LIVE ON LOCATION: The NHL Awards at The Palms in Vegas

Tonight’s the night.

Tonight, in the hockey hotbed of Las Vegas, Nevada, the National Hockey League rewards it’s best players with some hardware inside the The Palms Casino.

But the festivities don’t start tonight. They events started yesterday as the league had the NHL Charity Shootout poker tournament at The Rio in the afternoon and media availability (and thus autograph signing for the fans) in the evening. And, as I write this, there are people lined up outside in the 103 degree heat waiting for their favorite hockey players to walk the red carpet later tonight.

I can’t write much about the poker tournament as we were asked by the league not to release the winner of the event as it was being recorded by ESPN for air in December. What I can tell you, however, is the final table consisted of Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, Calder Trophy candidate Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, former players Matthew Barnaby and Mark Napier, poker pro Dennis Phillips and actor Kevin Sorbo.

Nashville Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz was in the original pool of players, as was Brown’s teammate Wayne Simmonds, Sheldon Souray of the Edmonton Oilers, former NHLer and current color commentator Eddie Olcyzk and World Poker Tour veteran Vanessa Rousso among others. After all the other tables concluded play, Brown and Howard duked it out with an unknown poker pro for over 45 minutes until finally the event organizers, in an effort to stay on shooting schedule, forced all three players to go all-in. Whoever lost was eliminated while the two highest chip leaders moved onto the final table. Needless to say, Brown and Howard advanced.

While the final two were getting ready to go heads-up at the final table, media access for the NHL Awards began across the street at The Palms. Nominees for each award took their positions at their podiums and fielded questions for the media. In true hazing fashion, the Calder Trophy finalists were thrown to the wolves first. Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres, Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche and Howard were asked everything from who inspired them to what their first Vegas experience has been like.

It’s no surprise that Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin drew throngs of people while the other nominees had steady crowds come and go. It was a surprise, however, that Trotz stayed amongst the media the longest out of any of the nominees in any category. And he wasn’t just waiting for questions either. He had all kinds of media outlets holding out recorders and camcorders trying to get a comment on everything from his Jack Adams Award nomination to the Jason Arnott trade to the recent flooding in Middle Tennessee. He fielded them all with class and poise like he always does.

Right now, downstairs, a crowd is gathering inside and outside The Palms alongside the red carpet. Autograph seekers, puck bunnies and just plain ‘ol hockey fans are out in force as they prepare to see their favorite players and the league’s elite in person, without pads and in their best threads that aren’t hockey jerseys.

The players are presenters are starting to arrive so I’ll sign off for now but be sure to join me for a live chat during the award show. I’ll be chatting live from the media room at The Palms in Las Vegas and I’ll be taking your questions, reporting on the comments made by the players after they take home their hardware and, of course, chatting about the reaction in the room as the winners are announced. The live chat will start at 6:30pm Central so be sure to stop by!