In recent years, the NHL has introduced the Maurice Richard Trophy and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. These have become prestigious prizes across the league and are fitting tributes to two of the best players who have ever laced them up.
While there are arguments to be made that there should be Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr awards or trophies, because of Gretzky’s nearly immeasurable contributions to the game, both on and off the ice, he should be recognized ahead of all others.
As many fans will know, the NHL needs to address some outstanding financial business concerning The Great One. By some reports, Gretzky is owed in the neighborhood of $8 million as a result of his work with the Phoenix Coyotes. Necessarily, that situation requires action. Having Gretzky involved with the NHL, in a prominent and official capacity, should be near the top of Gary Bettman’s to do list.
The NHL is not in the habit of re-naming trophies. One obvious choice, if the league ever did change its mindset, would be to re-brand the Art Ross Trophy as the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. That is a viable option, but creating a new trophy to honor the game’s greatest player is the better one.
The league recognizes the top goal scorer with the Maurice Richard Trophy. A great addition to the NHL awards would be the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. It could be awarded to the player who earns the most assists in the NHL's regular season.
While Gretzky was the greatest goal scorer in NHL history, he was easily the best set-up man to ever play the game. Of all his achievements, the fact that he earned more career assists (1,963) than any other player has points is staggering.
If the Wayne Gretzky Trophy had been awarded in the past five regular seasons, the winners would include: the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Martin St. Louis (2013), the Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin (2012, 2011 and 2010) and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (2009).
The game’s elite playmakers would be recognized in a meaningful way by this award, and it would quickly become one of the most highly sought awards in the NHL.
The NHL leads the hockey world, and this award would also send a powerful message to hockey fans, parents, coaches and young players. Coaches of youth hockey teams are constantly trying to have their best young skaters pass the puck more, and to set up their teammates for better scoring chances.
By recognizing the NHL assist leader with this trophy, kids would see that the assist is valued at the highest levels. Aspiring to win the Wayne Gretzky Trophy could become an important motivator for players, while also serving larger team goals.
To see Wayne Gretzky present his trophy to the top assist producer in the league would be a highlight of the annual NHL awards ceremony. The world's best league needs to make this happen.
All statistics can be found at nhl.com