NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Past Winners of the Mike Ricci Trophy
The Mike Ricci Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's ugliest playoff performer, has been a prestigious award in the NHL since its inception following the 1995-96 NHL Playoffs that saw its namesake win his first and only Stanley Cup Trophy with the Colorado Avalanche.
Ricci, who played a total of 1099 NHL games prior to retiring following the 2006-07 season, has always been a standard bearer for the combination of skill and looking like you hit every branch of the ugly tree while falling from it and his commitment to carrying this standard is one of the few standards in the NHL that may never be surpassed.
So, without further ado, I give you some past winners of the National Hockey League's Mike Ricci Trophy.
1996-97: Darren McCarty
A true working man's hockey player, McCarty's 1996-97 season might be best known for his magnificent goal to clinch Game Four of the Stanley Cup finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
What is often overlooked, however, is the absolutely glorious nature of his grisly mug.
I won't say much else about the ex-Red Wings enforcer so as to not endanger myself, but suffice it to say that this award was well deserved.
1997-98 and 2006-07: Chris Pronger
A picture says a thousand words, and every single one of those words rhymes with ugly when it comes to Chris Pronger.
Long before Pronger lifted the Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, his ugly mug was captaining the St. Louis Blues as a fresh-faced 23 year old. His leadership skills had nothing on his gap-toothed grin though, which ultimately secured the Ricci Trophy for two separate post-seasons; once in 1998 for the Blues and the other in 2007 for the Ducks.
1998-99: Tie Domi
Now the star of multiple Geico commercials proclaiming that Geico is "So easy a caveman could do it," Tie Domi was once the preeminent enforcer in the NHL and, in the 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs took home the greatest accolade of his career in the Ricci trophy.
His pugilistic talents were met only by his protruding brow and eyebrows with a life of their own as Domi's eyebrows proved to be too much for the Flyers and Penguins to handle before being tamed in the Conference Finals by the Sabres.
1999-00: Ken Daneyko
The true glory of the Devils' Stanley Cup team in the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the toothless, bearded, bald-headed Ken Daneyko.
Daneyko was thought to be one of the key shut-down defensemen in the Devils' Stanley Cup bid, but the truth lies deeper in the fact that no one had the courage to go face-to-face with the grizzly wonder.
2000-01: Adam Foote
The true character of the 2000-01 Avalanche laid within Adam Foote, whose grit and determination helped anchor the Avs to the Stanley Cup.
The true character of Adam Foote's "well-travelled" mug lies within a nose that has seen one too many pucks bounce off of it. While Foote's contributions on the ice might not have been great, he had a "nose" for leadership and one of the ugliest mugs the game has ever seen.
2001-02 and 2005-06: Rod Brind'Amour
Talk about a face with some real character.
Brind'Amour is one of a small number of players to have the distinction of winning the award on multiple occasions and, in this case, both with the same time.
Whether it came from his hard-nosed, defensive play or his unwillingness to quit, the fact remains that Mr. Brind'Amour certainly has a face that only a mother could love and, in this case, we question even that.
2002-03: Darby Hendrickson
My God...That chin...That nose.
The Wild were certainly a Cinderella story in the 2002-03 playoffs, but there was nothing Cinderella-esque about Darby Hendrickson.
With a chin that would make Jay Leno jealous, Hendrickson's mug was brought into prominence in the playoffs with the Wild's miracle run. The chin wasn't enough, however, as the Wild fell short of their ultimate goal and have not returned to the Conference finals without its power.
2003-04: Mike Commodore
Like a modern-day Ogie Oglethorpe, Commodore stormed onto the scene in the NHL Playoffs with his outlandish hair and playoff beard combination.
While he wasn't necessarily the ugliest player in the playoffs in the 2003-04 season, he certainly merited the award for his locks alone. It took the playoff beard to a whole new level and had mystical powers, propelling the Flames into the Stanley Cup finals before ultimately falling to the Lightning in seven games.
2004-05: Gary Bettman
With the league in lockout status and its players playing overseas, Gary Bettman is an honorary member of the Mike Ricci club, not because of his looks but because of the ugliness that ensued during that lost season.
2007-08: Evgeni Malkin
The slack-jawed Russian skated away with this one, as the Pittsburgh Penguins fell just short of their ultimate goal.
Few can match the level of talent and unseemliness that Malkin brings to the ice, and both were on display in full force in the 2007-08 playoffs. With 22 points in 20 games, Malkin was derided for his disappearance towards the end of the playoffs, but he had done enough to merit a much more prestigious trophy than the Stanley Cup; the Ricci Trophy.
2008-09: Alex Ovechkin
If anyone could match Malkin's mix of skill and ugly, it was the Oven Chicken himself, Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin's importance to the Capitals could not be overstated, as the Russian dynamo brought his game to the biggest stage on ice, in the NHL Playoffs. Unfortunately, his Washington Capitals fell short of their ultimate goal, but not before his caveman-like visage became the talk of the NHL.
Who will win this season's Mike Ricci Trophy?
Will it be Nashville's resident caveman, Shea Weber?
Or a newcomer to the scene, out of Los Angeles, in Anze Kopitar?
Or will Alex Ovechkin become the first player to win back-to-back Ricci Trophies?
Or will a member of a bubble team try to repeat, as Chris Pronger could be vying for his third and Adam Foote for his second.
The only way to find out is to tune in to the NHL playoffs this season!