James Norris Memorial Trophy

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the player selected by hockey writers as the best defenceman in the National Hockey League. It was presented to the league in 1953 by the children of James Norris, former owner of the Detroit Red Wings. The winner is chosen through a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season and is awarded after the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bobby Orr won the trophy eight consecutive years between 1968 and 1975.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the player selected by hockey writers as the best defenceman in the National Hockey League.

History of the James Norris Memorial Trophy

A successful businessman, James Norris grew up in Montreal, where he played for the McGill University and Montreal Amateur Athletic Association hockey teams. In 1932, he purchased a struggling American hockey team, the Detroit Falcons, and renamed them the Detroit Red Wings. The team’s new logo, a wing protruding from a wheel, was adapted from the logo of the old Montreal Hockey Club, which had been nicknamed the “Winged Wheelers.”

The Red Wings won five Stanley Cups under Norris, who died in 1952. Tributes poured in, with Toronto Maple Leafs president Conn Smythe describing Norris as “one of the great Canadians of all time.” NHL president Clarence Campbell also lamented Norris’s death, stating that “It would be impossible to overestimate the tremendous contribution which he has made to the welfare of hockey in general and to the NHL in particular...hockey has suffered a very great loss in his passing.”

After James Norris died in 1952, he was replaced as president of the club by his daughter, Marguerite Norris, who became the first woman president in the NHL.

Did You Know?
Only 25 years old at the time of her appointment, Marguerite Norris had trained in business and was an “avid sports fan,” according to Detroit’s general manager, Jack Adams. In her column, “Sports Reel” for the Globe and Mail in February 1953, Bobbie Rosenfeld reported meeting the new president. “It is an unusual day, indeed, when a person has the chance to meet the first boss-lady the National Hockey League has ever had … I found [her] a plain, but pleasant lady, touched with the pride of ownership and hockey enthusiasm which is bound to keep the sport in the Detroit organization healthy as long as Miss Norris is around.” Indeed, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup twice during Marguerite’s term as president, which lasted until 1955 (when she reluctantly gave up her position to brother Bruce).

Shortly after Marguerite took the helm in Detroit, she and her two brothers presented the NHL with a trophy in honour of their father. The James Norris Memorial Trophy would thereafter be presented to the best all-round defenceman in the league, who was chosen through a poll of sportswriters and broadcasters from cities with NHL teams.

The trophy was first awarded in 1954 to Detroit’s Red Kelly, who also won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that year as the league’s most gentlemanly player. The following year, Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens was named best defenceman. Harvey won the James Norris Memorial Trophy seven times in total between 1955 and 1962. His record was equalled in 1974 by Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins. “Ho hum—guess who wins Norris again,” remarked the Globe and Mail. The following year, Orr received his eighth consecutive Norris trophy, a record that still stands.

In 2011, Nicklas Lidström won his seventh James Norris Memorial Trophy as best defenceman in the league, tying Harvey. Ray Bourque won the trophy five times during his NHL career, while Pierre Pilote, Denis Potvin, Paul Coffey and Chris Chelios each won three times.

James Norris Memorial Trophy Winners

Year Player Team
1954 Red Kelly Detroit Red Wings
1955 Doug Harvey Montreal Canadiens
1956 Doug Harvey Montreal Canadiens
1957 Doug Harvey Montreal Canadiens
1958 Doug Harvey Montreal Canadiens
1959 Tom Johnson Montreal Canadiens
1960 Doug Harvey Montreal Canadiens
1961 Doug Harvey Montreal Canadiens
1962 Doug Harvey New York Rangers
1963 Pierre Pilote Chicago Black Hawks
1964 Pierre Pilote Chicago Black Hawks
1965 Pierre Pilote Chicago Black Hawks
1966 Jacques Laperriere Montreal Canadiens
1967 Harry Howell New York Rangers
1968 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1969 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1970 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1971 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1972 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1973 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1974 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1975 Bobby Orr Boston Bruins
1976 Denis Potvin New York Islanders
1977 Larry Robinson Montreal Canadiens
1978 Denis Potvin New York Islanders
1979 Denis Potvin New York Islanders
1980 Larry Robinson Montreal Canadiens
1981 Randy Carlyle Pittsburgh Penguins
1982 Doug Wilson Chicago Black Hawks
1983 Rod Langway Washington Capitals
1984 Rod Langway Washington Capitals
1985 Paul Coffey Edmonton Oilers
1986 Paul Coffey Edmonton Oilers
1987 Ray Bourque Boston Bruins
1988 Ray Bourque Boston Bruins
1989 Chris Chelios Montreal Canadiens
1990 Ray Bourque Boston Bruins
1991 Ray Bourque Boston Bruins
1992 Brian Leetch New York Rangers
1993 Chris Chelios Chicago Blackhawks
1994 Ray Bourque Boston Bruins
1995 Paul Coffey Detroit Red Wings
1996 Chris Chelios Chicago Blackhawks
1997 Brian Leetch New York Rangers
1998 Rob Blake Los Angeles Kings
1999 Al MacInnis St. Louis Blues
2000 Chris Pronger St. Louis Blues
2001 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2002 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2003 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2004 Scott Niedermayer New Jersey Devils
2005 Season cancelled due to lockout
2006 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2007 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2008 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2009 Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins
2010 Duncan Keith Chicago Blackhawks
2011 Nicklas Lidström Detroit Red Wings
2012 Erik Karlsson Ottawa Senators
2013 P.K. Subban Montreal Canadiens
2014 Duncan Keith Chicago Blackhawks
2015 Erik Karlsson Ottawa Senators
2016 Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
2017 Brent Burns San Jose Sharks
2018 Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning

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