LAPPY WINS MASTERTON
Watching it this year, I now remeber why - as Jay Mohr is a horrific host, and the thing moves along at such an awkward pace with mistakes galore - like Mohr pronouncing the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning's name as Steve Why-zerman and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills pronounced the name of Tampa's star forward as Mar-tin Saint Lew-is.
Now, as has been well documented in the past on this blog, my confidence level in my fellow hockey scribes to get these things correct is pretty low.
However, we did a fine job this year - and not just because Ian Laperriere won the Masterton Award (more on that in a minute).
But, we voted the right guy for the Hart Trophy in Cory Perry of Anaheim. We voted the right guy for the Norris Trophy in Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit. We voted the right guy for Lady Byng in Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay.
Yes, I voted for each of those guys to win - along with Laperriere.
And even though I didn't vote for Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, who won the Selke Award, he was quite deserving (I hemmed and hawed between him and Boston's Patrice Bergeron - who wasn't a finalist - and voted for Bergeron).
Even Carolina's Jeff Skinner was a deserving winner for the Calder trophy (I had him third behind Logan Couture and Michael Grabner).
But there was nothing better than seeing Laperriere win. It's one thing for you fans to be excited about Lappy - because you have built such a tight bond with him in a short period of time.
But for those of us who cover him on a daily basis, I can tell you, he's easily one of the best, if not the best, professional athlete we've ever covered when it comes to off-ice professionalism.
I think I can speak for each of my colleagues on the Flyers beat when I say that we all were thrilled to see Lappy win.
That might not be real objective - but if there were ever a time for us to break that journalistic tenet, this was it.
Kudos to Wayne Fish of the Buck County Courier Times, who assisted me in presenting this to the rest of our chapter as a possibility for the Masterton and kudos to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News, Delco native Chuck Gormley of the Courier Post of New Jersey and Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com for making our choice unanimous.
Finally, even though this is the third time I've posted this, in case you missed it, here, in it's entirety, was the nomination petition that I wrote for Lapperriere:
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.
Laperriere 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, 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.