The Masterton Trophy is an interesting award. With its somewhat open-ended criteria -- it's presented annually to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey" -- there are a lot of ways to justify a nomination.
Some go with the perseverance angle, nominating a player who's been through a lot. Others take the opportunity to pay tribute to a leader in the room. Others still salute an NHL veteran on a lengthy career. Either way, the result is an interesting assortment of submissions.
This year, the front-runner has to be Josh Harding, whose perseverance after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis has been an inspiration all year long. From his bio:
Harding selflessly divulged his illness because he didn’t want a distraction to affect the team during a potential shortened season. He made clear his career wasn’t over. “It would make me happy to overcome this. Not just overcome this, but to really succeed with it,” Harding said. “I want this to be a story where when we look back, it was a happy story.”
In his first start this season, Harding made 24 saves to shut out Dallas. He did have complications with a new medication that caused him to miss two months, but Harding persevered through and after a two-game conditioning stint including a win to help Houston clinch a playoff spot, Harding was recalled to Minnesota April 22.
It's tough to beat that.
Several players this year have been nominated for their work with the NHLPA during the NHL lockout, which should garner them some consideration. And Pekka Rinne is bound to get a second look, simply because his bio includes this section:
In the summer of 2006, after Rinne’s first year in North America with the Milwaukee Admirals, he was at a bachelor party in Finland when he was a victim of an assault by a pizzeria owner. The assailant fired pepper spray into Rinne’s eyes and tackled him. Rinne had to undergo shoulder surgery, which kept him out four months.
"I was still young and right away you’re thinking ‘this is it,’” Rinne said in a 2011 article about the incident. “It’s a scary feeling.” Rinne battled back from the injury and the mental scarring of the incident to become an NHL regular in 2008-09.
Having never been attacked by a pizzeria owner, I can only imagine the mental scarring. You don't ever expect pizzeria owner to nearly end your hockey career. You expect him to serve you a fresh pizza pie.
Coming up, each team's nominee for the Masterton trophy.
Posted under NHL