The Foursome Responsible For 48% Of The NHL's Norris Trophy

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The Norris Trophy is awarded each season to the NHL's best defenseman. Since the first time it was awarded in the 1953-54 season, the award has been dominated almost half the time by just four players.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy has been handed out each NHL season since 1953-54 to the league’s top defenseman. It’s a historical fact that this award is for a very privileged few. As of the end of the 2009-10 season, the Norris Trophy has been given out 54 times. Just four players account for 26 of the 54 winners which translates to just over 48%.

This foursome is led by Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr. Orr won the Norris Trophy in eight consecutive seasons from 1967-68 to 1974-75. Of course, this is just a portion of the hardware in Orr’s trophy case. During that eight year run, he won the Art Ross Trophy as league scoring leader twice (the only defenseman to win the award). He was also awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player for three consecutive years from 1969-70 to 1971-72. If Orr’s NHL career didn’t come to a premature end due to knee injuries, there’s no knowing how many more times he would have won the Norris.

Doug Harvey won the Norris Trophy one less time than Bobby Orr. After Red Kelly won the first Norris Trophy in 1953-54 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, Doug Harvey took over. He won four in a row from 1954-55 to 1957-58 as a Montreal Canadien. In 1958-59, Canadiens teammate, Tom Johnson, won the award. From 1959-60 to 1961-62, Harvey won another three in a row, two as a member of the Canadiens and his final one as a blueliner for the New York Rangers.

Next in line in the group of four is the only one still active in the NHL and has the potential to add to the total. Niklas Lidstrom, captain of the Detroit Red Wings, won the Norris three years in a row from 2000-01 to 2002-03 and then again from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

Rounding out the group with five Norris Trophies to his name is Boston Bruins great, Raymond Bourque. Despite playing 22 seasons in the NHL, Bourque’s five Norris Trophy victories came over an eight year span from 1986-87 to 1993-94. Bourque is the NHL’s all-time leader among defensemen in career goals and points. He is the NHL’s all-time leader in shots on goal with nearly one thousand more than the next on the list.

Add in four three-time winners and it really becomes obvious that the Norris Trophy is for a very select few of the very best defensemen to play hockey. Pierre Pilote won three with the Chicago Blackhawks in the mid 1960’s. Denis Potvin won his three with the New York Islanders during their dynasty years of the 1970’s. When Ray Bourque wasn’t winning it in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Paul Coffey and Chris Chelios were. Coffey did it with the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings. Chelios did it with the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.