LAS VEGAS — Pekka Rinne‘s miniature Vezina Trophy will be going back home to Kempele, Finland, and the Nashville Predators goalie figures that his father, the custodian of the Rinne memorabilia collection, will soon be cleaning up his old bedroom to give it a place of honor.
Rinne was named winner of the Vezina at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday. It was the 35-year-old’s first win after having finished second in 2010-11 and 2014-15 and third in 2011-12.
Rinne was third in the NHL in 2017-18 with 42 victories, helping Nashville win its first Presidents’ Trophy and earn records for wins (53) and points (117). His eight shutouts were a Predators record and he tied for the NHL lead with Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished third in Vezina voting this year, behind Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets.
[RELATED: Rinne wins Vezina Trophy | Complete NHL Awards coverage]
Rinne received 22 first-place votes from the NHL’s 31 GMs, his 129 points outdistancing Hellebuyck (82 points) and Vasilevskiy (21) to win the historic Vezina, presented annually since 1927.
“I was nervous, emotional,” Rinne said, regretful that from the stage he didn’t thank his goaltending coaches in North America and Finland and all who have played a role in his success. “It does mean a lot, I’d be lying if I denied that. Who knows? Maybe it’s my last time here in Vegas, having this opportunity. I’ve been here four times, it does feel really good [to win].”
Rinne wouldn’t ace any tests if quizzed to name winners of the Vezina from George Hainsworth, the first recipient in 1927, through those who won it into the early 1980s. But he’s eager to do some research now and learn more about the legends, many of them Hall of Fame players, who have won this coveted award.
“Growing up, [winners included] Marty Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek,” he said of his boyhood heroes. “Their posters were on my walls. Later on, Miikka Kiprusoff was my hero. I was still playing back home and he was playing here, and he was the first Finnish guy winning the Vezina. I don’t know the history in the 1920s and ’30s but I do pay attention and have checked out back to the ’80s. There are so many decorated goalies. It’s awesome but it’s also very humbling that now your name is going to be on that list.”
On May 10, Rinne stood before reporters and took full ownership of the Predators’ Game 7 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Wednesday, he took possession of the Vezina Trophy and liberally spread the credit for it.
“I’m very proud of myself and how we as a team played in the regular season,” Rinne said. “I’ve already put the playoffs and the series against Winnipeg behind me. It’s a great boost going into the next season, getting back into your training, preparing for the next season.
“Confidence is a big thing for goalies — how you play, how you carry yourself, how you deal with things. I’m not going to come to next year’s training camp being some kind of king now that I’ve won the Vezina Trophy. I’m happy I have it now. But it’s also a big-time thank you to my teammates. The league is way too good, I need good teammates and they really help me out every single game. The last two years I’ve been having success, but the biggest reason is my teammates.”