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Thornton grabs MVP
Cheechoo brings home Richard Trophy
6/22/06 - By Mike Lee

It wasn't the Stanley Cup, but the Sharks picked up some hardware in Vancouver on Thursday night. Joe Thornton captured the biggest individual player award in San Jose history by claiming the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the league's most valuable player. Thornton was named on all 129 ballots and received 67 first-place votes for 1,058 points, beating out Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers, who tallied 48 first-place votes and 974 points.

"I was Wayne Gretzky's biggest fan and watched him take this home a few times, and then there's Mark (Messier) and Mario (Lemieux)," Thornton said. "It's very humbling to be on the same page with them. I'm so proud of my teammates, so glad I have good people around me. They really helped me do this.

Thornton's improbable season came full circle with the award, presented at the National Hockey League Awards Show at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. After being dealt by the Boston Bruins in late November, Thornton helped kick start the Sharks and pushed the team to a 4th seed in the NHL playoffs five months later.

"You look back at my first year and I don't think people thought I would still be in the League," Thornton said, referencing his seven-point output in his rookie year. "It certainly hasn't been a smooth ride."

Thornton's 125 point season had already earned him the Art Ross Trophy, given to the player who leads the League in scoring points at the end of the regular season. Ironically, Art Ross was the manager and coach of the Boston Bruins in 1947 when the award was given to the league.

"Any time you get a player of Joe's character, it just brings instant confidence to the team," said Thornton's linemate Jonathan Cheechoo. "First game, first shift and he rings one off the post and the guys just got confidence from that."

Jonathan Cheechoo claimed the Maurice Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals scored with 56. Cheechoo's season was turned upside down with Thornton's acquisition, which allowed the Sharks winger to focus on depositing the precision passes his centerman setup time after time during the regular season.

Cheechoo tallied a Sharks-record 56 goals, including 11 goals in the final 10 games, and led the NHL in game-winning goals (11), home-ice goals (31) and divisional goals (29).

Patrick Marleau finished third in voting for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk was the run-away winner with 41 first place votes on 128 ballots.

Former Sharks goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff took home the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's best goaltender. Kiprusoff mentioned that a big part of his success was attributed to Sharks goaltending coach Warren Strelow.

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