It’s always difficult voting for the Masterton Trophy. How do you sort through 30 players’ stories of dedication and perseverance — and sometimes tales of tragedy or severe injury — and pick three that are more worthy of an award than the others?
However ,what I really don’t get is how enough members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association can weed through the nominees’ stories and add Chris Chelios to their ballot to earn the veteran Detroit defenseman a spot among the three finalists. But they did.
Today the NHL released the identity of those finalists, and Chelios, Nashville’s Steve Sullivan and Florida’s Richard Zednik are all up for the award which honors “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
Now I’m in agreement that Chelios is a stand-up guy and a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer sometime later this century when he decides to call it a career. But he only played 28 games this season. For all intents and purposes, he spent the year in semi-retirement. Even when healthy, Chelios doesn’t usually factor into the Red Wings’ plans unless their back line is depleted. And did the writers who voted for Chelios miss the whole sportsmanship side of it? Just three years ago, the last time Chelios played at least 80 games, he racked up 108 penalty minutes in 81 contests. Just because a guy has softened up over the years doesn’t mean his concussion-causing hit on Brian Propp all those years ago didn’t happen. All the outlandish postgame comments and the on-ice brawling and jousting? That actually happened with the one and only Chris Chelios. That wasn’t some sort of clone.
Anyway, it’s disappointing that more-deserving nominees like Minnesota’s Kurtis Foster, Buffalo’s Teppo Numminen, New Jersey’s Scott Clemmensen and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron didn’t get more of a sniff. But what can you do?
As for Boston’s Masterton, Bergeron was honored for his efforts in returning from two concussions to once again be a two-way force for the Bruins. He was the official team nominee. A case could have also been made for goaltender Tim Thomas, who might as well have ‘perseverace’ tattooed on his back.