NEW YORK. Members of the National Hockey League Players Association are angry today, and it isn’t because of a cheap shot by an enforcer on an opposing team. “Severe head injuries and possible spinal paralysis I can take, but elevating a musician like this really frosts my ass,” said Brad Marchand, left wing for the Boston Bruins known for his dirty style of play.
What has the gritty and often front-toothless practitioners of “The Coolest Game on Earth” upset is the decision by the National Hockey League to award the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, given annually to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability,” to Bob Dylan, the folk-rock singer.
“There was a big uproar last week when they gave Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature, with a lot of writers calling it wildly inappropriate,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We wanted to get some of that wildly inappropriate buzz for ourselves before the controversy died down.”
The award is based on votes by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, who defended their decision based on Dylan’s career statistics. “The guy’s what, 75 years old, and he’s never been in a hockey fight and has zero penalty minutes,” said Knute “Tommy” McDonald of Hockey Today. “As far as I can tell he’s never even been whistled for icing, whatever that is.”
Dylan, whose real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman, grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Range, a hard-scrabble region of north central Minnesota whose principal exports are iron ore and entertainers. Along with Dylan, Hibbing also produced Gary Puckett, front man for the 60’s pop band The Union Gap, causing confusion when visitors ask to see the house the town’s most famous musician grew up in. “I dunno, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ versus ‘Lady Willpower,'” said Chamber of Commerce President Darrell Olway. “It’s a close call.”
The Lady Byng Trophy comes with no financial reward, only the inscription of the winning player’s name on a silver cup, and is sometimes viewed as a handicap in future contract negotiations by players. “Not for nothin’ neither,” said Pavel Datsyuk, winner of the award for four consecutive years as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. “Nobody ever got paid more as a hockey player for bein’ nice.”