On an evening when the NHL celebrated its most prolific scorers, most complete defencemen and most dominant goaltenders, Ethan Moreau took home the most significant piece of hardware available.
Ask anyone at the Stollery Children's Hospital, Inner City High or any of the other people his charitable efforts have touched over the years and they'll tell you the King Clancy Memorial Trophy -- for leadership in the dressing room and humanitarian contributions in the community --means more than an Art Ross, Norris or Vezina ever could.
The award isn't about winning games, it's about a giving up your time and energy to make a difference in the lives of others, about trying to make your city a better place. Based on those criteria, the Edmonton Oilers captain is an MVP.
"It's nice to be recognized (for charity work) because I take a lot of pride in that," said Moreau, who brought his family down to last night's gala awards ceremony in Las Vegas. "And it was fun to be part of a pretty cool night and fun for my son to see a lot of the stars in the league. It's a once-in-a-career opportunity for a guy like me."
Moreau is nobody's superstar, unless you count the sick children and underprivileged teens he visits and raises money for in Edmonton. He doesn't have to make those hospital visits or lend his face and time to those fundraising efforts, but he can't imagine not doing it.
"A lot of it is just from really good leadership that we've had here in the past," said the 10-year Oiler. "I learned from Kevin (Lowe) and guys like Kelly Buchberger, Doug Weight and Billy Guerin. When I first got here it was really stressed throughout the organization that it was something that players should do, that everybody had to have some sort of charitable organization that they were affiliated with.
"As I've grown older I've taken on more and more responsibility, gotten more and more involved in the community, to the point where it actually gets pretty hectic sometimes. It's definitely a big part of my life now, it takes up a lot of time, but it's something that I enjoy doing."
Before Moreau was nominated by his teammates and awarded the trophy by the NHL, he was trained by his parents. They, too, led by example, showing him there is always time to give a little something back.
"It's the way I was raised. My parents were always really active in the Cancer Society when I was younger, and my grandmother runs the MS chapter in Sudbury. Along with that, just seeing how the Edmonton Oilers and the city in general are so charitable made a difference, too.
"I've been to auctions all over the world and I'm always amazed at how much money is raised in Edmonton. I think the city and the organization have been huge influences in how I try to help."
Philanthropy is seldom a one-way street, though, and Moreau says he takes as much as he gives. Whether he's shaving his head for charity or holding hands with a terminally ill child, he's forged friendships and shared moments that will stay with him forever.
"I get a lot out of it," he said. "I don't just do a hospital visit, take some pictures and go home. We have relationships with familes at the Stollery, relationships with kids I've met. There's not always happy endings, sometimes kids pass away. You're going to go through some hard times when you get involved like that, but there are happy endings and some feel-good stories as well.
"When we go out and do those visits and spend half an hour with a kid it does make a huge difference."
"It's something I try to teach my kids, that it's a feeling you can't really explain until you actually go out of your way to help. It's not always money, it's time and friendship and showing interest in people's lives. You definitely get a feeling that you can't get from anything else. It has nothing to do with scoring a goal or winning a game; it's a different feeling when you can actually help another person and make their life better."