The Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded annually to the player voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to have been the most valuable to his team during that year’s NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, was first introduced in 1964 by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment to honor Conn Smythe, the former owner, general manager and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Since its inception, attaining the honor and the prestige of this trophy has become the dream of millions of young aspiring hockey players throughout North America, and the case still remains so today. If you’re one of these ambitious athletes, however, don’t feel intimidated or discouraged by the competition. After all, each and every one of these Stanley Cup MVPs had once been in the same position as where you are right now − everyone has to get their professional careers started somewhere. It may come as a surprise to learn, however, that for many of these hockey superstars, this place was college.
Here are the various schools that the Stanley Cup MVPs from the past seven years have attended as undergraduates.
Sidney Crosby, Southern New Hampshire University; 2016, 2017
Possibly one of the most beloved and decorated NHL players in modern sporting history, Sidney Crosby, currently the captain and the center of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is best known for being the youngest player ever to win a scoring title in any major North American sports league.
Born on August 7, 1987 in Nova Scotia, Canada, Crosby was first taught to skate and play hockey at the age of 3 by his father, Troy Crosby, a former Montreal Canadiens goaltender. His extraordinary talent quickly became apparent, and in 2004, Crosby was invited to play for the Canadian Junior Hockey Team as its only under-18 player.
After going on to become the youngest player in history to score in the World Junior Championships in 2004, Crosby was immediately drafted into the NHL by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2005 NHL Entry Draft – often referred to now as the “Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes”.
By the end of his first NHL season, Crosby’s performance had solidified his status as one of North America’s strongest players. In 2007, at 19 years old, he was made captain of the Penguins – subsequently becoming the youngest team captain in NHL history – and in 2009, went on to also become the youngest captain ever to win the Stanley Cup since 1895. He has since led his team to two more back-to-back Stanley Cup victories, one in 2016 and another in 2017.
In 2015, Crosby took an online history course through Southern New Hampshire University.
“It was nine years since I had done anything school-related,” he described in an interview with Trib Live. “It was a pretty big wakeup call.”
Duncan Keith, Michigan State University; 2015
Duncan Keith, currently the alternate captain and the two-way defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks, is another Canadian NHL player who is best known for his outstanding capabilities in both offensive and shutdown situations.
After playing defense for three years with the Penticton Panthers, a local Junior A team in the British Columbia Hockey League, Keith was quickly recruited by Michigan State University as a freshman in 2001, and a year later, during the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round as a 54th overall pick.
In recognition for his significant positive impact on the team, Keith was named the alternate captain in 2008, and by 2009, he had established himself, along with teammate Brent Seabrook, as one of NHL’s top shutdown defensive pairings. Furthermore, in 2010, he was awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the best NHL defenseman during the offseason that year.
Keith has since gone on to help lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013, and 2015, and has also won two Olympic gold medals as a part of the Canadian men’s hockey team in 2010 and 2014.
Jonathan Quick, University of Massachusetts Amherst; 2012
Jonathan Quick, currently the goaltender for the Los Angeles Kings, is the present record-holder for earning the most number of shutouts in US history, with a total of 49 shutouts to date. He is also a two-time nominee for the Vezina Trophy, a distinction awarded annually to the top goaltender in the NHL who has been "adjudged to be the best at this position".
After winning two consecutive New England Prep Championships with his high school hockey team and racking up a total of nine shutouts during his senior year, Quick was soon recruited as the goaltender for the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2005. Here, not only did he become well-known on campus for his remarkable 0.929 save percentage and for leading their team to its first-ever NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championships, but for opening up his dorm room to host various study groups as well.
Despite being drafted as the 72nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Kings during the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Quick soon established his potential as a top contender by earning his first NHL shutout in 2008 and his first Stanley Cup playoffs shutout in 2011. By 2012, he was leading the NHL with the league’s second-lowest GAA (goals against average) of 1.95 and an LA Kings’ record of ten shutouts, and has since gone on to help lead the LA Kings to two Stanley Cup victories.
Tim Thomas, University of Vermont; 2011
Tim Thomas is a former goaltender for the Boston Bruins and a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL. In 2011, at the age of 37, he became the oldest player and the first American-born goaltender to have been named a Stanley Cup MVP.
In 1993, Thomas was recruited as the goaltender for the University of Vermont, where he made an astounding 3950 career saves (the second highest in NCAA Division I hockey history) and led the nation with his 0.924 save percentage. Upon graduation, Thomas then went on to successfully play in the American Hockey League and the Finnish Elite League for seven years.
In 2005, Thomas took over as the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins, eventually becoming the first goaltender in team history to have been awarded the 7th Player Award twice. In 2011, he set an all-time record for the most saves in a single postseason (798) and in a Stanley Cup series (238), as well as a save percentage of 0.967 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Furthermore, Thomas also became the first goaltender in the NHL to win three consecutive All-Star Games.
Thomas is also well-known for successfully adopting a yoga-based physical condition program to increase his strength and flexibility, a regiment which has since been embraced by many other players around the world.
Jonathan Toews, University of North Dakota; 2010
Jonathan Toews, currently the captain and the center for the Chicago Blackhawks, is the youngest player to join the Triple Gold Club and a three-time winner of the Stanley Cup.
As a freshman in 2005, Toews was recruited to play with the University of North Dakota, where he was named the alternate captain and registered 40 goals and 45 assists in under two seasons.
In 2007, as one of the top prospects by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, Toews was quickly drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as an overall third pick, and a year later, at the age of 20, was made the team captain, the third youngest in NHL history.
In 2010, he led the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1961, becoming the second-youngest captain in history to win the title, and in 2013, was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
In recognition of Toews’ remarkable success and achievements, his home province of Manitoba has decided to name one of its northern lakes after him − Toews Lake.
There’s no question that at some point in our lives, we’ve all heard of the names and the accomplishments of these NHL superstars, but are the names of their colleges familiar as well? Do you recognize any of these Stanley Cup MVPs as having attended the same school as you? Are any of them proudly recorded on your institution’s list of notable alumni?
And who knows? Maybe one day, your name will be up there as well.
Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons