UPDATED: Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty — whose 2010-11 season was ended when he suffered a cracked vertebrae and concussion when the Bruins Zdeno Chara slammed him into the glass support at the Bell Centre in a March, 2011 game — won the NHL’s Bill Masterton Award on Wednesday.
The NHL Awards were presented tonight and Pacioretty was one of the three top vote-getters, what the NHL calls “finalists,” for the Bill Masterton Award.
That award, named for the late Minnesota North Stars player whose story appears below, is presented to honor the NHL player who best exhibits the qualities of dedication and perseverance. The other two top vote-getters are Daniel Alfredsson of the Senators and Joffery Lupul of the Maple Leafs.
When the NHL announces that three players are “finalists” for an award, that doesn’t mean that a second round of voting then takes place to determine which of the trio gets the prize. There’s one round of voting, the top three vote-getters are named “finalists” but in reality, the guy who came in first is already the winner while the runner-up and third place finisher get the “finalist” designation as a little window dressing, providing some viewer suspense to the proceedings.
Each of these three overcame significant injury to have excellent seasons in 2011-12, leading the Habs in scoring.
Alfiredsson had back surgery last offseason and his return to the NHL was uncertain. The Sens captain (Daniel F., as Mike Boone calls him) He did come back, of course, and had a strong season as the Sens improved by 18 points and made the playoffs.
Lupul also had back problems and a blood disorder to overcome and he had a breakout year going for the Leafs until he separated his shoulder and missed the final 16 games of the season.
Here’s video of Pacioretty and his wife Katia prior to the awards show.
On NHL.com, Shawn O’Roarke had this story on how Pacioretty made the misfortune of the hit and his injury work in his favor. “I definitely take a lot of positives out of my situation and my injury,” he said. “I had to grow up a lot and I matured a lot. I kind of use it as motivation not to prove the people that doubted me wrong, but prove that you can overcome an injury like that and become a better player. I think I did that, but I know I have a lot of work to do down the road.”
He added some remarks on the Canadiens new coach, Michel Therrien and the club’s outlook going forward.
“I haven’t heard much, but what I have heard is he is pretty demanding of all of his players and I think that is really important for our team, because, like I said, I think we were really set off course last year and didn’t really have a sense of direction,” Pacioretty said. “If he is demanding of that, I think that is exactly the route we need to go.
“It’s nice to know we have a sense of direction now. Everyone is on the same page. With all the hirings and firings over the past season, it was a bit of a distraction and kind of set guys off course and made them question how they should play the game. Now that we have a sense of direction, everyone will know their role and what makes the team successful.”
Most don’t know much about Bill Masterton, fewer know that he began his pro career with the Canadiens organization. Here’s his story as told a few years ago by James Duthie on TSN.
Pacioretty is certainly deserving, but really no more deserving than those who didn’t win. And that isn’t merely the other two “finalists,” but the additional 27 who were nominated from the rest of the league, one from each team.
All 30 deserve recognition for what they’ve combatted and overcome to stay in the game’s top league, despite the adversity and odds they’ve encountered.
On another subject, if you haven’t read Ken Dryden’s piece in The Globe and Mail about Red Fisher, you should. Here it is.
Below: Habs’ Max Pacioretty in portrait taken pre-awards by Harry How of Getty Images: