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The Talents Behind the Trophies: the Matt Bentz Trophy


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May @Motzaburger shine as brightly as these trophies. 


Hello and welcome to another edition of The Talents Behind the Trophies! In this series, we delve deep into the history of the Victory Hockey League to learn more about the players that the various awards of the VHL and VHLM are named after. Many times, people covet a trophy, yet they don't know the story behind the player the award is named for. Personally, I feel that the stories of these players should be told. You see, these awards were initially named after NHL players, eventually taking the name of VHL players who personified the spirit of that award. Naturally, these are some of the best to ever grace the league, and The Talents Behind the Trophies will ensure their stories are known. 


But before we get started, let's take a look at the VSN content that's out this week! @Hex Universeexplores whether or not the VHLM needs more teams in Under 250, while @diamond_ace  gets you caught up on the previous week of the VHL! The playoffs are almost here, which means it's time for another edition of Future Watch! In case you missed it, check out @WentzKneeFan036's commissioned article, which turned out to be the labor of love that is 75 - What Got Us Here, an extensive look into the minds of the VHL's members about what makes the league so special that it is still going strong after 75 seasons. Lastly, check out a solo effort from @Berocka, in which he takes a look at the tenures of the general managers of the league!


Under 250 | Around the VHL | S76 Future Watch | 75 - What Got Us Here | Berocka Rambling About GMs


A vast majority of VHL members can tell you what the Scott Boulet Trophy is: the award given to the top two-way forward in the VHL every season. With a relative lack of defensive statistics available through Simon T's Hockey Simulator, a considerable amount of weight is put on hits, a viewpoint that makes the Scott Boulet Trophy a coveted award for the power forwards of the league. However, how many of those same members could tell you what the VHLM equivalent of the Scott Boulet Trophy is? Yes, there absolutely is one, and in the event that the title of this article somehow didn't give it away for you, it's the Matt Bentz Trophy. 


Up until Season 42, this award was known as the Yzerman Trophy, with Bentz himself winning the award in Season 8 with the now-defunct Minot Gladiators. His 113 points remained the highest for a Yzerman Trophy winner (tied after another Minot player, Tyler Donati, equaled that in Season 10) until Zach Parise shattered it with 170 in the inaugural season of the Kolari Wolves. The current record for the most points by a Yzerman/Bentz Trophy winner is held by Evgeni Fyodorov of the Ottawa Ice Dogs, who scored an absurd 272 points in Season 21, the same season Matt Bentz was inducted into the VHL Hall of Fame, along with 157 hits and 79 shots blocked. Fyodorov also scored a frankly unbelievable 186 goals that season, a record for a Yzerman/Bentz winner that has gone uncontested ever since. Only one other player, yet another Minot Gladiator alum in Brady Stropko, scored over 100 goals while winning the award, and he reached 116.



The Matt Bentz Trophy, awarded annually to the top two-way forward in the VHLM.


So, Matt Bentz certainly has his share of history behind the award that now bears his name, but he hardly seems like the player that comes to mind when you talk about the criteria of the award, much like Scott Boulet and the VHL counterpart to the award. So, you're probably wondering, since I've subtly steered your mind in that direction, why is this trophy named for Matt Bentz? Firstly, thanks for your cooperation. Secondly, it turns out that the impact that Bentz had on the VHLM goes so much further than an award winning season in the VHLM back in Season 8. He went on to eventually become a VHLM Commissioner, and is credited with being one of the members to help pioneer the role to what it is today. For that, the Yzerman Trophy, an award Bentz had won, was renamed to the Matt Bentz Trophy in recognition of the accomplishments of both Matt the player and the user. 


In Season 8, the Calgary Wranglers were in the midst of their dynasty run in the VHL's first decade. With the legendary Sterling Labatte leading the way, the Wranglers were at the peak of their run post-Slobodizian and Boulet. As a result, their prospect pool was relatively dry, but with the eleventh overall pick, Calgary added a promising young winger named Matt Bentz. Playing with the Minot Gladiators, Bentz immediately flashed his potential and gave VHL GMs plenty of regret for passing over him, scoring 76 goals, winning the Hull (now renamed the Alexander Chershenko) Trophy as the VHLM goals leader, along with the Yzerman Trophy, the award given to the top two-way forward in the VHLM, which today bears his name. However, despite his individual excellence, Minot missed the playoffs, and cap restrictions prevented him from joining Calgary for their playoff run, which resulted in Bentz watching the Wranglers win the Continental Cup from the sidelines. 


Bentz, however, joined Calgary in Season Nine for the title defense, filling in on the second line. He wasted absolutely no time in establishing himself, immediately translating his VHLM success to the big leagues. Scoring 29 goals and 56 assists, Bentz also finished with an impressive +28, proving right from the beginning of his pro career that he was a responsible two-way player. It did not go unnoticed, as Bentz was the winner of the Bossy Trophy (now the Christian Stolzschweiger Trophy) as the top rookie of the VHL, and Calgary surged to a Victory Cup. However, a stunning sweep at the hands of the Toronto Legion, who went on to win the Continental Cup, put an abrupt end to the Wranglers' season, and ultimately, their dynasty. A very different team took the ice in Calgary in Season 10, and they were a shell of their former selves. Although Devon Marlow-Marta remained, the Wranglers' blue line was decimated, and it showed with Bentz's -55. Even though he scored 81 points, Calgary just couldn't keep the puck out of their net, and they went from the top of the league all the way down to the bottom. General Manager Scott Boulet resigned, and it would be Bentz himself who stepped up to begin the climb back to the top. 



A legendary figure on and off the ice, Matt Bentz was an instrumental figure for the VHL 


Season 11 saw Bentz develop in the scoring threat that he had been in Minot, as he scored 48 goals, nearly 20 more than his previous NHL-best. Becoming the key threat for Calgary on the ice, his work in the front office also resulted in the Wranglers sneaking back into the playoffs, although the Seattle Bears quickly eliminated them with a sweep. The rebuild continued in Season 12, and although Calgary was quickly becoming a better team, it wasn't enough to return to the playoffs. For Bentz, however, Season 12 was when he cemented himself as an elite player in the VHL. Scoring 61 goals, and assisting on 60 more, he set a career-high with 121 points, even finishing +2 on a team that missed the playoffs. His 61 goals led the league, resulting in his winning the Joe Malone Memorial Trophy (now the Kevin Brooks Trophy), and he was narrowly edged out for the Scotty Campbell Trophy and Brett Slobodzian Trophy by HC Davos Dynamo forward Zach Arce


However, Bentz faced a difficult decision over the off-season. On the ice, he was entering his prime, but no longer fit into the timeline of his team's rebuild. However, he could not trade himself away while he remained an active player. Bentz ultimately had no choice but to cut his career short by announcing an early retirement, which would allow him to be traded away. While it diminished the return Calgary would receive, it allowed him to keep the rebuild on track, and allowed him to join Zach Arce in Davos. On a team already featuring Benoit Devereux, Tomas Jenskovic, and Da'Brickshaw O'Neal, the Dynamo were primed for a big season, and so was Bentz. He repeated as the Joe Malone Memorial Trophy winner with 58 goals, scoring 123 points with a staggering +71 rating. After a career plagued with playoff failure, Bentz scored 14 points in 14 games as the HC Davos Dynamo went on to win the Continental Cup, sending him out as a VHL champion. 


Matt Bentz's work wasn't finished, as Calgary's rebuild continued. Five seasons after Bentz's playing days as a player ended, the Calgary Wranglers, bolstered by players such as Lars Berger, Jardy Bunclewirth, Mikka Virkkunen, Matt's new player created upon Bentz's retirement, Alexander Sauve, and Hiro Renomitsu, were once again Continental Cup champions. A season later, they did it again,  repeating as Continental Cup champions yet again, with Bentz winning the Sam Pollock Memorial Trophy (now the David Knight Trophy) as the best general manager in the VHL. Once again, Matt Bentz stepped away on top of the VHL, stepping down as Calgary's general manager. Finally, in Season 21, eight seasons after his retirement, Matt Bentz was finally inducted into the VHL Hall of Fame, along with Toronto defenseman David Henman



@Zetterberg produced this beautiful tribute to one of the early VHL's post pivotal figures.


A man of a selfless nature, yet one who wasn't afraid to step up and get the job done himself if needed. Between being a Hall of Fame player, he also served as the general manager that got the Calgary Wranglers back from the brink. He also served as a commissioner of the VHLM from Season 8 to Season 14, and along with Scotty Campbell, was instrumental to bringing important changes to the VHLM, helping develop it into the league we know and love today. It's a fitting tribute to the legacy of the work of Matt Bentz for the award given to the top two-way forward in the VHLM to be named in his honor. It's easy to overlook his contributions, but he did so much for the VHL in so many ways, resulting in Matt Bentz being inducted into the VHL Hall of Fame again in Season 38 as a builder, and the legacy that Matt Bentz imparted upon the VHL is one worth being remembered and honored. 


Player Mentions: @Matt, @Bushito, Rybak_49, @sterling, Devon, Islanders4Life39, @Cowboy, @scotty, @Victor, @JardyB10, Sauve89, @Renomitsu , @Knight

Edited by Doomsday
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