Hockey

Jose Theodore named NHL MVP

Jose Theodore is accustomed to winning close games, so it comes as no surprise that he won two major awards by the narrowest of margins at the NHL awards.

The Montreal Canadiens goaltender was left in a daze after winning both the Hart and Vezina Trophies in tiebreakers at the league's annual award banquet in Toronto.

Although Theodore walked away with some major hardware, much to the delight of owner George Gillett on Thursday night, he wasn't exactly a clear winner.

There's never been a tie in voting for any one of the NHL's awards, but Theodore won both of his awards in a tie-breaking format established 48 years ago.

Theodore finished tied with Calgary's Jarome Iginla for the Hart Trophy with 434 points, but earned the award on the basis of more first-place votes (26-23) than Iginla.

The Vezina Trophy race was just as tight, but Theodore beat out his boyhood idol, Colorado's Patrick Roy, with three more first-place votes (15-12) in voting by NHL general managers.

"I don't know if that was the deciding thing, but you really have to take your hat off to Jose Theodore," said Iginla who, earlier in the day, won the NHLPA's Lester B. Pearson Award as most outstanding player.

"They weren't expected to be in the playoffs."

Theodore is the sixth netminder named NHL MVP, joining Dominik Hasek (1997, 1998), Jacques Plante (1962), Al Rollins (1954), Charlie Rayner (1950) and Roy Worters (1929).

Theodore is the first Canadiens puckstopper to capture the Vezina since Roy won his third in 1992, three years before being traded to Colorado.

"Just being nominated with Patrick Roy for two awards was unbelievable," Theodore said of his boyhood idol.

Theodore backstopped the Canadiens to their first playoff berth since 1998 and a stunning opening round upset of the top-seeded Boston Bruins.

Along the way, he posted a 30-24-10 record, a 2.11 goals-against average, a league-best .931 save percentage, seven shutouts and his first all-star selection.

"This and playing in the all-star game made my year," Theodore said.

Theodore is Montreal's first Hart Trophy winner since Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur in 1978.

"Guy Lafleur is one of my idols," he said. "I owe a lot of credit to my teammates.

"They played unbelievable this year."

Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers captured the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Drafted second overall in 2000, Heatley appeared in all 82 games for Atlanta this past season.

The 21-year-old left winger scored 26 goals and led all rookies with 67 points.

"It was a lot of fun from the get-go," Heatley said.

Heatley's linemate Ilya Kovalchuk and Kristian Huselius of the Florida Panthers were the other finalists.

"I wish we could be up here together, buddy," Heatley admitted to Kovalchuk during his acceptance speech.

Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes was presented the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship by Olympic gold medallists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Francis, 39, was penalized a mere 18 minutes while registering 27 goals and 50 assists for 77 points in 80 games.

"It was a special season in a lot of ways and one that, at this point in my career, was appreciated very much," said Francis, who also received the King Clancy Trophy for his community work.

Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings and Joe Sakic of the Avalanche were the other contenders.

Lidstrom did not leave empty-handed, however, taking home the James Norris Trophy for the second straight year.

The 32-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP is the first defenceman to win consecutive Norris trophies since Ray Bourque 11 years ago.

Rob Blake of the Avalanche and Chris Chelios of the Red Wings were the other candidates.

Michael Peca, captain of the New York Islanders, was honoured with his second Frank J. Selke Trophy as most outstanding defensive forward.

Craig Conroy of the Flames and Jere Lehtinen from the Dallas Stars, the 1998 and 1999 winner, were the other finalists.

Peca, 28, scored 25 goals, including six shorthanded, with 35 assists for 60 points and an impressive plus-19 rating in 80 games.

The Toronto-born centre won his first Selke with the Buffalo Sabres five years ago.

The Jack Adams Award went to Bob Francis, head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Francis, 43, guided the Coyotes to a 40-27-9-6 record, second-best in franchise history.

Phoenix's 33 points following the Olympic break were the most amassed by any team.

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