Tonight the NHL is in Las Vegas for the 2009 NHL Awards Show and poker extravaganza.
This evening is the Pro Bowl of hockey, the afterthought event they put on TV after the big trophy has been given out. These awards don’t really mean all that much to fans, and the show itself usually receives mild interest, which is why putting it in Vegas isn’t all that big a deal to most.
However, taking the Awards out of Toronto is a big deal on a personal level. Last year I attended the show as a seatfiller, and I was looking forward to doing the same this year. Taking the party a few hundred miles away certainly puts a stop to that, and I will be a bit sad tonight when the Hart is awarded without me.
More importantly, I think moving the Awards to Vegas serves as a larger symbol of where the league is headed. Last night I was reading a Free Darko about the Knicks which really got me thinking about Toronto. FD made an excellent point: the Knicks matter more because it’s New York City.
In a way, Toronto and its role with the NHL is very similar. Over the decades “The Church of Foster Hewitt” has made it the league’s main attraction, despite all the struggles the team itself has had. They haven’t celebrated a championship in over 40 years, but the Maple Leafs and Toronto as a whole represent the economic and media epicenter of the entire league.
So despite the fact that the NHL Awards don’t mean very much to the rest of the league, they were a big deal in Toronto. “Taking them away,” so to speak, serves as an important symbol for the rest of the league. Toronto still matters and it always will, but somehow this makes them matter less. Other cities will never matter more than Toronto, but in a strange way the bar has been lowered a bit.
Over the decades the expansion has made the Leafs less relevant, their roster less dominant. The opening of Air Canada Centre has robbed the team of the mystique their old building gave, which is now nothing more than a trophy and a vacant building. Taking away an awards show that doesn’t mean anything to the players may not look like much, but it’s another move that says Toronto isn’t the end all, be all.
If the option of more time were there this would make much more sense. However, I think there is something more to be said about tonight than just the league looking to make a buck in Vegas. Moving from proven territory into the great unknown is indeed a good thing; Toronto isn’t going anywhere. However, the lack of a traffic jam on Dundas tonight does matter more than we think.