Kenan Thompson said he is looking forward to hosting the 2022 NHL Awards on Tuesday, three years after he hosted the last live edition of the event prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Emmy-award winning actor and comedian will be front and center at Armature Works in Tampa (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS) to recognize the best players in the NHL during the one-hour show.
“Hopefully everybody will enjoy it,” Thompson said. “We will keep it light and moving. It’s not about me, it’s about them and other people in the community that are uplifting, whether it’s helping with diversity or just giving back in general or being a fine upstanding example of what a good NHL citizen should be. That’s what the night is about.”
Thompson said he will draw on some of his experience from 2019, when he hosted the event in Las Vegas.
“It was awesome,” he said. “No. 1, we were in Vegas so that’s always fun and it was a big giant room and the [Vegas Golden] Knights had just [reached the Stanley Cup Final] the year before so it was a blast for the hockey community out there in Nevada which is pretty new. It was nice to see that. And we did have fun, getting to see the players outside their pads and to see them as human beings. It was really cool.”
Although there will be NHL superstars and celebrities in attendance, Thompson said he is most looking forward to meeting and hearing stories of the presenters of the awards.
The presenters include Seattle Kraken fan Nadia Popovici, who from behind the glass discovered a cancerous mole on the neck of Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Red Hamilton; Calgary Flames assistant general manager and ALS survivor Chris Snow; Milton Academy (Massachusetts) player Jake Thibeault, who was paralyzed by an injury in September 2021; and emergency backup goalie Thomas Hodges, who overcame blindness in one eye to play in a game for the Anaheim Ducks this season.
“I think that’s what I’m most excited about,” Thompson said. “Amplifying those voices that need to be heard for what they are doing in the world. That’s going to make everybody feel the best. The players of course commit so much and sacrifice much, but it’s also nice to give to John Q Everyman or Everywoman, the people that are the supportive net around the League. I think that’s just as important.”
Five awards will be presented during the show; the Hart Trophy (NHL most valuable player), Vezina Trophy (top goalie), Norris Trophy (top defenseman), Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) and Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players’ Association).
The winners of nine previously announced NHL awards will also be recognized during the show, as will Noel Acton, winner of the 2022 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual, and Lane Hutson, winner of the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence, given to the draft prospect who best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
The three finalists for the Jim Gregory general manager of the year award will also be announced during the show.
Thompson, who grew up in Georgia, said he wasn’t a hockey fan until high school when he got a role in “D2: The Mighty Ducks”.
“It was totally because of that movie,” Thompson said. “I didn’t even know how to roller skate before that. Hockey was not a big thing when I was a kid; we were watching football or basketball or baseball basically. But having my 15th birthday on the first day of hockey camp it was just like a thing that was so concrete I couldn’t turn away from it and then I actually learned how to skate and play and then the movies turned out to be such a classic chapter of American hockey history too so I was happy.”
The longest-tenured cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” Thompson recently completed his 19th season. He still found time to watch hockey games and even attend some New York Rangers playoff games.
“When the Garden is rocking, everybody is happy,” he said. “It’s a very intimate venue. … it’s a very electric atmosphere, it’s really cool.”
Thompson heard about the watch party at Madison Square Garden for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, when the Rangers were on the road, and said it helps enhance the fan experience. The Colorado Avalanche were on the road for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday but held a watch party at Ball Arena.
“I’m so glad that sports are kind of adopting the whole watch party/tailgate thing into the Final and playoffs for the cities when the team goes out of town,” he said. “I’m so surprised it took so long, but in the last 5-10 years, that watch party thing has been the way to go. That’s how you keep people supporting the economy around sports and around your town and just coming out and having a good time and keeping that vibe going. It’s a good thing.”
With the Avalanche holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 4 on Wednesday, who does Thompson think will be hoisting the Cup?
“The Avalanche, those guys are scorers and they have just continued to show that,” he said before the Lightning’s 6-2 win Monday. “And Tampa’s got to lock in and figure out how they can get theirs up, but they’ll figure it out because they’ve been battling all this time to get to this point. Hopefully it goes super deep and it’s a nice dramatic ending. Leave it all out on the ice.”
He’s hoping for an exciting ending to an exciting Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Incredible this year. So much skill and talent on display,” Thompson said. “I feel like there’s been at least a Game 6 in every round. The Final is when all the talent and speed is on display for real so you can see who’s really big, who’s really fast, who’s got skills.”