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MUSICK: Hungry for a bigger trophy

Caption
(John Smierciak)
An official separates the Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell (left) and Phoenix Coyotes' Shane Doan during the first period of Saturday's game at the United Center.

CHICAGO – It’s easy to collect trophies these days.

All you need is a few minutes, a few dollars and a computer with a half-decent Internet connection. In all sorts of shapes and sizes, you can order shiny trophies for ballet, baseball, basketball, baton twirling, billiards, boating, bodybuilding and broomball.

And that’s just a few of the Bs.

The Blackhawks are about to win a trophy that means nearly as little as a broomball award. They lost, 3-2, to the Phoenix Coyotes in the shootout round Saturday but picked up a point in the standings, giving them a five-point cushion ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for home-ice advantage for as far as they go in the playoffs.

The name of this prize is the Presidents’ Trophy, and it is given to the team that finishes with the most points in the NHL at the end of the regular season. It’s a fancy-looking trophy with a triangle base, three pillars and a topper that appears to be made out of crystal.

I’m not sure of the presidents for which the trophy is named. If George Washington grew up playing pond hockey, I think we would have heard that story by now. And if the name were a Canadian thing, wouldn’t we call it the Prime Ministers’ Trophy?

Regardless, Hawks captain Jonathan Toews knows better than to pine for the Prez.

“I think it’s a cool thing that people talk about, but they won’t talk about it very long, I don’t think,” Toews said. “It’s not that important.

“Of course, we want to be the best. We’ve put ourselves at the top throughout the entire season, so we want to stay there. But that fact it’s called the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t mean a whole lot to us. We’re preparing ourselves for the postseason, and that’s the most important thing right now.”

As it should be.

Besides, the fancy-looking trophy seems better suited for champion violinists than toothless hockey players. Clearly, this is no Lord Stanley’s Cup, with its dents and its hard-partying lifestyle that included visits to more than a few of this city’s bars and nightclubs in the summer of 2010.

We all remember 2010 because of how it ended. Patrick Kane fired a shot from the corner, time froze and suddenly Kane was sprinting and screaming to the opposite end of the ice as if he had just won the franchise’s first title in 49 years (turns out, he had).

What we don’t remember – or at least what I don’t remember – is which team won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2010. It took an online search to determine that the trophy went to the Washington Capitals, who promptly lost to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In almost any other sport, it would seem crazy that a fringe No. 8 seed would knock off the No. 1 overall team from the regular season. But it’s far from rare in hockey, where winning the Presidents’ Trophy seems to be more of a curse than a blessing.

Since the trophy was established during the 1985-86 season, only seven out of 26 winners have gone on to clinch the Stanley Cup. Eight of the past nine have failed to win a title.

The Hawks are willing to take their chances. Other teams might view winning the Presidents’ Trophy as a time to pat their own backs, but the Hawks understand that only one prize matters.

Kane delivered that message during an interview before Saturday’s game. He said it was crucial for the Hawks to be sharp entering the playoffs, which is why it was important to earn as many wins and as many points as possible in the final few games.

“I guess we can still win the Presidents’ Trophy, too,” Kane said. “So that’s important to us, too.”

Persuasive, he was not.

That’s a good thing. The Hawks have much bigger hardware on their minds.

In the meantime, I’ve got to go order a trophy for broomball. No, wait, baton twirling.

Better make it both.

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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