James Norris Memorial Trophy - NHL Best Defensemen Award

James Norris Memorial Trophy – NHL Best Defensemen Award

In the NHL, players can get a number of honors depending on their individual merits. Many of these awards, including the Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophies, have been discussed. But in this section, we’d want to examine an honor exclusive to a certain job.

Despite being known as the Norris Trophy, this award’s official name is the James Norris Memorial Trophy. It is a trophy designed only for NHL defensemen and is only ever won by them.

Let’s quickly review the James Norris Memorial Trophy’s history before diving deep into everything you need to know about it.

History Of The James Norris Memorial Trophy

History Of The James Norris Memorial Trophy

The children of James E. Norris, who owned the Detroit Red Wings NHL team in 1953, presented the James Norris Memorial Trophy to the NHL. Because it was given to the league in honor of the late James Norris, it is a memorial trophy.

Early in the 1990s, James Norris Sr., as he is affectionately known, was a businessman with a stake in the ownership of an ice hockey franchise. He initially attempted to form a team in St. Louis, Chicago, and Toronto, but his suggestion was turned down.

He finally acquired the Detroit Falcons in 1932 after facing numerous obstacles in his quest to become a team owner (now known as the Detroit Red Wings). He changed the name of the team to the Detroit Red Wings and gave the team its current logo, the Winged Wheelers, after purchasing the Falcons from their creditors’ committee.

The Stanley Cup bore his name five times while he was the league’s owner (before his passing), as the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, and 1952.

In addition to the Bruins, he also had ownership or control over a few other NHL teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. He achieved this by either investing heavily in or purchasing the stadium that is the home of these NHL teams.

By the time of his death, the James Norris Memorial Trophy had been created in two leagues:

  • The NHL, with the first award given in the 1953-54 season to the best defenseman
  • The International Hockey League (IHL), with it being awarded to the best goaltender

Now that we are through with the history, let us look at the Norris trophy, how the winners are gotten, and how the award works in the NHL. 

About The Norris Trophy

About The Norris Trophy

The top NHL defenseman during the regular season receives the Norris Award. In this context, the best defenseman refers to the best overall defenseman. This merely means that a player’s performance is evaluated on a different metric than his defensive prowess.

The defender’s offensive output and overall influence on the game and his team are also taken into consideration. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) vote to choose who will win the James Norris Memorial Award.

The voting has a 10-7-5-3-1 point system, just like awards like the Conn Smythe trophy, Calder trophy, and Hart Memoria trophy. This is a straightforward explanation for anyone who is unfamiliar with how this operates.

Each PHWA association member has the opportunity to select five league players they believe to be the season’s top defensemen. When this occurs, the five players chosen by each PHWA member are subsequently ranked as follows:

  • The first pick receives 10 points
  • The second pick receives 7 points
  • In the same matter, the third pick gets 5 points
  • The fourth pick receives 3 points
  • Finally, the fifth pick receives 1 point 

The top three players with the highest accumulated number of points are announced as the finalists after each member of the association has submitted their selections and the total points awarded to each player by all of the association’s members have been tallied. Also, the winner of the award is revealed from the list of finalists during the presentation of the award.

The Norris trophy has already been given out 69 times since the first winner received it in the 1953–54 season.

Winners Of The James Norris Memorial Trophy

The Norris Trophy can be won as many times as possible, as long as the player continues to receive votes as the top defensive player, unlike the Calder Trophy, which can only be won by a player in the NHL during his rookie season.

Let’s now look at some of the Norris Trophy winners over the years, starting with the NHL teams with the most trophies and moving on to the players with the most consecutive awards and total trophies won.

NHL Players With The Most Norris Trophy

Bobby Orr is the NHL player with the most James Norris Memorial Trophies. The outstanding Boston Bruins defenseman, who is regarded as the best NHL defenseman, has won eight James Norris Memorial Trophies. From the 1967–68 season to the 1974–75 season, he consistently earned these awards.

He changed how defense was played in the NHL and how the position was perceived, which is why he consistently earned this award. He not only played defense during that time, but he also made league history by becoming the first defenseman to lead the league in both points and goals scored.

His entire NHL career was remarkable, but due to persistent ailments, he had to leave the league early. Nick Lidstrom and Doug Harvey, who both have seven Norris Trophies to their names, are right behind Bobby Orr in terms of the number of awards.

Players With The Most Consecutive Norris Trophy

NHL Players With The Most Consecutive Norris Trophy

Bobby Orr, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins, has won the James Norris Award the most times in a row. Over his career, Bobby Orr earned eight Norris trophies, each one coming after the other.

He won his first prize in the 1974–1975 season and carried on winning until the 1967–1968 campaign. He also won the Hart Memorial Award and the Art Ross Trophy between this season and the next. Orr is the only player in NHL history to have won eight trophies in a row.

Doug Harvey, who has four consecutive trophies, is second only to Bobby Orr. Moreover, he won the trophy three years in a row, giving him a total of seven Norris victories. Nicklas Lidstrom, who won the Norris twice in a row, is next.

Players No. of Consecutive Trophy
Bobby Orr8
Doug Harvey4
Nicklas Lidstrom3
Nicklas Lidstrom3
Pierre Pilote3
Doug Harvey3
Denis Potvin2

NHL Team With Most James Norris Memorial Trophy

NHL Team With Most James Norris Memorial Trophy

The Boston Bruins have won 14 James Norris Memorial trophies over the years, making them the NHL team with the most of these awards. Bobby Orr, who won eight of the Bruins’ fourteen trophies, was responsible for the majority of those victories. Ray Bourque, who won five trophies with the Bruins, and Zdeno Chara, who took home the last trophy, split the remaining six prizes.

The Montreal Canadiens, who have won 12 Norris trophies, are second only to the Boston Bruins. Five of the 12 trophies were won by the Canadiens by Doug Harvey. Othrt players of the Montreal Canadiens such as P. K. Subban, Chris Chelios, Larry Robinson, and Tom Johnson, make up the remaining number of Norris Trophies won by the Canadiens.

NoNHL Team No. Of Norris Trophies 
1Boston Bruins 14
2Detroit Red Wing9
3Chicago Blackhawks 8
4Los Angeles Kings2
5Montreal Canadiens 12
6New York Islanders 3
7New York Rangers 5
8Edmonton Oilers 2
9San Jose Sharks2
10St Louis Blues2
11Washington Capitals2
12Ottawa Senators 2
13Pittsburgh Penguins 1
14Colorado Avalanche 1
15New Jersey Devils 1
16Tampa Bay Lightnings 1
17Nashville Predators 1
18Calgary Flames 1
Total 69

Norris Trophy Winners By Year

Norris Trophy Winners By Year

Best NHL Defenseman For The 2019-20 Season

The defenseman who took the award as the winner of the Norris trophy for the 2019-2020 season is Roman Josi. The defenseman of the Nashville Predators had 65 points that season with 49 assists and 16 goals. He also had an amazing plus-minus stat of +22 and a power play point of 44 that season.

Nominated next to him as the first runner-up of the award is John Carlson who played for the Washington Capitals. The second runner-up is Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Roman JosiWinner
John CarlsonNominee
Victor HedmanNominee

Best NHL Defenseman For The 2020-21 Season

The 2020-21 season was the second season of the defenseman of the New York Ranger, Adam Fox, and he won the James Norris Memorial trophy that same year. With 55 games played that season, he earned 47 points with 42 assists and 5 goals. 

He also had an impressive plus-minus stat of +19 and a power play point of 23. The other two finalists for that season who were runner-ups for the trophy are Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Cale Maker (Colorado Avalanche)

Adam FoxWinner
Victor HedmanNominee
Cale MakarNominee

Best NHL Defenseman For The 2021-22 Season

Coming into the 2021-22 season, Cale Makar who came up as the second runner-up for the James Norris Memorial Trophy the previous season became the winner for the 22’ season. He played 77 games that season earning 86 points. The 86 points comprise 58 assists and 28 goals. 

The defensemen also had a plus-minus stat of +48 and a power play point of 34. The runner-ups next to him include Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightnings and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators. 

Cale MakarWinners
Victor HedmanNominee
Roman JosiNominee

Best NHL Defenseman For The 2022-23 Season

The recent winner of the Norris Trophy is Erik Karlsson, the defenseman of the San Jose Sharks. Erik played 82 games for the 2022-23 season and earned 101 points with 76 assists and 25 goals. 

He also had a negative plus-minus point of -26 and a power play point of 5, he still played a good deal on the ice. Other nominees for the award include Adam Fox and Cale Makar. 

Players Ranking
Erik KarlssonWinner
Adam FoxNominee
Cale MakarNominee

Facts About The James Norris Memorial Trophy

Here are some facts about the James Norris Memorial Trophy that you might not know about. 

  • The first player to win the Norris Memorial Trophy is Red Kelly of the Detroit Red Wings
  • Only defensemen can win the Norris Memorial trophy in the NHL
  • The award has been awarded 69 times since its inception with the 2022-23 season being the 69th time
  • Only 18 NHL teams have won the Norris trophy – 14 teams are yet to win the trophy.
  • The NHL franchise with the most amount of wins is the Boston Bruins


This brings us to the end of the topic of the James Norris Memorial trophy. Aside from the active players in the NHL who are not eligible for induction into the NHL Hall of Fame, there are only four retired NHL defensemen who won the James Norris Memorial Trophy and have not been inducted.

Thanks for reading.

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