Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Trophy Less Likely

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.

Today, it was announced that Patrice Brisebois would be the Canadiens nominee. Having not suffered major injuries of last season, and trading last season's nominee (Mark Streit – whose nomination is meant to hark back to a time when dedication meant more than rehabbing), they turned to Patrice.

These days, there is certainly a conception (probably based on the winners from the past 18 odd years) that the trophy is awarded to a player who has come back from career- or even life-threatening illness or injury. This is not strictly true. But it would be hard to imagine a player who had overcome a massive obstacle losing to someone whose nominating quality is that they are old.

Only 10 nominees have been revealed to date. There is a chance a Patrice would win, but it won't be ours:
Just a year and a half ago, Patrice Bergeron was nearly paralyzed and suffered a severe concussion from a hit from behind. His determination to be back by the 2008 playoffs nearly paid off, as he amazingly would have been ready to take the ice had the Bruins reached the second round last spring.

This season, Bergeron suffered yet another concussion, but has since returned to approach the high-caliber level of play for which he was known before the injuries. His credo of respect and "playing the right way" is reflected in his style on the ice -- always hard, always physical, always clean.

Brisebois is a decided outsider even among the ten, behind Beregeron, Numminen, Clemmenson and Mark Eaton. I think if old Patrice has his heart set on a trophy this year he'd better gear up for a run at the Conn Smythe...

Come on, be honest, even if you are a Brisebois supporter, it's hard to see him winning this one. I mean unless the NHL recognises his long career despite having to overcome a total lack of NHL level skill (couldn't resist).

Though the nomination isn't exactly front page news, it sure beats harping on and on about which of the four lines isn't scoring.

Plus, it gave us an opportunity to get some classic Brisebois quotes only a couple of days after looking as slow as he ever has in his career (think Hamrlik penalty...):
"Some media, some people say, 'He's getting old, he should retire,'" Brisebois said yesterday. "Not that it hurts, but I'm like, 'I'm still doing the job. I'm not slow on the ice. I watch myself on video and I don't look a step behind.'

"Sometimes, I'm going to get caught, for sure. The game is fast and I try things on the ice. If you don't, nothing's going to happen. We have fast forwards who need the puck on the tape. Sometimes, you see the opening and you try."

You can't say the guy isn't good for anything. He still makes me laugh (and cry)...

Incidentally, for those interested here are the previous Canadiens winners of Masterton award, and the wikipedia reasoning as to why:

Claude Provost – "Embodied the definition of perseverance and dedication to hockey" throughout his 15 year career
Henri Richard – This honoured a career with 11 Stanley Cups
Serge Savard – Awarded for "dedication to hockey", after he won his eighth Stanley Cup in eleven seasons
Doug Jarvis (while he was with Hartford) – Awarded after he beat Garry Unger's record for consecutive games played, with 914 games
Saku Koivu – Overcame non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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