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CRACKS OF DON: After 72 years, it's time to name Art Ross Trophy after Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers.
Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers.

Earlier this week a friend who bleeds the blue and white of Toronto’s NHL team typed out a text while no doubt shaking his head in dismay.

“No Maple Leaf has won the scoring title since the early 1940s,” it read.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him the drought actually goes back to the 1937-38 season, when Gordie Drillion led the league with 52 points, two more than teammate Syl Apps.

Maple Leafs crowned scoring champs before Drillion were Charlie Conacher (1933-34, 1934-35), Harvey Jackson (1931-32) and Ace Bailey (1928-29).

Cecil Henry (Babe) Dye captured the title in 1924-25 and 1922-23 as a forward for the Toronto St. Patricks, before they became the Maple Leafs during the 1926-27 season.

This all has some relevance because it was 72 years ago today (June 2, 1948) that former player, coach and GM Art Ross donated a trophy in his name to be given to the NHL player who leads the league in points.

Some day that could be Auston Matthews, but in this abbreviated season it was Leon Draisaitl, who finished with a comfortable 13-point cushion over teammate Connor McDavid.

For that, he should also be awarded the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, but back to the Art Ross.

Draisaitl was the 10th Edmonton Oilers to claim the trophy, although seven times the Oiler to do so was Wayne Gretzky, who also won it three times with the Los Angeles Kings.

Other kind of fun facts on the Art Ross Trophy’s 72nd birthday:

— Elmer Lach of the Montreal Canadiens won the first one;

— Joe Thornton is the only player to have won it while playing the season with two teams, Boston and San Jose, in 2005-06;

— Sidney Crosby is the youngest winner at 19 in 2006-07;

— Martin St. Louis is the oldest winner at 37, in 2012-13, and also the player who went the longest between Art Ross Trophy wins, as he also grabbed in 2003-04;

— Bobby Orr is the only defenceman to win it, and he did it twice (1969-70, 1974-75);

— Patrick Kane is the only American to win it (2015-16);

— The Sedins are the only brothers to win it (Henrik in 2009-10, Daniel 2010-11).

— No New York Ranger has ever won it, making it two original six teams that have yet to pick up an Art Ross.

Which brings us to this, follow up to a point made in this space on Monday suggesting the Norris Trophy should be renamed the Orr Trophy and the Rocket Richard Trophy should be renamed the Alex Ovechkin Trophy …. Art Ross was a defenceman who played three games in the NHL, all with the 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers. He had one goal and no assists.

It’s time to change the damn name to the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, if not for the 10 scoring titles than that his 2,857 career points is 936 more than the second-highest scoring player of all time, Jaromir Jagr.

In other words, it’s a record that will never, ever be touched.

Art Ross himself would no doubt approve of the change.

STOPS AND STARTS

I don’t think it’s right for Evander Kane to be nominating Sidney Crosby to make public statements of any kind. If Sid feels comfortable doing it, then by all means. But speaking out against racism and violence isn’t really his style … Meanwhile, stepping forward quite eloquently was Blackhawks centre Zack Smith: “As a privileged white man playing in the NHL (a predominantly white league) I feel it’s as important now as ever to show support for the black community and encourage change. If you think the current way black people and other minorities are treated here today is ok … you are a racist. If you don’t have an opinion or are “neutral” on this subject then you are ignorant and very misinformed.” Smith went on to say he strongly disagrees with rioting and looting “but if you resent this movement because of the actions of a few vandals, then you are missing the point entirely. As hockey players we sometimes come off as robots in our interviews and stay clear of opinions on most social issues and controversy, personally I don’t like posting my opinions on social media these days for several reasons. However with the amount of racist people (especially those in positions of power) being exposed during this movement I felt the need to show my support for the black community and the need for change.” … The Senators miss the leadership Smith provided … Speaking of which, it’s nice to know the Senators are thinking about naming a captain for when their next season begins in eight months or whenever. Hopefully, by then Daniel Alfredsson will be ready to make his comeback.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

So the MLBPA proposition was called a “non-starter” by one owner, the plugged-in Jon Heyman reports. The players used similar language to what the owners originally put on the table. Now, how about a 50-game season, the owners say. How about MLB commish Rob Manfred just makes a decision the players have to live with or just not bring home any money this year? … You know you really are a super agent when you can pay all your released minor leaguers their expected salaries for the year. Way to go, Scott Boras … Not sure how Bruce Lee’s documentary ‘Be Water’ (June 7) can measure up to Roy Halladay’s or to Michael Jordan’s, but what else are you watching these days? ….

WORTH REPEATING

Nice piece in the Toronto Sun by my oldest pal, Lance Hornby, on the 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers being the last Stanley Cup winning team to have an all-Canadian roster. Of the 22 skaters, seven were from Ontario, four from Saskatchewan, three from Alberta, three from Manitoba, two from B.C. and, surprisingly, just three were from Quebec, a hockey hotbed, especially in those days. The three Quebecois — Bill Clement from Buckingham, Andre (Moose) Dupont from Trois-Rivieres and Montreal’s Bernie Parent, who was winning his second straight Conn Smythe …

FINISHING TOUCHES

Former boxer (and now boxing promoter) Floyd Mayweather has offered to pay for George Floyd’s funeral and all expenses for his family. He always was a class act … My trip down the Internet worm hole today brought me to the rather disturbing fact that Max Baer Jr., who portrayed Jethro Bodine, is the only case member of The Beverly Hillbillies who is still alive. He lives in Paradise, Nevada, and at the age of 82, his hair and moustache are jet black … Radio stations always get a player to do a promo for them. “Hi, I’m so-and-so and you’re listening to so-and-so station.” I’ve got my own for this column, as of Monday: “I’ll be looking to read the Cracks of Don at the crack of dawn,” said Hall of Famer Brian Kilrea.

dbrennan@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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