LAPPY FOR MASTERTON
The Masterton is supposed to go to the player adjudged to show the most perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of hockey.
Unfortunately, the award is often given to somone who has overcome great odds - serious injury or illness - to continue their hockey career.
While those are feel good stories (read: Ray Emery in Anaheim this season) they don't really embody the terms of the award.
If you want to go by what the award actually calls for, the Flyers have a great nominee this season.
Here's the nomination letter I wrote to the rest of the PHWA in support of Laperriere for the Masterton:
There are three qualities that identify a Bill Masterton Award nominee: Perseverance, Sportsmanship and Dedication to the sport of hockey. In Philadelphia there is only one player who exemplifies all three - and he hasn't played a game all season.
Ian Laperriere's hockey career spanned parts of 18 seasons with five different teams. In 2009-2010, he was an integral part in the Flyers unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals. As one of the best penalty killers and shot-blocking forwards in the sport, Lapperriere sacrificed his career and long-term health, blocking a Paul Martin slapshot with his face in the first round of the playoffs against New Jersey.
The damage was severe - A concussion, a fractured orbital bone, an absurd number of stitches, and a spot on his brain from where the impact took place.
Yet, this did not deter Laperriere, who returned a little more than a month later to finish the Flyers playoff run that ended two games short of a championship.
Lapperriere gave it a go in training camp this season with the Flyers, but could not overcome his concussion-related symptoms and has be on the long-term injury list all season.
It is likely that Laperriere will never play hockey again, although he hasn't officially retired from the league yet.
Yet, while a player with a long-term injury could simply stay away from the rink, Laperriere has meant so much more to the Flyers organization.
He continues to be a representative of the team at many charity functions. He accepted an award on behalf of his teammates at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Banquet. He still frequents many games as an eye in the sky, watching from the press box and talking to the players about his observations directly after games.
But, most importantly, Laperriere has remained a mentor for many of the young players in the Flyers organization. Laperriere befriended several young players last summer when they were in Philadelphia working out and took part in rookie camp. All of them were re-assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL and when the Phantoms were going through an horrific start to their season, Laperriere made a trip to Glens Falls, N.Y. on his own to check in with the young players and to offer them advice on how to turn their season around.
While it didn't get the Phantoms into the playoffs, it certainly made them a better and more competitive team over the course of the second half of the season.
Laperriere's longevity in the sport of hockey shows his perseverance. As a well-liked and well-respected player on the ice, in the locker room and by the fans - videos of him on the big screen still garner standing ovations in Philadelphia, which is unheard of for a player who played just one year in the city - shows he is a shining example of sportsmanship. And his continued dedication to the Flyers and their future despite the uncertainty of his own puts him at the forefront of a list of people dedicated to the sport of hockey.
It is with that said that the Philadelphia Chapter of the PHWA emphatically supports Ian Laperriere as our most deserving Masterton nominee in a long, long time.
We told Ian about this yesterday. Here is the brief interview we conducted with him:
Anthony SanFilippo (PHWA Philadelphia Chapter Chairman) Opening Statement:
Ian, as you know about this award a little bit, we got together with the Chapter this year and decided that although you haven’t actually been on the ice this season, you still embody the three characteristics that the league is looking for when determining a Masterton candidate. We felt, pretty unanimously, that you still maintain those characteristics off the ice in what you do and how you conduct yourself. We wanted to nominate you this year as our candidate for the Masterton Award.
“Thank you very much. I got caught by surprise a little bit, and like you said, I didn’t play in one game, but it’s life. I know what it means. It means that I tried to be a good human being on and off the ice, and when you guys are voting for me, it’s telling me that I’m doing a pretty good job off the ice.”
Q: How has it been for you to kind of continue to stay involved with the sport of hockey while this is going on for you? Obviously, as someone who has played as long as you have, you know you want to keep being out there, keep being out there. The fact that you haven’t been able to be out there, but at the same time being able to do things around the team… I know earlier you [took a] trip up to Glens Falls to go see some of the young players that you befriended in the summer. How has that been for you to kind of keep being around the sport even though you’re not able to play?
“Well, it’s been the hardest point of my career. I said that before and I still feel the same today. To tell you the truth, everything happens for a reason and I am a big believer that for me to be a Flyer while it happened to me is kind of there is something behind it. They are taking care of me and I can’t imagine any other team, or maybe a couple teams, but not that many teams that would take care of their players like they are doing with me. They have been giving me all the tools to keep me busy and they know how much I love the game. I just can’t play right now and they just give me all the tools to stay in the game and stay close to the game. I can’t thank the Flyers enough, and Zack Hill is one of those guys too, he has been helping me a lot. It’s great, but it’s been hard, It’s been hard watching, it’s been hard not to be a part of something like I’ve been used to since I’m five years old, but that’s something I have to deal with. It’s pretty much all I can say about that, it’s been a hard year but there is nothing I can do about it.”
Q: Would you like to get involved in coaching down the road? It seems as though you enjoyed the time with some of the younger players.
“Yeah, that is one of the things that I’m touching. Right now, with all the free time I have, I try to get involved with hockey as much as I can. I get to help out with the junior leagues and American Hockey League and I try to see as much hockey as I can. If down the road I get to coach those guys I could work with them in some kind of way. I do not know yet. It is one thing to play and I’m still going to try to come back and play, but I have to be honest with myself and my age. I am 37 years old, and I haven’t played for a year, and if I have something wrong with my eye then I am going to have to look at the other options to do something with my life. To be honest, I just can’t see myself going in another direction than hockey. Hockey has been my life and is going to always be my first love. I am going to try to do something in the game. I do not know if it is going to be coaching, but it is going to be around the game for sure. I really enjoy working with the young guys. I have been able to work with them last summer and in previous summers. I have always been an approachable guy and it is one of my qualities. I think that the younger guys appreciate that. I’m not saying I am a young guy, but I think I am really young at heart. I can relate to those young guys. We will see where life is going to take me, but right now I try to touch everything. I try to touch the media types, radio, and TV and stuff like that. I’ll try to touch everything before I have to make a decision.”