Sunday, December 17

The Nhl's Art Ross Trophy: An Exclusive Private Club

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The Art Ross Trophy has been handed out to the regular season points leader in the National Hockey League each season since 1947-48.  Over the 61 years since the trophy was first awarded, eight players have captured the trophy in consecutive years.

Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings became the first NHL player to accomplish this rarity. Howe won the trophy four times consecutively from 1950-51 to 1953-54. Over his great playing career, Gordie would take home the award twice more, both while playing in Detroit.

Shortly after, Dickie Moore of the Montreal Canadiens was awarded the Art Ross Trophy twice in a row. Moore led the league with 84 points in 1957-58. The next year, he increased the NHL record to 96 points while winning his second Art Ross. Moore’s record would stay in the books until 1965-66 when Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks bettered it by a single point. Hull won three scoring championships over his career, however, never consecutively.

Bobby Hull’s teammate with the Blackhawks, Stan Mikita, was the next player to lead the National Hockey League in points over consecutive seasons. Mikita did it twice. The first pair were during the 1963-64 and 1964-65 seasons. The second time was immediately following Hull’s record performance, 1966-67 and 1967-68. In 1966-67, Mikita would equal Hull’s 97 points.

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s brought several new expansion teams to the NHL. The original six teams weren’t willing to share the Art Ross and didn’t give it up until 1978-79. With expansion came a lot more scoring. Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins was awarded the Art Ross in four straight seasons from 1970-71 to 1973-74. His point totals of 152, 133, 130 and 145 over those four years shattered the previous scoring marks of Mikita and Hull.

Guy Lafleur of the Montreal Canadiens replaced Esposito as the NHL’s premier point-getter in 1975-76 and won the Art Ross three years consecutively, playing for what is arguably the best hockey team to ever play.

The game of hockey changed drastically in 1979-80 as Wayne Gretzky first skated in the league. In just his second season with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky won the Art Ross and bettered Phil Esposito’s record with 164. Gretzky went on to win seven in a row with the Edmonton Oilers, setting the NHL record for points in a single season during the 1985-86 season with 215. Gretzky would also win consecutive Art Ross trophies as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 1989-90 and 1990-91. He would win one more time in his career for a total of 10.

Mario Lemieux challenged but could not eclipse Gretzky’s mark of 215 points. However, he did win the Art Ross consecutively on three different occasions. He neared Gretzky’s record with 199 points in 1988-89, the second of his first two in a row. He would capture the Art Ross in 1991-92 and 1992-93 and then again in 1995-96 and 1996-97.

Lemieux’s teammate on the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jaromir Jagr took home the Art Ross four times consecutively from 1997-98 to 2000-01. Jagr won the trophy five times during his NHL playing career. Jagr, to date, is the last to win the award in straight seasons.

In all, the history of the Art Ross Trophy has not been one of sharing and equality. Only 25 different NHLers have won the trophy over the 61 years. From 1970 until 2000, only nine different skaters took home the award. For 20 years from 1980 to 2000, the Art Ross was selfishly kept between Gretzky, Lemieux and Jagr. Among the original six teams, only four have had scoring champions on the roster. A Toronto Maple Leaf or New York Ranger has never won the trophy. In fact, only 14 of the current 30 teams have one of their player’s names engraved on the Art Ross. 

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