Just because the NFL is back doesn’t mean that other sports have to be pushed out of the picture.  There hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about the NHL lately, but this past weekend saw a couple of interesting pieces of news that should make hockey fans happy.

As the league gets ready for the Stanley Cup Finals showdown, several individuals in the NHL received honors for what they’ve done this season, either on or off the ice.

Giordano Receives Leadership Award

Defenseman Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on Sunday.  He is a player who has shown significant leadership qualities on and off the ice and who plays a privileged role in his community, promoting hockey as a sport.  The 36-year-old undrafted player has come a long way since first skating in Junior A hockey almost 20 years ago.

Giordano connected with the Calgary Board of Education in 2014 to kick off Team Giordano to encourage improved physical fitness and academics, as well as leadership development at five high-needs schools.  So far, the initiative has raised $400,000 and changed the lives of 2,900 students.  He participated in other community programs like the Flames literacy program, the You Can Play Project and the Calgary Pride Parade.

Back in the 2018-19 season, Giordano won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the hockey league.  He has played 893 games in 14 seasons with the same team.

Giordano feels proud of this recognition.  He explains, “This is special. I’m a little bit older (36), so I grew up watching Mark Messier as a player and remembering him, especially from his days as a Ranger, winning the Stanley Cup with New York, but also in Edmonton (with the Oilers) as well.”

He adds, “To have my name on that award means a lot, a ton to me.  When you think of leadership, he’s viewed as the ultimate leader in our sport. I’ve had the chance to meet him off the ice as well, and for what he’s done off the ice and in the community as a leader, I think he has that presence that you can’t describe. To be associated with him and his award, it means a lot to me and my family. We’re very proud today to be the recipient, for sure.”

Giordano also mentions Jarome Iginla, winner of the award in 2009, and says, “It’s pretty special too that Jarome Iginla was a guy who won this award back when I was a young guy (in 2009).  Obviously, coming into Calgary not being drafted by the team or anything like that, just coming in pretty raw and pretty fresh, [Iginla] was the captain here. You can’t say enough good things about [Iginla].”

Lou Lamoriello Is The NHL GM Of The Year

Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders has been named as the 2020 Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award winner.  Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, and David Gregory, the son of the defunct Jim Gregory, presented the award virtually on Saturday night. Julien BriseBois of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars were the other two finalists.

Lamoriello said during the virtual ceremony, “David, it’s a privilege and an honor to have my name associated with your dad.”  Lamoriello added, “I had known your dad for a very long time.  I admired him — I don’t know of anyone who’s ever had a negative word to say about him. He, in my opinion, has been one of the greatest ambassadors for hockey — in particular, the National Hockey League.”

Lamoriello joined the Islanders in May 2018, after three seasons as the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  During that time, the team went 118-95-33, including playoff appearances in each of the last two campaigns.

Flames Have New Coach

The Flames are one of four clubs that still don’t have a permanent coach assigned.  But the number might change sometime soon.  According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Saturday, Calgary was reportedly going to hire interim coach Geoff Ward as their permanent head coach, and the team confirmed the appointment today.

After Bill Peters resigned as head coach on Nov. 29, the team handed the interim coaching job to Ward, who took a fighting 12-12-4 team and led them to a 24-15-3 record, making it possible to reach the postseason.  The Flames even conquered their play-in series, overcoming the Winnipeg Jets before being eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs.  However, even in that series, Calgary had its moments of glory.

Ward is in on a two-year contract and brings coaching experience he garnered as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins.  He helped the Bruins take the Stanley Cup in 2011, so he might be able to do it for the Flames next year.