Check out my column in tomorrow's edition of the Daily Times (Sunday, March 23) and you will see that I am accepting votes from fans for the NHL's Masterton Award given annually to the player that shows the most dedication and perseverance to the sport of hockey.
I couldn't include the complete biographies of each player in the print edition, but will put them on here for you to peruse for your vote.
Please e-mail your selections to me at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Tuesday at Midnight.
The player who gets the most e-mails will get my vote on the ballot.
Here are the unedited bios, as sent to each of the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association....
Todd Marchant: Marchant, 34, is a consummate professional, having played all three forward positions for the Ducks this season, in second-, third- and fourth-line roles, while also serving as one of the team’s top penalty-killing forwards. A serious abdominal injury that eventually required surgery kept Marchant out of 26 regular-season games and the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, but it did not stop Marchant from contributing to the team’s success even before he returned to the lineup for the Western Conference finals against Detroit and the Stanley Cup Finals against Ottawa. For each round of the playoffs last season, Marchant supplied his teammates with new T-shirts – with a new word added for each round. In the end, the shirts spelled out the phrase “Destiny is Heart, Sacrifice and Passion,” and the inspiration provided by the shirts was often credited with helping the Ducks win their first Stanley Cup championship. The same shirts are now sold online, with all proceeds benefiting the club’s charitable arm, Ducks Care. Marchant is extremely active in charitable causes, often participating in hospital visits and so forth. He and his wife, Caroline, were co-spokesmen, along with Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and his wife, Kristen, for last season’s seventh annual Dux in Tux charitable event. In a telling quote from Marchant about his charitable activities, from a column written by Randy Youngman of the Orange County Register, Marchant said that such work is “not his responsibility as a professional athlete, but rather his responsibility as a citizen of this planet.”
Johan Hedberg: He's rarely been the No. 1 goalie. Even in the minors, Johan Hedberg often had to sit and watch while talented young goalies in the San Jose system got more playing time. And he thought about quitting. Life wouldn't be so bad if he left for Sweden and spent 10 years in the Swedish Elite league. But he held on, his work ethic and desire more than making up for any deficiencies in talent. Since getting his break in Pittsburgh, Hedberg has bounced around but one thing hasn't changed - his desire to play and an unchallenged work ethic. In Dallas, Marty Turco said Hedberg made him work harder because he didn't want to be shown up by the backup. It's the same in Atlanta - he's ALWAYS the first player on the ice, and is willing to work with anybody to improve their game. That's why teammates love him, and that's why he's survived all these years in the NHL. This year, he has 13 wins, the most since 02-03 and is an unquestioned leader - a rarity for a backup goalie.
Glen Metropolit: Metropolit grew up one of three children to a single mother in the "Cabbage Hill" section of inner-city Toronto. He'd carved out a career playing in the ECHL, IHL, AHL, Finland and Switzerland, and even Roller Hockey International, before finally getting a legit NHL shot last season. A UFA last summer, he believed in himself enough to go to Boston Bruins camp as a free-agent tryout. All he's done since then is emerge as the team's No. 2 center, a vicious penalty-killer and he's been a major reason the Bruins have survived this long without Patrice Bergeron. Metropolit is also one of the quiet leaders of the team.
Paul Gaustad: As the front man for the Sabres’ children’s literacy program, Paul Gaustad obviously can read. It’s a good thing he didn’t believe everything he saw in print or he never would have made it to the NHL. And that was just his own coach talking. Gaustad, a seventh-round pick in 2000, was continually deemed too slow. Even Lindy Ruff figured Gaustad was likely a career minor-leaguer. But constant work and extra skating sessions allowed the center to get his foot in the door. Once he did, he banged it down. The hard-hitting 26-year-old is in a fan favorite in his third full season. But it’s not just his on-ice efforts. He is the front man in helping kids to read, and he also spearheads the Sabres’ “Green Team.” It’s a high-profile effort in which Gaustad encourages fans to recycle and conserve energy – something he never does on the ice.
Owen Nolan: A player whose career seemed to be finished a few years ago, the 36-year-old rugged right winger has a shot to crack 20 goals with the Flames, while providing veteran leadership and being a physical force. During the season, Nolan has battled through a recurring neck/shoulder injury - playing despite stingers that cause him to go numb in those areas.
Glen Wesley: Only a handful of defensemen in the history of the game have demonstrated the longevity and dedication of Wesley, who came into the league as a high-scoring power-play defenseman and remains in the NHL 20 years and more than 1,400 games later as a reliable defensive stopper and dressing-room leader and mentor.
Wesley continued retirement after his long wait for the Stanley Cup ended in 2006 but has twice decided to return and now ranks sixth (LIKELY FIFTH BY THE END OF FEBRUARY) all-time among defensemen in games played despite career-threatening neck fusion surgery in 2000. Active in his church and in the community, Wesley is the only player left who made the move with the Hurricanes from Hartford and has played for only two franchises in his career.
Patrick Lalime. Patrick Lalime has had several opportunities to pack it in the last three years following knee and back surgeries. But the 33-year-old veteran never doubted he could return to the kind of form that made him one of the best goalies in the NHL from 2000-04 with Ottawa. Lalime endured a 4-18-8 season with St. Louis in 2005-06, a year that included him being sent to the minors and capped when he tore his ACL. Then after rehabbing all summer and signing with the Blackhawks as a free agent, Lalime hurt his back working out and underwent surgery that kept him out until February of 2007. Finally healthy this season, Lalime has helped keep the Hawks in the playoff race, stepping in for the injured Nikolai Khabibulin and winning some clutch games.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Pascal Leclaire: The talent was always there, always visible to those in tune with the finer points of goaltender. But Blue Jackets goaltender Pascal Leclaire could never keep his legs healthy long enough to prove it. Leclaire, after a rigorous off-season workout program, has finally stayed healthy, and he’s emerged as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders this season. The number that used to haunt Leclaire: 46, which stood as the most games he’d ever played in his first nine pro seasons.
Leclaire has played 48 games this season, but here are some better numbers: he leads the NHL with nine shutouts, third in goals-against (2.16) and third in save percentage (.923). Leclaire has been through a lot. Knee surgery ended last season. An abdominal injury wiped out all but 14 games in 2004-05, when he was in Syracuse during the lockout. He’d have more wins and more shutouts if the Blue Jackets had played him more earlier in the season, but Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was wary of taxing him due to the injury history. Leclaire came into this season with 11 NHL wins. He’s on pace for 30, on a club that’s barely .500.
Andrew Brunette: As of this writing, his consecutive-game steak of 434 is the second-longest in the league. (It will be 453 if he plays in all games again this season.) He has been a pro's pro, wherever he has been. Shows up, plays, works hard, effective ambassador in the community, cooperative with media. The kind of unsung team guy everyone needs and he fits the description of perseverance (plays hurt), sportsmanship (universally respected) and dedication.
Sergei Zubov: The 37-year-old defenseman went through sports hernia surgery in the off-season and was fashioning a Norris-Trophy worthy season before he was felled by a = cracked bone in his foot. Zubov came to Dallas in 1996 and has had to change his game to fit in with the Stars' defensive system. He has sacrificed some offensive numbers to do so, but he is a plus-94 in his 11 seasons with the team and has helped Dallas to post one of the best regular season records in the NHL in that span.
DETROIT RED WINGS
Chris Chelios: In his 24th NHL season, Chelios, who turned 46 on Jan. 25, 2008, continues to make an impact with the Wings. He is one of their most reliable defensive defensemen, and is always called upon to kill off five-on-threes; a significant acknowledgement of his tremendous physical conditioning. He doesn’t produce many points, but he has a knack for scoring goals when they really mean something: For example, Feb. 18 at Colorado, minutes after team captain Nicklas Lidstrom had left the game after a nasty hit, Chelios scored the team’s first goal, leading them on to a 4-0 victory.
Chelios was also front-and-center in the battle to force transparency upon the NHLPA, challenging the ascension of Ted Saskin, which eventually resulted in Saskin’s firing. Chelios is always accountable to his teammates, and is always available to reporters whether the team has won or lost. He is a tremendous role model for the young defensemen on the team, such as Brett Lebda and Derek Meech, and every one in the room raves about his fitness level. He has persevered at playing in the NHL because of his physical discipline, and because he has accepted a reduced role, demonstrating his belief that the team is more important than the individual.
Fernando Pisani: Pisani has been playing with ulcerative colitis since being diagnosed in 2005. He's kept the illness under control with medication, but his condition worsened last summer. At one point, Pisani lost more than 30 pounds in less than a month and was basically bed-ridden. His long-term health, not to mention his career, was in jeopardy. A new course of drug therapy allowed him to regain his health and return to the Oilers line-up in early December.
Jassen Cullimore: After winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, Cullimore left for a free agent contract with Chicago. By all accounts, his time with the Hawks was a disaster. Last summer, the Blackhawks traded him to Montreal -- with the Canadiens doing the deal only so they could buy him out. Cullimore, 35, tried out with Detroit during training camp, but the Red Wings also didn't want his services. That makes three teams in a few months who told him he was done. Still, Cullimore moved forward. He kept working out on his own, hoping some team would call. In late October, the Panthers finally did, signing him to a two-way contract. He agreed to the deal, went to AHL Rochester on a conditioning stint. The injury-plagued Panthers called him up and he was in the lineup Nov. 9 against the Thrashers. Cullimore has been a surprisingly solid member of the Florida blueline, doing the little things right while sometimes doing the big things as well. His goal in overtime on Jan. 3 lifted the Panthers to a victory over the host Islanders. Of his 22 career goals, seven have been game-winners. "I score 'em when they count,'' he joked.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Jaroslav Modry: Not only did Modry accomplish near-impossible, a defenseman on the last-place Kings with a plus rating (plus two in 61 games) but he served as a defacto mentor to the rapidly improving rookie, Jack Johnson. He performed with his usual professionalism and class and you would never have known he was playing under difficult
personal circumstances. His father, also named Jaroslav, is dying of cancer and Modry briefly left the team early in the season to return home to the Czech Republic to make sure he could visit with him at least one last time. (We felt strongly about nominating him -- even after he was traded to the Flyers a week before the deadline -- and wanted to stick with the original submission.)
Aaron Voros: Gritty, hard-nosed 26-year-old Vancouver native finally reached his dream as NHLer this season. Called up in November, he played so well, he wound up sticking all season in Minnesota. Five years ago, however, Voros thought his life was in jeopardy. After Voros’ second game of his second year at Alaska-Fairbanks, doctors discovered a lump behind his left knee half the size of a baseball. After an MRI, three doctors diagnosed it as a type of malignant bone cancer. After three biopsies, however, it was determined to be benign. He had several operations in which he had part of his femur removed. He then suffered a staph infection and had to have a Hickman line inserted into his heart for eight weeks. “You know, you think you’re invincible, at least I did,” Voros said. “When you’re young and go through something like that, you say, ‘Not me, not me.’ Personally, I think it’s a miracle when you have two or three doctors who do this for a living diagnose it as malignant cancer.
“I just thank the Lord. I’m just very thankful because it could have gone a lot different way.
Mike Komisarek: He has gone through some personal tragedies (death of mother and grandmother) and has turned his game around through hard work and dedication. Is the NHL leader in blocked shots and 2nd in hits and has turned into a solid defenceman.
Martin Gelinas: A 19-year NHL veteran, Gelinas has made a quick impact in Nashville, serving as an alternate captain and spending long hours on the ice tutoring younger players like Jordin Tootoo and Vern Fiddler. He’s battled through several injuries this season: a preseason slice to his hand that required 15 stitches; a stick to the eye that needed about a dozen stitches; a shoulder injury; and most recently, a tore anterior cruciate ligament he still hopes to return from. Gelinas was named the NHL’s second-nicest player in a recent poll of players, coaches and media types. He illustrated that by co-sponsoring and paying for a Sommet Center Christmas Party for 90 women and children from Youth Encouragement Services and Morning Star Sanctuary.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Colin White: White missed the first 20 games of this season after suffering a career-threatening injury to his right eye. He was struck in the eye with a deflected puck during a pre-season practice, breaking his nose and causing irreparable damage to his vision. Although White knew his vision would probably never return to normal, he put three-quarter visor on his helmet and returned to the Devils' lineup on Nov. 21 in Pittsburgh and has missed only one game since then. The Devils struggled in their first 20 games without him, going 8-10-2. Since then, they are 29-11-4 (entering Friday's game against Washington) and have resumed their place among the league's best team's defensively. The Devils are second in the NHL with 2.27 goals-against average. White's encouragement has also prompted teammates Jamie Langenbrunner and Jay Pandolfo to start wearing protective visors.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Brendan Witt: Brendan Witt is the epitome of hockey dedication. After nearly eight seasons with Washington, and a couple of months with Nashville, Witt signed with the Islanders as a free agent prior to last season. Witt is the backbone of the Islander defensive corps, and becomes a human sacrifice in the name of blocking shots and throwing his body around in his own zone. (A teammate said Witt told him once, "Pain lets me know I'm alive.") Witt, who wears the alternate's "A", is one of the undisputed dressing room leaders. His name will never show up on the stat sheets in an offensive vein, but Witt is all about selflessness and teamwork. That credo extends off the ice, as Witt is involved in charity work, along with his wife Salima. His entire career embodies the spirit of perseverance and dedication to hockey.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Luke Richardson: Luke Richardson wasn't supposed to be in the NHL this season. He was supposed to be retired. He was supposed to be coaching. He was supposed to be doing something else. Somebody forgot to tell the 38-year-old Ottawa native. Since he didn't want to give up after finishing last year essentially as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Richardson called GM Bryan Murray about getting one more chance. Sure, said Murray. Gave him a two-way contract in case he wanted Richardson to make the odd trip to Binghamton to help the young players. He hasn't been there at all this season. Richardson has been too busy playing. Is he the fastest guy on the ice? No. But, he's in the lineup every night. He brings valuable experience, plays within his limitations and is regarded by many as a top-notch leader. A player who has become counted on. Not bad for a guy who wasn't supposed to be in the NHL this season.
Ty Conklin: The Penguins did not make much news when they signed goaltender Ty Conklin on July 19, 2007. Conklin played in only 16 games for Buffalo and Columbus in 2006-07. He had appeared in only 76 games over seven pro seasons, and was not impressive in the 2006 Stanley Cup final with Edmonton as an injury replacement. Conklin had the reputation as a journeyman when he arrived in Pittsburgh, opened the season in the AHL and only saw action with the Penguins in mid-December due to an injury to No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and inconsistent play from backup Dany Sabourin. By mid-February, the Penguins were atop their division and Conklin placed in the top 10 in goals-against and save percentage. Conklin performed above any reasonable expectation and provided calm and cool to a once-floundering club. He also graciously accepted his duties off the ice in terms of media commitments and community involvement.
Jim Dowd: Jim Dowd is the picture of perseverance. A seventh-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1987, Dowd has played for 10 NHL teams, four AHL teams, one IHL team and even spent a year in Germany during the lockout. A hard-working fourth-line center that averages less than 9 minutes a game, Dowd’s career highlight came in Game 2 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals when he scored the game-winner for the Devils en route to a sweep over the Red Wings. That season Dowd became the first New Jersey native to win a Stanley Cup for the Devils. Since then, he’s bounced from the NHL to the AHL to the IHL. Released by the Devils after last season, Dowd made a very deep Flyers roster on a tryout contract in September at the age of 38. He was placed on waivers earlier this season, only to come back and play meaningful minutes for the Flyers as a penalty killer and defensive specialist. Dowd, who turned 39 on Christmas, also remains active in the New Jersey community. His Jim Dowd's Shoot for the Stars Foundation has held an annual Shore High School All-Star Hockey Game for 10 years, raising thousands of dollars for local families in need due to catastrophic illnesses. His dedication, perseverance and professionalism make him one of the most worthy Masterton candidates the Flyers have had in years.
Shayne Doan: A visible figure in the community. Works with United Blood Services, Phoenix Children's Hospital and Phoenix Rescue Mission. He was the runner-up for the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2004 for outstanding community service. This season on the ice, he played for a month with a broken hand that no one outside the locker room knew about. He is the go-to guy in the locker room. No matter if he scores a goal and plays well or has a miserable game, he is always available after a game. He is the last player off the ice at practices, and as captain has held together a young team and kept it in the playoff race.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Jeremy Roenick: The 38-year-old has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in San Jose when for all appearances he was set to retire after last season, his second of two difficult and often-times controversial seasons in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Roenick turned over a new leaf with the Sharks, who came calling in late summer with a surprise offer. He signed for a team-low and league minimum with the instructions he had to set a good example. He's done that and more, playing to role of mentor, accepting whatever role and limited ice time he's given and being the model citizen on and off the ice. Roenick has hit several milestones this season as well, becoming the 40th player ever and just the third American-born skater to score 500 goals and eclipsing 1,300 games played as well.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Manny Legace: He was an afterthought in Detroit, playing second fiddle to Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood, Curtis Joseph, etc. The Wings gave him the starting job for one year and he went 38-6 and they let him go unceremoniously. Legace signed late in the free agency period with St. Louis in 2006 and a year later he is an NHL all-star. Legace is the definition of perseverance.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Craig MacDonald: A career minor leaguer, MacDonald has persevered since first turning pro in 1998. MacDonald has been a part of six organizations, including five in the past five years, but never appeared in more than 35 games, that coming with Carolina during the 2002-03 season. This year, the soon-to-be, 31-year old native of Nova Scotia earned his spot on the Lightning roster out of training camp as the fourth-line center. Though he was sent down to the American Hockey League for a brief stint in November, MacDonald has stuck around this season. In December he took a puck to the mouth that caused him to lose nine teeth and required four root canal surgeries. MacDonald missed one game after being hit, but since has started to play some of his best hockey, moving his way up to a regular on the third line and despite getting hit in the face with a puck, is one of the team's better shot blockers. As of Feb. 25, MacDonald has already set career highs in games played (45), assists (8) and points (10) in his first year with Tampa
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Jason Blake: Blake: His teammates and family were rocked after just a few weeks with his new team when he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a rare, but treatable form of cancer. But the Hibbing, Minn., as good on his word not to let the serious ailment take him out of the Leafs’ lineup.
As of March 1, Blake was one of only three Toronto players not to have missed a game in 2007-08. Already one of the smaller players in the NHL, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Blake has not altered his style against bigger men, while maintaining last year's ice time of almost 18 minutes a game. He has 38 points in 65 games and ranks XX in NHL shots.
Blake, who takes a daily pill called Gleevac for his condition, also hosted a leukemia awareness night at the Air Canada Canada Centre in January and donated $1,000 a goal and $500 an assist through January to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.
Trevor Linden: Linden, who turns 38 in April, was drafted second-overall by the Canucks in 1988 and has spent all but four of his 19 NHL seasons in Vancouver. Renowned for his charity work, especially with terminally-ill children, Linden won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1997. Equally devoted to his profession, he is a former president of the NHL Players’ Association and was critical to ending the lockout that scuttled the 2004-05 season. With 1,370 NHL games, Linden is the longest-serving active player still trying to win his first Stanley Cup. A former all-star who scored 30 or more goals in six of his first seven seasons, Linden has embraced without complaint a lesser role near the end of his career. Linden was the Canucks all-time leading scorer until he was surpassed this season by Markus Naslund.
The Vancouver chapter feels Linden embodies the Masterton ideals of dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship.
Quentin Laing: The Washington chapter nominates left wing Quintin Laing. The 28-year-old career minor leaguer has gotten his first real chance in the NHL this season -- and he's making the most of it. He's become a integral part of the Caps, and is one of only two forwards who has more blocked shots than games played (40 blocks in 32 games).