The winner of the Bill Masterton Trophy will be announced tonight at the 2012 NHL Awards show. The show starts at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and CBC.
The Masterton Trophy is awarded to the NHL player who best exhibits perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
The award is named after Bill Masterton, who passed away in 1968. Masterton's death came two days after he took a hit in an NHL game between his Minnesota North Stars and the Oakland Seals.
The 2012 Masterton nominees are Daniel Alfredsson, Joffrey Lupul and Max Pacioretty.
Alfredsson and Lupul both overcame back surgeries to post solid numbers, but Pacioretty is most likely to take home the Masterton Trophy.
Pacioretty was hit by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara on March 8th, 2011. Pacioretty collided awkwardly with a stanchion and lay motionless on the ice. He sustained a broken vertebra and a serious concussion on the play.
However, Pacioretty made a remarkable comeback, returning to the NHL this season and posting career-high numbers in the process. Pacioretty played 79 games, scored 33 goals, 32 assists for 65 points and accumulated only 65 penalty minutes.
Not only did Pacioretty have a great season statistically, he also displayed great sportsmanship in moving on from the incident and not holding it against Chara. Only 22 years old at the time, Pacioretty showed great maturity, putting the incident behind him just two months after it occurred.
Pacioretty's ability to persevere and his great sportsmanship are two qualities that voters look for when choosing the winner of the Masterton Trophy.
Another factor that may help Pacioretty win is the attention the hit got in the media, where as Alfredsson's and Lupuls' injuries weren't as widely recognized.
Looking at previous Masterton recipients, it would appear as though history is also on Pacioretty's side. The Masterton winner is usually a player who (like Pacioretty) has overcome a severe injury or illness.
Last year's winner was Ian Laperriere, who suffered from post-concussion syndrome after taking a puck to the face in the 2010 NHL playoffs. In 2004, Bryan Berard won the award for overcoming a severe eye injury after taking a stick to the face. Jason Blake, Phil Kessel, Saku Koivu and Mario Lemieux have all won the award after battling cancer.
While Alfredsson and Lupul are deserving, Pacioretty will win the Masterton because of the severity of his injury, his hard work, improved stats, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.