Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Masterton Trophy Nominees

When I went through the NHL award nominees one award I didn't mention is the Bill Masterton trophy for the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. I had assumed that the award would be given to Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils for making a successful comeback from hepatitis. Shockingly, he wasn't even nominated.

The New Jersey nominee is Tommy Albelin. The NHL listed him as retired, but he came to New Jersey training camp anyway hoping to win a roster spot. He didn't make the team but continued to practise and travel with them without getting paid. In December, he signed a contract for the NHL minimum salary and played 35 games this season.

I think that while hanging onto a hockey career that is nearly over and being a minor contributor in one final season does show perseverence and dedication to hockey, but it may also show a lack of legitimate opportunities in the rest of the world. Albelin spent the majority of his life playing hockey. What else did he know how to do? So he stuck around and managed to play part of one last season. Overcoming illness, as Elias did, is a much more unique story. It is the kind of story that is more likely to win the Masterton.

Likely the leading candidates for the Masterton, with Elias removed from the race, are Tim Connolly of the Buffalo Sabres, who missed the entire 2003/04 season due to a concussion and suffered a knee injury in the lockout year limiting him to a mere 16 games, but came back in 2005/06 and played a successful year in Buffalo where he had his highest scoring year of his career and Rem Murray of the Edmonton Oilers who has suffered from a rare incurable nerve disorder called cervical dystonia which caused him to miss more than half of the 2003/04 season, all of the 2004/05 season and most of the 2005/06 season. He has managed to play nine games with the Oilers this season and the playoffs. I would give it to Connolly, because he is more of a significant hockey player who over came serious injury that lost him most of two years to be a big contributor to his Sabres team.

Here is a profile of all 30 Masterton trophy nominees from the Hockey News, found via James Mirtle.

Kudos for recognizing Tommies contributions. Here's a 42 year old guy that can still transition into the NHL mid-season & fit right in. He has the heart of a rookie when he laces'em up. He's always been the quiet 1, steady yet unnoticed. Tommy Albelein IS another fine example of the NHLs shrinking pool of olde style D-men.
Thanks Tommy, it's been a great run
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