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HART TO HART: GRETZKY WINS HIS 9TH HONOR

SHARE HART TO HART: GRETZKY WINS HIS 9TH HONOR

Los Angeles Kings center Wayne Gretzky won his ninth Hart Trophy in the past 10 year's Wednesday night, emblematic of the National Hockey League's most valuable player, highlighting the NHL's annual awards ceremony.

Gretzky, traded in the off-season by the Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles, almost single-handedly lifted the Kings into Stanley Cup contention this season. In the first round of the playoffs, the Kings trailed the defending champion Oilers three games to one, before Gretzky helped rally the Kings to a shocking seven-game upset.Los Angeles was then eliminated in the second round by the Calgary Flames, who then went on to win their first Cup.

Gretzky finished the season with 54 goals and 114 assists for 168 points.

Gretzky's string of eight straight MVP awards was snapped last year by Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux. Lemieux outscored Gretzky with 85 goals and 114 assists points, but Gretzky placed first on 40 of 63 ballots. Lemieux was first on 18 ballots with Detroit's Steve Yzerman finishing third.

Gretzky said the pattern for Los Angeles-based players winning MVP awards over others with better numbers awards was established by the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson.

"I think Kirk Gibson paved the way for this award," Gretzky said. "People realized you didn't just need the most points. Gibson won, Magic (Johnson) won. I didn't want to be the guy to lose it."

The award marks the first time anyone has won the same award nine times. Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins had previously won eight Norris Trophy's as best defenseman.

While Gretzky was named the most valuable, Lemieux edged him in voting for the all-star teams.

In balloting for the other awards, four members of the Montreal Canadiens won awards. Chris Chelios won the Norris, Patrick Roy received the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender, Guy Carbonneau won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward and Pat Burns won the Adams award as coach of the year.

New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch was named top rookie, winning the Calder Trophy. Calgary's Joe Mullen won his second consecutive Lady Byng Trophy as most gentlemanly player and New York Islanders center Bryan Trottier won the King Clancy Award for off ice leadership and humanitarian contributions.

Lemieux was awarded the Art Ross Trophy for winning the scoring title and the Montreal goaltending duo of Brian Hayward and Roy shared the Jennings Trophy for lowest goals against average. Four of the award winners, Mullen, Chelios, Leetch and Trottier are American.

A former Salt Lake Golden Eagle, Mullen won his second Lady Byng trophy in the past three years, combining 51 goals and 110 points with only 16 penalty minutes.