2016 SICHL Awards Night

The 2016 edition of the league's annual gathering of SICHL brass, players, family and media was held Wednesday in Edmonton, Alberta.
by Marcel Cormier | August 24, 2016, 2:05 AM ET

The 2016 edition of the league’s annual gathering of SICHL brass, players, family and media was held at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Alberta. The site was selected as a preview of next summer’s first ever SICHL Summit which will include the 2017 SICHL Draft which is open to all GMs across the league to attend in person.

A summary of the event is presented in the form of this live blog by long time Acadia beat writer Marcel Cormier…

12:45 pm – I arrived at the Edmonton International Airport safe and sound. Not sure why this airport has such a bad reputation as it seems quite lovely to me; not a colossal maze but one that is easy to get around. I’m sure all the visiting GMs will agree.

1:15 pm – They seem to have misplaced my luggage. Oh well, the ceremony doesn’t start until 7:30 tonight so I have lots of time.

1:45 pm – Still no bags but I’m not the only one. I see a few of the GMs from the European based teams shared the same flight and a few of them are looking for their suitcases too. Dublin GM Ryan Torrie seems to be the most upset as I’ve heard him mention a few times that he thinks a Shamrock player is going to win an award this year and he’ll be damned if he’s going to miss it.

1:58 pm – Still no bags but I finally managed to reach the front of the line in the airport Tim Hortons. Both Doug Karnes (Brandon) and Don Morrison (Whitehorse) are also in line and I saw Michael Oram (London) ordering tea and a biscuit.

2:30 pm – I’m getting a little worried about my stuff. Some of the Eastern based GMs flew in together on a private plane; Mark MacRae (Fredericton), Eric Schneider (Nova Scotia), Corey Graham (Quebec) and Kasim Husain (Montreal). Notably absent from the group was Acadia GM Guy Flaming. I asked Schneider about it and he told me that Flaming’s invite may have been lost in the mail.

2:37 pm – Just caught a glimpse of Bryce Crittenden (Vancouver) and Matt MacInnis (Vancouver Island) getting into a limo together and they looked like they were in a heated argument. Probably still fighting over territorial rights.    

2:52 pm – Las Vegas GM Dustin Nielson arrived along with defenceman T.J Brodie, that probably means that there’s a good chance one of them will end the season having won something.

3:07 pm – Finally got my bags and headed to the hotel. Sharing a cab with Boston GM Gary Graves who kept asking me if I had any inside information or league rumors that I could share with him, off the record, he promised.

3:38 pm – Why is the airport so far outside of Edmonton? It’s weird. At the hotel where I ran into Norm Donovan (Philadelphia) at the check in desk. I overheard him say something along the lines of “yes, full adult channel rental and charge It to the Presidential Suite”. I’d hate to be that guy tomorrow. Time to get a nap in before dinner.

5:30 pm – Dinner in the hotel restaurant, joined by the Northern European team GMs Tom Baker (Stockholm), Sylvain Turgeon (Reykjavik) and Kenny Leibe (Amsterdam) who all complained that pickled herring wasn’t on the menu.

6:21 pm – Finished dinner, arrived at “The Jube” for the Awards show. Cocktails being served. Nielson appears to be shouting at someone over being “cheap” and not buying a round.  Ah yes, it was Kansas City GM Kirk MacRae, well known for his resistance to spending any money. Ever.

6:50 pm – Most of us have taken our pre-assigned seats and I think I have accounted for all 28 GMs aside from one; I haven’t seen Sam Myers (Denver) yet, hopefully he didn’t sleep in for it like the 2015 SICHL Draft.

7:05 pm – Starting a bit late but the host of the show, Edmonton native Nathan Fillion, has kicked off the show. He’s the star of the recently-cancelled TV series ‘Castle’ and past shows like ‘Firefly’. Fillion has called on Commissioner Mark MacRae to say a few words and hand out the evening’s first two awards.

“Welcome to Edmonton everyone, we hope to see you all here again next summer for our first ever SICHL Summit,” said the Commish to a round of applause. “Our first two awards tonight go hand in hand as they are presented to the club capturing the Continental Cup as well as the Commissioner’s Trophy. Once again, the same club pulled off the sweep. So without further ado, please welcome General Manager of the Acadia Golden Bears, Guy Flaming!”

The Acadia Golden Bears captured their 4th league championship after an exciting 4-game sweep over the World Conference champion Las Vegas Aces. The Bears never trailed at any point of any game in the series and clinched their second consecutive league title away from home with a 3-2 win.

The Golden Bears set a new league record as winners of the Commissioner’s Trophy for the third consecutive season. With a record of 56-18-8, Acadia finished six points ahead of both the Las Vegas Aces and the Edmonton Supersonics.

“I’ll keep this short because I know a lot of people here are tired of seeing me accepting these awards,” said Flaming after taking the stage. “I want to offer sincere thanks to all the GMs of the Canadian conference who challenge us every night and force us to be at our best all season long. And of course, thank you to our loyal fans back in Saint John.”

7:10 pm – Fillion is back at the microphone to set up the next category.

“The Dave Schultz Award is presented each year to the player who compiles the highest total on penalty minutes during the season.  If this year is any indication, we might be renaming this trophy when this guy’s playing career is over. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dave Schultz Award goes to Philadelphia Fire Ants defenceman Dion Phaneuf!”

Philadelphia Fire Ants defenceman Dion Phaneuf earned his second consecutive Dave Schultz Award after accumulating 240 PIMs in 82 games. That total was almost double the next most penalized player this past season. It was the 7th time in his career that the Edmonton native recorded at least 150 PIMs.

“I just quickly want to thank Norm Donovan and his continued belief in my ability. I’m proud to call you my friend,” Phaneuf began, “I’ve spent the last 6 and a half seasons in Philly and I hope we work something out in the fall for another 6 and a half years. I love being a Fire Ant and I want to wear that jersey forever!”

7:15 pm – Next up is advanced stats award. Oh sorry, my mistake, it’s just the plus/minus prize.

“Some people like their Corsi, others prefer their Fenwicks,” smiled Fillion, “Me? I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to the fancy stats. I don’t care if I’m dragging my ass back to the bench, if my team scores before my skates leave the ice, well damn it, I deserve some recognition for that! I know one guy who agrees with me is the winner of this year’s Raymond Bourque AwardT.J. Brodie of the Las Vegas Aces – and I believe that team name is copyrighted in case anyone out there is reading this.”

Defenceman T.J. Brodie of the Las Vegas Aces held at plus-38 rating through all 82 regular season games in 2015-16 on route to his first SICHL award of any kind. Brodie’s 3 goals and 24 points were also a career high.

Thank goodness it wasn’t another tie like last year when Ryan O’Reilly and Clarke MacArthur had to stand there sharing the trophy. No one wants to see that.

7:20 pm – The Mike Bossy Award is up next…

“Our next award will be shared by two players who sat atop the league scoring standings with the same 45 goal total, however, because one guy did it in 4 fewer games, I’ll read his name first,” stated Fillion, “Please welcome Blake Wheeler of the Edmonton Supersonics and Joe Pavelski of the Philadelphia Fire Ants!”

Wheeler and Pavelski climbed up stairs at opposite sides of the stage and reached the podium and precisely the same time but the Sonics forward used his reach advantage to grab the microphone first.

“I want to thank everyone here in Edmonton who supports the team, you’re the best!”

Pavelski then took his turn addressing the crowd.

“I also want to thank everyone but in Philadelphia where we play, you’re actually the best!”

The 45 goals scored by both Blake Wheeler and Joe Pavelski were just enough to keep them ahead of the rest of the league’s top goal scorers. Wheeler set his mark in just 74 Supersonics games while Pavelski appeared in 78 of Philadelphia’s schedule.

7:29 pm – Interesting, Fillion just asked Pavelski to stay with him on stage for a minute…

“Joe, you may as well stay up here for this next one since we’re on a tight schedule to get this show over in an hour and a half,” said the host, “The next award goes to the player who received the most 3-star mentions over the season. To some it’s known as the Superstore Award, to others it’s the President’s Choice Award. Either way, it goes to Joe Pavelski!”

Joe Pavelski earned the 2015-16 President’s Choice Award after his strong season with Philadelphia. The Award is given to the player who attracts the most 3 star nods over the course of the regular season schedule.  

7:38 - One more of these pre-determined awards before we get to the really good stuff. This time it’s the Mario Lemieux Award for most assists.

“If there’s one thing our next award winner knows it’s how to share,” said Fillion, “unfortunately for him, he has to come accept the Mario Lemieux Award all by himself. This year’s winner is John Tavares of the Nova Scotia Schooners!”

With 63 assists in 82 games, Schooners marquee forward John Tavares captured his first Mario Lemieux Award. The 2009 1st overall selection enjoyed his second most productive season in the SICHL.

Tavares strode to the stage then, as a man of few words, thanked his teammates and left.

7:45 pm – OK finally time for the category winners…no wait, I forgot about the playoff MVP. Of course we all know who won that one already so quick bathroom break for this reporter…

Acadia goaltender Braden Holtby captured the 2015-16 Jari Kurri Award as the SICHL Playoff MVP after leading the club to its 4th Continental Cup win. Holtby posted a 16-4-2 record and held a .934 save percentage and 2.12 goals against average. He is the third Golden Bears goaltender to have won the award.

7:50 pm – I didn’t hear what Holtby had to say but I’m going to go out on a limb as say that he probably thanked his teammates, his coaches and the fans. Now it’s time for the first of the big awards.

“In honor of the player it’s named after, the Ken Dryden Trophy is given to the player who makes the longest, most drawn out and boring speeches known to man,” joked Fillion, “Of course I’m kidding. The trophy goes to the league’s most outstanding goaltender and like most years, there is no shortage of qualified finalists. This year’s winner is…Braden Holtby of the Acadia Golden Bears!”

Holtby takes home the Ken Dryden Trophy for the second time in his short 4-year SICHL career after posting a SICHL best 2.29 goals against average, a league high .927 save percentage and the being only goalie in 2015-16 to reach the 50-win plateau. The Acadia goalie beat out Edmonton’s Cory Schneider and Steve Mason from Stockholm.  

“Obviously I have to thank my teammates, coaches and the fans back in Saint John,” Holtby began, “But I really want to share this award with the other goalies in the organization. Cam Talbot, Martin Jones, Jacob Markstrom…they all helped push me to get better in practice and when I needed support you guys were always there to provide it. I’m proud to call you my teammates and friends and I look forward to working with all of you for many more years.”

8:03 pm – The always highly contest “Top Defenceman” award is up next and this year it’s a close race between all three nominees. I honestly don’t know who should get it but I know who I hope doesn’t win it...

“Bobby Orr never played in the SICHL but something tells me that if he had, he would have won out next award several times. I mean…it’s already got his name on it!” cracked Fillion.

Dead silence then a smattering of polite applause.

“Ahem, the winner of this year’s Bobby Orr Trophy as the top defenceman in the SICHL is…Drew Doughty of the Whitehorse Huskies!”

Whitehorse Huskies rearguard Drew Doughty wins his first ever SICHL award as the 2015-16 recipient of the Bobby Orr Trophy. The league’s top defenceman ended the year with 56 points (3rd), 165 hits (5th) and a plus/minus rating of 23 (9th). The runner ups for the trophy were Kris Letang of the Winnipeg Falcons and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Slammers.

“WHAT!?!?” comes a yell from the GM section. As expected, it’s Ottawa GM Pat Booth. The GM rises from his chair, storms the stage and says “Drew, I’m real happy for you and Imma let you finish but Erik Karlsson had one of the best seasons as a defenceman of all time! Of all time!”

Then he dropped the microphone and was escorted out of the building by security. A shaken Doughty went on to his speech.

“You know what they say about not being able to please all of the people all of the time,” laughed Doughty. “Cheers to everyone who voted for me, it’s an honour to win this award but I’d give it back in exchange for a chance to bring a Continental Cup to the Yukon. Thanks to Don Morrison for drafting me and for what I know will be a lucrative contract this coming season!”

8:15 pm – Just two awards left which is good because I only paid for 90 minutes of parking…

“The top freshman in the SICHL gets to take home the Teemu Selanne Award,” Fillion started, “Some of the names who have won it in the past include Petr Cajanek, Marek Zidlicky, Dany Heatley and even the great Juraj Kolnik. Following in the footsteps of those SICHL icons is this year’s winner…Melker Karlsson of the Dublin Shamrocks!”

Melker Karlsson led all first year players in scoring with 65 points. The Dublin Shamrocks’ free agent signing claimed the top rookie prize over runner-ups Filip Forsberg of Reykjavik and Whitehorse forward Mark Stone.

“Thank you very much for this, I never would have believed that one day my name would be included in a group of players like that so thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Karlsson.

Just then there was a commotion as a clearly delusional Ottawa GM Pat Booth burst back into auditorium shouting “Karlsson?! Karlsson?!” only to realize it was not his prized defenceman. Security promptly showed him the door once more.

8:26 pm – And that brings us to the final category of the night…

“The moment you’ve all been waiting for, the Wayne Gretzky Award goes to the player determined to be the SICHL’s top performer in the regular season. This year the finalists are two forwards and a goalie proving once again how unimportant defencemen really are. The 2015-16 SICHL MVP is…Braden Holtby of the Acadia Golden Bears!”

Braden Holtby is the first Acadia Golden Bear player to ever be named as the winner of the Wayne Gretzky Award as the SICHL’s Most Valuable Player. The 2008 3rd round pick appeared in 74 games winning 50 of them finishing atop all goaltending stat categories in the process. Runner ups this year were Edmonton’s Blake Wheeler and Pavel Datsyuk of Winnipeg.

With that, half the people in attendance promptly got up from their chairs and filed out of the building in outrage and disgust. Holtby paid no attention.

“Thank you once again,” Holtby said, “It was a tremendous year for our team and that is more important than any individual honor but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really proud of being named league MVP. I only hope that I can follow last year up with an even better season in Saint John this season!”

8:38 pm – That’s it for this reporter. Time to head back to the hotel and hit the rack, the time zone change really takes a lot out of a guy.

10:58 pm – Can’t sleep. Back in the hotel bar in time to see Henry Skey (Hamburg), Derrick Roslaniec (Toronto), Jeff Prozeller (Havana), Matt Burch (Calgary), Michel Bourassa (Winnipeg), Mike Franceschini (Edmonton) and Sean Gallagher (St. Louis) sharing a table. Far be it from me to eavesdrop but it sounded like they were trying to put together some sort of 7-team trade. The Gladiators GM was also trying to start a petition in order to force the league to agree to a name change for his club.

11:27 pm – Sam Myers just walked in. The Denver Rapids GM took one look around and said “Ahhh guys!” before turning around and walking back out the door. Apparently he did in fact sleep in.

12:36 am – That’s it, I’m done for sure. Looking forward to the start of the 2016-17 season but until then I will enjoy what is left of the summer. Cheers!   

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