The Lester Patrick Trophy honors individuals for their contributions to hockey in the U.S., but it’s essentially the “old white guys in suits” award, minus the times it honored Willie O’Ree (2003), the 1998 U.S. women’s Olympic team and Cammi Granato in 2007.
(I mean, you'd figure 2015 would be a pretty good time to honor Angela Ruggiero, but maybe they just wanted to space out the accolades for the Hall of Famer.)
Since the award’s been handed out beginning in 1966, 80 winners have been team or NHL executives or head coaches. (Some of these men had playing experience as well, but were not directly honored as players.) There have also been six members of the media or media relations honored, including the venerable Kevin Allen of USA Today last year.
There have been just 38 players given the award, with the last two coming in 2009: Mike Richter, U.S. hockey goaltending hero, and Mark Messier, presumably for helping to create the Mark Messier Leadership Award, Presented By Bridgestone.
This year’s winners? One suit and one rumpled suit.
Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and longtime scout Bob Crocker have been named recipients of the 2015 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
As you’re likely more familiar with one than the other, here’s the NHL on Crocker:
Nicknamed the “dean” of New England hockey scouts, Crocker has won three Stanley Cups scouting for the Rangers and Los Angeles Kings. He also has captured the Calder Cup with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) and two NCAA titles with Boston University, where he served as freshman coach and key recruiter.
Crocker, who was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006, also served as head coach at the University of Pennsylvania for four seasons (1972-76) and assistant general manager of the Hartford Whalers for 12 seasons (1980-92).
As for Jacobs … well, here’s Gary Bettman:
“As owner for 41 years of the NHL’s first U.S.-based team and long-serving Chairman of our Board of Governors – has provided unparalleled vision, innovation and inspiration to the advancement of hockey and the NHL.”
Look, there’s no questioning that Jacobs has kept the Bruins as a strong, viable Northeast-based franchise since he took over the team in 1975. They’ve missed the playoffs just six times since then, which is an amazing run for a franchise that’s certainly had its peaks and valleys.
(To that end, the Bruins never seem to get credit for that that consistency in the same way the Detroit Red Wings have, as The Streak has pushed memories of their early 1980s struggles into the abyss.)
But if the Lester Patrick is being handed to Jacobs for his work as Board of Governors chairman, then it needs to come with the caveat that he was the NHL’s hatchet man in the lost season of 2005 and the lockout of 2012.
He was one of the negotiations’ toughest hawks, despite the fact that dark arenas actually hurt his primary business of arena concessions.
And in the aftermath of these lockouts, he came off as obtuse. Remember back in 2005, when he blew up the Bruins roster due to a massive miscalculation that the players wouldn’t offer a rollback on their salaries? Jacobs basically admitted that the Joe Thornton trade was a symptom of that mistake.
Then, in 2013, Jacobs apologized out of one side of his mouth while blaming the players and saying he’d do it all over again out of the other side.
But hey, the Lester Patrick honorees are littered with names that helped drag hockey to a standstill in the U.S. due to work stoppages. It doesn’t mean they’re undeserving of the award – and Jacobs’ contributions, overall, make him worthy – but that for every two steps forward there’s been a step back for some of them. (They come together because opposites attract, you see.)
But at least we can take solace in the fact that Ray Bourque won the Lester Patrick 12 years before Jeremy Jacobs did.
The recipients will be honored as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 17, in Boston. Ticket information will be available in September at www.ushockeyhalloffame.com.
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY