PHWA mourns the loss of trailblazing member Robin Herman

Robin Herman refused to accept anything short of equal access for women covering the National Hockey League – no matter the sexist taunt or crude comment thrown her way.

And she heard them all.

“Go ahead if you want to see nude men,” Herman was told by Atlanta Flames coach Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion in 1974.

Some players clutched their towels when Herman entered. Others thought it would be funny to yank away a teammate’s towel during an interview.

Once, Toronto Maple Leafs manager Harold Ballard said that women would be allowed to ask players questions after games if they also took off all of their clothes.

She persisted nonetheless.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association is mourning the passing of Herman, a pioneer member who broke the hockey media’s gender barrier as one of the first female reporters to enter a professional sports locker room. Herman died this week at 70 after a battle with ovarian cancer, her family told the New York Times.

Herman was the PHWA’s lone female member in 1974-75. After being denied at various team facilities throughout the league, she burst through at the 1975 All-Star Game in Montreal, when the game’s coaches – Fred Shero and Bep Guidolin – said they had no problem with a woman entering the locker room.

Herman, just 23 at the time, and Montreal-based radio reporter Marcelle St. Cyr broke the barrier when they walked into those Forum locker rooms, forging a path forward for so many women interested in covering pro sports.

“Every female sportswriter and TV sports personality owes a great debt to Robin Herman,” said Los Angeles Times columnist Helene Elliott, the PHWA’s only female president and Elmer Ferguson Award winner.

“If not for her and her insistence on being allowed to do a job she was eminently qualified to do, the door would never have opened for hundreds of women who followed because she made it possible.”

Elliott said she recently spoke a young male journalist and mentioned that early in her career she was not allowed into many locker rooms.

“He had no idea that had ever been the case,” Elliott said. “If not for Robin and Lawrie Mifflin and Mary Flannery and a few others, equal access might have come about far more slowly than it did.”

To be fair, the Professional Hockey Writers Association was not initially inclusive when it came to accepting female members. Former PHWA president Kevin Allen learned while documenting the organization’s history that New York-based reporter Shirley Fischler asked the Human Rights Commission in 1970 to investigate the PHWA’s practice of only admitting men. The PHWA’s senior leadership at the time never replied to Fischler.

In 1972-73, two seasons later, the PHWA reconsidered and allowed female members. Herman was the organization’s lone female member in 1974-75 while covering the New York Islanders for the New York Times.

By the time Larry Brooks began covering the Islanders for the New York Post in 1976, it was the norm for women to be covering hockey in New York, in part because of Herman’s courage of conviction.

“Robin was a trailblazer,” Brooks said on Thursday. “We had several women covering New York hockey teams – Robin, Lawrie Mifflin, Helene Elliott, Mary Flannery, Robin Finn. That was just business as usual for me. Robin and I were friends. She was a pro’s pro, sharp, excellent reporter, could write [well]. She was tough, as all the women had to be in order to make it.”

Herman moved to the New York Rangers beat in 1978, ending her five-year run covering hockey in 1979 with a move to the paper’s metropolitan desk. It wasn’t until 1987 – some 12 years after Herman first entered the locker room at All-Star weekend – that the NHL formally instituted media regulations that granted league-wide access for all accredited journalists, regardless of gender.

Herman later wrote for The Washington Post and spent 13 years at Harvard University’s School of Public Health as assistant dean for communications before retiring in 2012. While retired, Herman began an appropriately titled blog “The Girl in the Locker Room,” which is how she will be forever remembered in the organization.

“Fittingly, the dressing room Robin set foot in was that of the storied Montréal Canadiens,” said current PHWA member Erin Brown. “Above the stalls is the message: ‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.’ I always thought that was perfect for such a historic moment, and a reminder to all of us women who have pursued careers in sports. We’ve got the torch, Robin. I hope we’re doing our part to hold it high for the next generation of girls as you did for us.”

The Professional Hockey Writers Association sends sincere condolences to Herman’s husband, Paul Horvitz, as well as her two children, Eva and Zachary, and two grandchildren.

To read more about Herman, please visit her obituary in the New York Times.

Canes, Oilers, Pens and Wild win 2021 Dillman Award

The Professional Hockey Writers Association is pleased to announce the Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins are 2021 winners of the Dick Dillman Award, presented annually to honor the work of outstanding NHL public relations staffs.

Traditionally, the award recognizes the excellence of one winner in each the Eastern and Western conferences. This year, the selection committee took note of the unusual circumstances presented by the global pandemic and with the NHL’s division-based schedule, opted to present four winners in 2021.

Both the Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference) and Minnesota Wild (Western Conference) repeated as winners. This year marks the first Edmonton Oilers win since 1999 – and the first ever win for the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise.

“Without any doubt, this was the single most difficult season in our organization’s 54-year history for our members to do what they do best, which is build relationships, tell stories and effectively report on the teams they cover,” said PHWA president Frank Seravalli. “But these four staffs stood out among their peers, going the extra mile in this Zoom-only environment to facilitate one-on-one interviews, to bring out the extra player in an availability, to lug and setup all of the Zoom gear on a travel day, all to allow our members’ coverage at least a fighting chance to appear seamless to the reader.

“On behalf of all 291 PHWA members, we commend and thank you for a job well done.”

In Pittsburgh, the communications department is led by Jennifer Bullano Ridgley, vice president of communications; Evan Schall, director of communication; and Emma Kilmer, communications coordinator.

“The past year has been a challenge for all of us. We are especially honored to receive the recognition this season on behalf of the Penguins‘ organization,” said Bullano Ridgley. “We appreciate the patience and flexibility of the media, as well as our players and coaches.”

The Edmonton Oilers’ PR staff is headed by first-year director of hockey communications Jamie Cartmell; Shawn May, manager of hockey communications; and Kaite Doyle, manager of hockey communications and team services.

Oilers PR staff (L-R): Jamie Cartmell, Shawn May, Kaite Doyle.

“We are honored and delighted to be recognized as the North Division’s Dick Dillman Award winner by the PHWA,” said Cartmell. “Acknowledgement of this kind by this prestigious association is a direct reflection of our entire organization’s desire to work in partnership with those who cover the great sport of hockey. This past season presented significant challenges and we’re tremendously grateful for the cooperation and professionalism of our players, coaches, management and media partners.”

In Carolina, the communications department continues to be led by Mike Sundheim, vice president of communications and team services; and includes Mike Brown, manager of communications; and David Piper, communications coordinator.

Hurricanes PR staff (L-R): Mike Brown, Mike Sundheim, David Piper.

“This was obviously a unique season that presented major challenges to media covering our league. Thankfully, our management, players and especially our head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, remained open-minded and flexible in making themselves available for the local and national media throughout the season,” Sundheim said. “We are truly grateful to the PHWA for this recognition of the Hurricanes organization and honored to again be associated with Mr. Dillman’s legacy.”

Minnesota’s staff is led once again by Aaron Sickman, director of media relations, as well as media relations specialist Megan Kogut.

Wild PR staff (L-R): Aaron Sickman, Megan Kogut.

“On behalf of the Minnesota Wild organization we are humbled and honored to be named a recipient of the Dick Dillman Award,” Sickman said. “We deeply value the relationships we have with PHWA members and greatly appreciate the willingness Dean Evason, Bill Guerin and our players demonstrated in connecting with media this season. We especially want to recognize and thank the writers that cover the great sport of hockey for sharing their stories with fans throughout another challenging season.”

The Dillman Award is presented in honor of the late, great Minnesota North Stars public relations guru Dick Dillman. The Dillman committee is chaired by Dillman’s daughter, Lisa Dillman, and features a voting panel of senior PHWA members.

Previous Dillman Award winners

2019-20: Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild

2018-19: Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames
2017-18: Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars
2016-17: Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild
2015-16: Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames
2014-15: Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars
2013-14: Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks
2012-13: Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks
2011-12: Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators
2010-11: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks
2009-10: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks
2008-09: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks
2007-08: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks
2006-07: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks

PHWA’s 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy ballots: Vasilevskiy’s resounding win

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was selected as the 55th winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup playoff MVP by a panel of Professional Hockey Writers Association members.

Collecting his league record fifth consecutive shutout in a series-clinching game, dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final in the Edmonton bubble, Vasilevskiy garnered 15 first-place votes among 18 available ballots. He edged teammate Nikita Kucherov, who led the postseason in scoring with 32 points, by an 82-60 voting point margin.

Lightning forward Brayden Point finished third, while defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price also received votes.

Vasilevskiy became the first goaltender to win the Conn Smythe since Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick in 2012. He is just the first European-trained goaltender to capture the award, as all 14 previous winners were born and trained in the United States or Canada.

Vasilevskiy, 26, was between the pipes for every second of the Lightning’s playoff run for the second year in a row. He started all 23 games, posting a 1.90 goals against-average and a .937 save percentage, becoming the first goaltender since Ken Dryden (1976-1978) to win the Stanley Cup in consecutive years while allowing an average of under 2.00 goals per game.

In the interest of full transparency, the PHWA has once again revealed each individual ballot for all 18 Conn Smythe voters.

Voting point totals:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: 82 points (15 first place)
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay: 60 points (3 first place)
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay: 16 points
Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay: 3 points
Carey Price, Montreal: 1 point

Points were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis and the deadline to submit ballots occurred with 10 minutes remaining in Game 5.

PHWA reveals 2021 NHL Awards ballots

TAMPA, Fla. — Since 1967, the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) has been counted on to independently vote on six major NHL Awards, as well as end-of-season All-Star and All-Rookie teams.

For the fourth consecutive year, the PHWA has revealed the ballot of each individual voter in the interest of full transparency.

“This was an incredibly unique season to evaluate Awards winners,” said PHWA President Frank Seravalli. “When the NHL was forced to pivot to intradivision play by the COVID-19 virus, our organization also pivoted to ensure the fairest possible selection process.

“We’re so proud of the countless hours our voters put into their ballots – researching, watching at the rink and at home, and gathering opinions from trusted sources to make sure we got it right.”

Faced with the challenge of comparing individual season’s across four silos of intradivision-only play, the PHWA’s Executive Board made a significant change to the voting process. The voting bloc was pared down to 100 voters, well short of the typical 175 voters, to include 94 members plus an invited panel of six international broadcasters.

The PHWA selected 20 members based in each of the four divisions (East, Central, North and West), in addition to 20 at-large international members/broadcasters.

The goal was to create geographical balance, removing the unprecedented disparity in divisional representation among voters created by intradivision play. The Executive Board felt this better balanced approach would also offset the fact that many of members only regularly viewed the seven or eight teams in their own division for the first time in modern voting history.

This season, all 100 ballots distributed were returned on-time and without error.

Each individual vote can be viewed at the links below:

Hart Memorial Trophy

James Norris Memorial Trophy

Calder Memorial Trophy

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

All-Star Team: Center

All-Star Team: Left Wing

All-Star Team: Right Wing

All-Star Team: Defense

All-Star Team: Goaltender

All-Rookie Team: Forward

All-Rookie Team: Defense

All-Rookie Team: Goaltender

The PHWA wishes to congratulate all 2021 NHL Award winners and finalists on their well-deserved honors.​​

PHWA mourns the passing of Toronto Star titan Frank Orr

A legend to most, a mentor to all young journalists, the Professional Hockey Writers Association mourns the passing of legendary member William “Frank” Orr on Feb. 13, 2021.

Orr, a titan at the Toronto Star for more than four decades, was the 1989 recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Award as a media honouree in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was 84.

Orr was the PHWA’s No. 3 card holder at the time of his passing, the organization’s second-longest living lifetime member. In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement award from Sports Media Canada and was inducted into the Etobicoke (Ont.) Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Tributes poured in from around the hockey world on Saturday as news of Orr’s passing spread.

Past PHWA president Mark Spector recalled his time as a young Oilers beat writer, once phoning Orr for information the day before a game.

“He was somebody. I was nobody,” Spector tweeted. “Graciously, he emptied his notebook​. He taught us all about decency and enjoying the job. And restaurants.”

Orr was famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of the finest restaurants in any city on any continent. He was equally remembered for his brilliantly funny one-liners.

“I didn’t know we broke any windows,” was often Orr’s response when big bill arrived at the table. Then he’d wrestle the cheque away from his dining companions.

A few other Orr favourites: “I’m not saying the Leafs are bad, but is f***-up hyphenated?” Or: “I’ve bet on horses smaller than that [Eric] Lindros kid.”

During a particularly conservative Ducks-Red Wings game, Elliott Teaford recalled Orr quipping: “It’s the dump without the chase.”

Orr’s legend spanned the ocean. Longtime PHWA member Lance Hornby shared a story of over-served Finnish writers spotting Orr at a bar during the 1989 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Oooor! Ooooor! They kept yelling at our table, then came over to pepper him with a million questions,” Hornby tweeted. “It was like traveling with a rock star.”

Orr’s career began as a radio announcer in Chatham and Sault Ste Marie, Ont. He then served as sports editor with the Guelph Mercury and Cornwall Standard-Freeholder before joining the Toronto Star in 1961. At the Star, Orr covered everything from college football to horse racing, while his major beat was hockey – from junior to the National Hockey League and world championships.

Orr wrote more than 30 sports books and contributed to more than 60 additional titles. He also covered the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, as well as auto racing and figure skating – including 12 World and Olympic championships.

“As an American hockey writer in the 1970s, before social media, when I walked into a Canadian rink and saw a Frank Orr, a Red Fisher, I felt real awe: ‘Whoa. These guys write hockey IN CANADA!’,” tweeted fellow Elmer Ferguson winner Frank Brown. “They were the iconic print voices of hockey where it is the official winter sport.”

Scores of kids across Canada read the Star wanting to emulate Orr. Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons tweeted: “Growing up, everyone on my street wanted to be Bobby Orr. I wanted to be Frank Orr.”

Fellow Elmer Ferguson Award winner and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted: “During the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs, 11-year-old me kept a scrapbook of all the articles written in The Star and The Telegram about the Leafs run to the Cup. I was as enamoured with the bylines of the reporters as the players they wrote about.”

When McKenzie, Simmons and others finally made it to the press box and rubbed elbows with Orr, they were treated like equals.

Former PHWA member Mike Zeisberger tweeted: “Sometimes your heroes disappoint. Not Frank.”

That’s why beyond his enormous accomplishments as a journalist, he was immediately remembered for his generosity and compassion toward young aspiring writers.

“The Man. Generous to young writers, great dinner companion, king of one-liners, with a soft spot for the everyday producers of prose on the hockey beat,” the Hall of Famer Cam Cole wrote. “Frank had a weak heart but a very big one. All his old media buddies can quote a few of his one-liners.”

Simmons tweeted that “one of the most important influences of my life has passed. … Thanks for all the laughs, the stories, the advice, the restaurant touts, the recipes, the emails.”

Cole also remembered being sick with food poisoning in Detroit, delirious while covering an Edmonton Oilers playoff game. Orr would wake his media colleague long enough to describe goals – “Kurri, one-timer, great setup by Gretz” – and Cole would write them down before passing out again.

“Every great man is unique, and there is no question that Frank Orr was one of a kind,” PHWA president Frank Seravalli said. “Reading all of the tributes come in from every corner of the hockey universe not only cemented his legend as a giant in hockey journalism, but showed that he meant so much to so many.”

Orr was preceded in death by Shirley, his wife of 57 years. The Professional Hockey Writers Association sends its sincere condolences to the Orr family.

PHWA’s 2020 Conn Smythe Ballots: Hedman’s razor thin win

EDMONTON — Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was selected as the 54th winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup playoff MVP by a panel of Professional Hockey Writers Association members.

Hedman’s victory will go down as one of the closest Conn Smythe votes ever by the PHWA. The hulking Swede edged teammate Brayden Point by a slim four-point margin, receiving nine first-place votes (9-8-1) to Point’s eight (8-8-2).

Teammates Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy also received votes.

Hedman became the third native of Sweden to win the Conn Smythe, joining countrymen Nick Lidstrom (2002) and Henrik Zetterberg (2008). He scored 10 goals during the Lightning’s 25-game run, third only to Brian Leetch (11) and Paul Coffey (12) for most goals by a defenseman in a single playoff. All 10 of his goals were scored during the traditional four playoff rounds, with none coming in the bonus round-robin games.

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Hedman logged more than 500 minutes of ice time in the playoffs and was only on the ice for 10 goals against, matching his own singular offensive production. Point netted a playoff-best 14 goals, including the Stanley Cup clincher in Game 6.

In the interest of full transparency, the PHWA has once again revealed each individual ballot for all 18 Conn Smythe voters.

TOTALS:
Victor Hedman 70 points (9-8-1)
Brayden Point 66 points (8-8-2)
Nikita Kucherov 25 points (1-2-14)
Andrei Vasilevskiy 1 point (0-0-1)

Voting was scored in a 5-3-1 points format and ballots were due with 10 minutes remaining in Game 6.

Hurricanes, Wild win 2020 Dillman Awards

The Professional Hockey Writers Association is pleased to announce that the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild are the 2020 winners of the Dick Dillman Award, presented annually to honor the work of outstanding NHL public relations staffs in each conference.

After two consecutive seasons as runners-up, the Hurricanes broke through with their first-ever win, while Minnesota captured the Dillman for the second time in four seasons.

Traditionally, the award is based on the work of public relations teams during the regular season. This year, the Dillman selection committee also took the playoffs into consideration and noted how the staffs in Carolina and Minnesota dealt with unprecedented situations and handled them with exceptional professionalism.

“This season presented us all with unique challenges, with access altered and limited to ways we have never seen before,” said PHWA president Frank Seravalli. “While the doors to rinks closed, the Wild and Hurricanes were as available as ever. Before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, they went above and beyond their peers to provide access and information with a dedication and excellence that showed through when other teams went quiet.”

Minnesota’s communications department is headed by Aaron Sickman, director of media relations; and includes Megan Kogut, media relations specialist; and Emily Yang, publicist.

“We are humbly honored to be named a recipient of the Dick Dillman Award by the PHWA,” Sickman said. “This has certainly been a challenging season for everyone. We value the relationship our players and team management have with the media and enjoy helping them cover the Minnesota Wild and the great sport of hockey on a daily basis.”

Wild PR staff (L-R): Aaron Sickman, Megan Kogut, Emily Yang.

In Carolina, the public relations staff continues to be led by Mike Sundheim, vice president of communications and team services; and includes Pace Sagester, manager of communications and team services; and Mike Brown, communications and hockey operations assistant.

“We are humbled and honored to accept this award on behalf of the Carolina Hurricanes organization,” Sundheim said. “With the challenges the world is currently facing, the PHWA is an even more vital organization for telling the stories of how players, coaches and teams are navigating these unique circumstances, and we sincerely appreciate the efforts of its membership in reaching out to do so. We are also thankful to work for an owner, general manager and head coach who recognize the importance of providing quality access to independent writers.”  

Hurricanes PR staff (L-R): Mike Brown, Mike Sundheim, Pace Sagester.

The runners-up in the Eastern Conference were the Philadelphia Flyers, three-time Dillman winners, most recently in 2018. The Flyers’ staff is led by Zack Hill, the team’s senior director of communications. In the Western Conference, the runners-up were another previous Dillman winner, the Dallas Stars. The Stars’ PR staff continues to be headed by Tom Holy, vice president of communications and broadcasting.

The Dillman Award is presented in honor of the late, great Minnesota North Stars public relations guru Dick Dillman. The Dillman committee is chaired by Dillman’s daughter, Lisa Dillman, and features a voting panel of senior PHWA members.

Previous Dillman Award winners

2018-19: Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames
2017-18: Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars
2016-17: Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild
2015-16: Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames
2014-15: Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars
2013-14: Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks
2012-13: Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks
2011-12: Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators
2010-11: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks
2009-10: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks
2008-09: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks
2007-08: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks
2006-07: Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks