Why The Original Six Owns The Norris

I started looking at the stats from the 1967 season onwards after the first period of NHL expansion. I have identified out of how many years each award has been distributed, what percentage of those years the winner came from an original six team.


32/45 seasons = 71% 

Vezina only awarded since 1981

11/31 seasons = 35%

Selke awarded since 1977

20/35 seasons = 57%

Hart trophy

11/45 seasons = 24%

Why do the original 6 do so much better for these awards?

People like to say east coast media bias, but that should be equally as true for all of these awards. Some others might point to the fact that the players who win the Hart are top draft picks, which is less likely to be from an original six due to their fanbases not allowing them to tank. Similarly, Vezina winners might come from weaker teams.

I believe there is a great contrast between the statistic based trophies and the subjective ones. When the media vote for the best goalie and most valuable player, they have an easy set of statistics to guide them. Even if they do not pick the player with the best stats, they will be unlikely to pick someone whose stat’s do not belong at the top.

In contrast, there are no meaningful stats for measuring the best defensemen or the best defensive forward. That means that the awards are given on an almost completely subjective basis – the reputation test. I believe the media vote how they do for two reasons.

The first is that there is far greater attention on the original six teams. These players will receive more popularity and be in the minds of journalists throughout the season and constantly in the conversation. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a far better defenceman than Dion Phaneuf but by watching TSN, you would never know that. The people voting do not have time to watch every NHL team and this might explain some of the disparity.

The second factor I believe to be is traditionalism. The original six represent old-time, classic hockey and there is nothing more representative of old-time classic hockey than good defence. When analysts are evaluating players, its much easier and more natural to view someone as a great defensive centre if they play for the Boston Bruins than a team like the Florida Panthers. Just how everyone assumes that if a player is on the flyers, hes tough and how every goon must be stupid. Obviously this has limits as nobody is confusing P.K. Subban for Ryan Suter, but I think it is a helpful explanation.

I think it’s worth asking; if Shea Weber played for an original six team, would he already have a Norris?