I usually don't give much thought to the Masterton, but we all should, considering what it represents. Given to the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey," as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Sadly, tragedy strikes us all unexpectedly, and we all deal with it in our own way. Sometimes it shows us the strength we have, other times it renders us helpless. Whether its dealing with death or coping with injuries, its our willingness to get through it that makes us better in the end.
Its been well documented that Patrice Bergeron's career was jeopardy after taking a hit from behind from then Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, back in October 2007. He was knocked unconscious, wheeled off the ice, and suffered a broken nose and grade-three concussion, which was actually very fortunate considering he could have had more severe head and neck injuries. He was sidelined for the rest of the season and returned to training camp symptom-free and raring to go. Bergeron was an unlikely pick for the Team Canada roster for the 2010 Olympics, and winner of the Gold Medal. The only knock on Bergeron's candidacy is that he's already been nominated last season, and lost out to the Predators Steve Sullivan. (Oh, and there's another knock, Mark Recchi has been nominated for the Bruins.)
One of the stories that got little press after the initial blow, was the death of Taylor Pyatt's fiancee, Carly Bragnalo, who was involved in a motor vehicle accident while on vacation in Jamaica. Pyatt, who was a member of the Vancouver Canucks at the time, was engaged to Bragnalo, and were planning to marry only a few months later. Going on indefinite leave from the team in early April 2009 at the time of the incident, Pyatt returned to the lineup about a month later to join the Canucks in a playoff run. After Vancouver was eliminated, it was revealed that Pyatt would require knee surgery in the offseason of his final contract year. Pyatt had his best years in Vancouver, but the Canucks had honestly told them that they would not seek an extension. But Don Maloney and the Coyotes still thought he had some hockey left in him, and offered him a two-year deal on the first day of free-agency. Since then, Pyatt has been part of the Major League/Cinderella story that Phoenix has come to resemble.
Just before this season started, Jose Theodore's two-month old son passed away due to respiratory complications. His three-year old daughter had the same symptoms after her birth, but was able to work through it. Just having become a Dad right around the same time, this heart-wrenching story hit me right in the gut. Losing a child has to be the most devastating feelings a human can imagine, and yet Theodore has played more than half a season's worth of games, going 30-7-7 and backstopping his team to a Presidents Trophy. I don't see how any of the other candidates listed even come close to that kind of success amidst that kind of tragedy.
Although there are a handful of other candidates worthy of the nomination, from the colitis Fernando Pisani is suffering through, to the ACL tear Brenden Morrow suffered when his team needed him the most, Jose Theodore is my Masterton winner, hands down.