who says the idea was to make the trophies more “relevant” to the players. If I said something that stupid to a journalist, I would insist on anonymity too. (þ: Staples)