The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." The award was presented by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association to honor the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited those qualities. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968, as a result of an on-ice injury.
The Masterton Trophy will be awarded at the 2009 NHL Awards broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on June 18, 2009. Airing on CBC in Canada and VERSUS in the United States, the 2009 NHL Awards will bring together the League's best players, celebrities and other NHL VIPs in celebration of the season's brightest stars.
The following players have been nominated by the PHWA membership to represent their teams from the Northwest Division:
Calgary: Craig Conroy -- At age 37, Craig Conroy is enjoying his best NHL season since 2005-06 and he remains a key role player for the Calgary Flames. Throughout his career, Conroy has maintained a reputation for being a feisty, tenacious and combative center who takes care of business at both ends of the ice. He can be an aggressive penalty killer and is skilled enough to create offensive chances.
A top-liner who piled up goals and points in his first stint with the Flames, Conroy has adapted his game as he has grown older in order to remain an important part of the Calgary lineup. He is plus-18 this season, his best such rating since 2001-02. He's also a leader and one of the game's best ambassadors.
Colorado: Ian Laperriere -- Since breaking into the NHL with St. Louis during the 1993-94 season, Ian Laperriere, 35, has established himself as a hard-working, dues-paying, "team" player of the highest order. His off-ice community activism also goes back a long way – he was the Los Angeles nominee for the Masterton Trophy and the King Clancy Award in 2003.
Since joining Colorado for the 2005-06 season, Laperriere has been a tireless contributor to local causes. He has been a major supporter of The Children's Hospital in Denver, including connecting personally with individual patients. He is actively involved in helping the Ronald McDonald House and has lent his time to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. He visits youth hockey practices as part of the Avalanche Player Clinics and also gives his time to the team's "Break the Ice" program and Colorado Special Hockey for mentally and physically challenged individuals. In addition, he was one of four men honored by the American Diabetes Association and the Denver Father's Day Council as a "Father of the Year" in 2008.
Edmonton: Jason Strudwick – This veteran has played a blue collar role in the NHL for a long time, annually having to earn a roster spot and always having to prove he continues to merit one. He plays a hard, physical game, doing a lot of the thankless work that enables his more celebrated teammates to flourish.
Unable to sign with an NHL team at the beginning of the 2006-07 season, Strudwick played in Switzerland to win his way back. A dressing room leader who shows younger players what it means to be a professional, he also has readily learned to play forward as well as his natural defense to make himself more versatile.
Minnesota: Kurtis Foster -- On March 19, 2008, Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster, while chasing down an icing in San Jose, was pushed from behind and sent crashing violently into the end boards. He was taken off on a stretcher with a broken left femur. After 10 hours of surgery, Foster spent 10 days in a San Jose hospital, then another week in a Minnesota hospital. After 10 months of excruciating rehab, Foster had a six-point, six-victory rehab stint in the minors before returning to the Wild lineup in March, making his home debut exactly one year after his previous home game (March 17, 2008).
"When I look back now, it seems like it's flown by even though there's days during it when it seemed time wasn't moving," Foster said.
Vancouver: Alex Burrows -- Alex Burrows didn't start playing major junior hockey until he was 19. Known more for his ball hockey skills, he wasn't drafted and then was among the first cuts at two separate NHL training camps. But Burrows never gave up on his dream to play in the NHL. He went to the ECHL for the better part of two years to hone his craft.
After getting an opportunity with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, Burrows has become one of the leaders of a surprising Vancouver Canucks team. Without playing on the power play, he is the team's second leading goal scorer (27). No one in the NHL has more goals without scoring on the power play.
The Pacific Division Masterton nominees will be announced Monday, April 6.