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Throwback Thursdays – William M. Jennings

It’s time for another edition of Throwback Thursdays!

We’ve had a good series so far looking back at the history of NHL trophies and the people behind them. So far we have looked into the Ted Lindsay Award, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and most recently the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

For this week’s trophy, we’re going to look into the William M. Jennings Trophy and I’ll teach you about the man behind the trophy. William  Mitchell “Bill” Jennings.

Who was William Jennings?

He even looked like a lawyer. Photo: Hockey Hall of Fame

First of all, the “M” in William M. Jennings was hard to pin down. It actually took some digging into records about his son William Mitchell Jennings Jr and a 1940 New York Census to actually confirm it, because most articles refer to Bill as William M. Jennings without ever bothering to mention his middle name. These sites include the Hockey Hall of Fame, US Hockey Hall of Fame, the Rangers, and even ol’ (un)reliable Wikipedia didn’t give a middle name – or any sources, as per usual.

Anyways, Bill Jennings was someone that New York Rangers fans and US Hockey historians should know well. But for everyone else, let’s dig a little bit into his past.

Jennings was born December 14, 1920. Fast forward past his childhood years and he was a proud graduate of Princeton University and then decided to one-up himself by also acquiring his law degree from Yale law school.

After lawyering it up for a while (he was a senior partner of the New York City law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, one of the world’s largest and most respected law firms), Jennings eventually took over as the fifth President of the New York Rangers in 1962, a position he held until his death in August of 1981. Jennings would go on to leave a massive mark on the history of the Rangers, the NHL, and US hockey. Some of Jennings notable achievements include:

-Taking the Rangers to two Stanley Cup Finals appearances during their 54 year Cup drought.
-Petitioned the league to open their head office in New York and got it there in 1964. To this day New York is NHL headquarters.
-Chaired both the NHL finance and expansion committees, and was instrumental in the leagues first expansion and then oversaw several more expansions as the league grew from The Original Six all the way up to 16 teams the year before his death.

Quite literally the Golden Years.

“The New York Rangers: Broadway’s Longest Running Hit” by John Kreiser and Lou Friedman even suggests Jennings made the NHL more locally focused and “more than just a regional league.”
-In 1966, Jennings along with Rangers GM Emile Francis helped found the New York Metropolitan Hockey Association, later the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League, one of the first hockey leagues available in the Metropolitan area. The league ran for over 50 years and has notable alumni such as Jim Dowd, Brian and Joey Mullen,  Mark Eaton, Nick Foligno, Mike Komisarek, Jeremy Bracco, Kevin Lablanc and one of the men who would break the Rangers Cup drought in 1994, Mike Richter.

New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter makes a save in the third period as Vancouver Canucks’ Trevor Linden (16) skates away and Rangers’ Kevin Lowe (4) looks on in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Photo: AP / Ron Frehm

-Started the Lester Patrick Award Presentation Dinner, in which the New York Rangers presented the award to someone who showed “outstanding service to hockey in the United States.” That award became the Lester Patrick Trophy, an award that an award committee consisting of the President of the NHL, an NHL Governor, a representative of the New York Rangers, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Builder’s section, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Player’s section, a member of the U. S. Hockey Hall of Fame, a member of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association still awards annually and Jennings himself won in 1971.
-Ever the philanthropist, Jennings was active for over 25 years in organizing professional golf tournaments for the benefit of Westchester County hospitals including the Westchester Golf Classic – a tournament which raised nearly $4,000,000.
-He was an honorary chairman of United Hospital in Port Chester, N.Y.
-He was inducted in to both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the US Hockey Half of Fame.

More interesting than you thought right?

What about the William M. Jennings Trophy?


The William M. Jennings Trophy


The Jennings Trophy actually took the place of what the original Vezina Trophy was awarded for, which is an annual award given to the goaltender(s) “having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it” during the regular season. The Vezina Trophy was awarded under those conditions from 1946-81, until the Jennings Trophy was created. The Vezina Trophy is now awarded to the “goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position” by the 31 general managers.

After the NHL began to notice that the Vezina Trophy would often go to goalies of good teams instead of the goaltender(s) who may have had the best seasons on poor teams, they decided to create a new award to honour the original Vezina Trophy, but to give the Vezina Trophy its current significance. The NHL Board of Governors, who had just seen the recently retired Jennings pass away the previous summer, decided to name the new Trophy after Jennings.

It is also a fairly unique award in which it is a common occurrence for there to be shared winners, as back-up goalies generally see more than 25 games – except for the Martin Brodeur/Patrick Roy era – and hell, even Roy shared 3 of his 5 Jennings compared to Brodeur having 4 of his 5 being individual awards. Noteworthy as well that they share the lead for overall Jennings, with 5 apiece. Take a look and see what I mean below.

Planning world domination at the 1998 NHL All-Star Game. Photo: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images

Past William M. Jennings Trophy Winners:

  • 2018: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
  • 2017: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
  • 2016: Frederik Andersen / John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
  • 2015: Corey Crawford / Carey Price, Blackhawks / Canadiens
  • 2014: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
  • 2013: Corey Crawford / Ray Emery, Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2012: Brian Elliott / Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
  • 2011: Roberto Luongo/ Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks
  • 2010: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
  • 2009: Tim Thomas / Manny Fernandez, Boston Bruins
  • 2008: Dominik Hasek / Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings
  • 2007: Niklas Backstrom / Manny Fernandez, Minnesota Wild
  • 2006: Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames
  • 2004: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
  • 2003: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
  • 2003: Roman Cechmanek / Robert Esche, Philadelphia Flyers
  • 2002: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2001: Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres
  • 2000: Roman Turek, St. Louis Blues
  • 1999: Ed Belfour / Roman Turek, Dallas Stars
  • 1998: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
  • 1997: Martin Brodeur / Mike Dunham, New Jersey Devils
  • 1996: Chris Osgood / Mike Vernon, Detroit Red Wings
  • 1995: Ed Belfour, Chicago Blackhawks
  • 1994: Dominik Hasek / Grant Fuhr, Buffalo Sabres
  • 1993: Ed Belfour, Chicago Blackhawks
  • 1992: Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens
  • 1991: Ed Belfour, Chicago Blackhawks
  • 1990: Andy Moog / Rejean Lemelin, Boston Bruins
  • 1989: Patrick Roy / Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
  • 1988: Patrick Roy / Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
  • 1987: Patrick Roy / Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
  • 1986: Bob Froese / Darren Jensen, Philadelphia Flyers
  • 1985: Tom Barrasso / Bob Sauve, Buffalo Sabres
  • 1984: Al Jensen / Pat Riggin, Washington Capitals
  • 1983: Roland Melanson / Billy Smith, New York Islanders
  • 1982: Rick Wamsley / Denis Herron, Montreal Canadiens
Steve Auld

Steve Auld

My name is Steve and I am from the very noble Auld clan of Niagara, where we respect our elders and follow the golden rules: elbows up, and keep your stick on the ice. When not tearing up beer league or ball hockey, I enjoy the occasional downtime I have with my fiancée and son. Love me some music too, all kinds. If you feel I did a good job or you want to argue, feel free to leave a comment!
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