Montreal goaltender makes off with Vezina Trophy, MVP

NHL adores its Theodore

Posted: Friday, June 21, 2002

TORONTO (AP) -- Jose Theodore, whose goaltending helped the Montreal Canadiens reach the NHL playoffs for the first time in four years, was royally rewarded Thursday night.

Theodore, 25, won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP and the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender.

''My legs are weak,'' Theodore said after the league's annual awards ceremony closed with Wayne Gretzky pulling his name out of an envelope as the Hart winner. ''I couldn't believe it when Gretzky pronounced my name.

''I still can't believe it.''

Theodore is the first member of the Canadiens to be selected MVP since Guy Lafleur in 1978.

''Guy Lafleur is one of my idols,'' Theodore, a native of Quebec, said. ''I owe a lot of credit to my teammates. They played unbelievable this year.''

It was a very close decision in voting by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. Theodore and Calgary right wing Jarome Iginla each finished with 434 points, with Theodore winning because he had 26 first-place votes to 23 for Iginla.

The two roomed together while helping Canada win world junior championship gold during the 1990s.

Earlier Thursday, Iginla received the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most outstanding player as voted by the members of the NHL Players' Association, and during the awards ceremony he was presented with the Maurice ''Rocket'' Richard Trophy for most goals ( 52) and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion (96 points).

''I don't know if that was the deciding thing but you really have to take your hat off to Jose Theodore,'' Iginla, 24, said when asked if the Flames not reaching the postseason was the difference in the voting. ''They weren't expected to be in the playoffs.''

Iginla, whose father is from Nigeria and whose mother is from the United States, is the first black player to win the Pearson Award.

Colorado goalie Patrick Roy, winner of the Jennings Trophy for best goals-against average, finished third in Hart voting. Roy was runner-up to Theodore for the Vezina.

Thursday's other award winners were: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, best defenseman; Dany Heatley, Atlanta, top rookie; Saku Koivu, Montreal, most dedicated to hockey; Ron Francis, Carolina, most gentlemanly player; Mike Peca, New York Islanders, best defensive forward; and Bob Francis, Phoenix, coach of the year.

Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy for the second straight year, capping a sensational eight days for the 32-year-old native of Sweden. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years.

He is the only European to win the Norris Trophy.

''Positioning is the key for my game,'' he said. ''You don't want to be running around on the ice.''

Chris Chelios, 40, Lidstrom's teammate in Detroit, was the runner-up.

Heatley, 21, who jumped to the NHL right out of the University of Wisconsin, led all rookies in scoring with 67 points, including 26 goals.

He's the first Canadian to win the Calder since goaltender Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils in 1994.

Ilya Kovalchuk of the Thrashers, who had 59 points including a rookie-best 29 goals despite missing the last 16 games of the season due to injury, was second in the voting.

Heatley was the second player taken in the entry draft two years ago, and Kovalchuk was No. 1 last summer.

''We clicked right away,'' Heatley said. ''We just played relaxed and had fun out there, and I think that's one of the reasons why we were successful.''

The Vezina was also a tie. The 30 NHL general managers voted, and Theodore and Roy each received 105 points, with Theodore getting the nod with 15 first-place votes to 12 for Roy.

Theodore led all goalies in save percentage (.931), finished tied for second in shutouts (7) and was fourth in goals-against average (2.11).

Roy, 36, had league bests in GAA (1.94) and shutouts (9), and was second in save percentage (.925).

Koivu won the Bill Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

The Finnish center, 27, was diagnosed last September with non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer. He did not play his first game until April 9, then helped the Canadiens clinch a playoff berth.

Ron Francis won the Lady Byng Trophy for the third time. He was selected most gentlemanly player when he played for Pittsburgh in 1995 and 1998.

Francis, 39, led Carolina in scoring with 77 points, including 27 goals, and finished with only 18 minutes in penalties in 80 games.

Colorado captain Joe Sakic, last year's winner, was second.

Francis also received the King Clancy Memorial Trophy that goes ''to the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.''

Francis, who grew up with a brother with a learning disability, is involved in a program at Duke Children's Hospital in Durham, N.C., to help patients and their families.

Peca was a runaway winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy as top defensive forward. The 28-year-old won the award in 1997 when he played for Buffalo and was second in 1998 and third in 1999.

Craig Conroy of the Calgary Flames was the runner-up.

Bob Francis, 43, led the Coyotes to the second-best record in franchise history.

He edged fellow-finalists Brian Sutter, who coached Chicago to its first playoff berth in five years, and Robbie Ftorek, who coached Boston to first place in the Eastern Conference.

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