LAPPY A MASTERTON FINALIST
After all he went through in the past year after blocking a shot with his face against the Devils in last season's playoffs, Laperriere has still been an integral part of the Flyers' organization both as a spokesman for the team and as a mentor to young players.
When the Philadelphia Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association discussed the possible candidates for this award, there was some concern that we couldn't come up with a deserving nominee from Philadelphia.
The problem was, we were thinking about players who were actually playing, and not the one that wasn't.
Then, Wayne Fish of the Bucks County Times came to me and said, "What about Lappy?"
Fish didn't have to make a compelling argument to me, because my initial reaction was that my cohort on the beat was thinking outside the box and came up with a genius recommendation.
I presented it to the rest of our regular beat writers who cover the team, and to a man, each one had the same revelation that I did - that it was a brilliant suggestion, and one we should have thought about right away.
I cobbled together a nomination letter that I sent to our national office and then the votes were cast.
Laperriere is among the three finalists for the award.
He is joined by two former Flyers - Ray Emery (Anaheim) and Daymond Langkow (Calgary) as finalists. The award will be presented at the NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas in June.
Here, in it's entirety, was the nomination petition that I wrote for Lapperriere. A whittled down version is appearing on the league press release announcing the finalists today:
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 been 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.