While not one of the sexiest awards giving out by the NHL each spring, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy perfectly captures the essence of hockey by honoring the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Last season, Washington goalie Jose Theodore, now with the Minnesota Wild, won the award after dealing with adversity both on and off the ice. The goalie's son, Chace, dies during the summer because of complications stemming from his premature birth. Despite dealing with grief, Theodore had one of the best seasons of his career, going 20-0-3 in his final 23 appearances. He also set up a charity, "Saves for Kids," which benefits the NICU unit of the hospital where Chace spent his entire brief life.
This season, the three finalists for the award at the quarter pole of the season are showing their own brand of perseverance, according to NHL.com's Mike Morreale.
Tom Poti, Washington Capitals -- Poti has certainly experienced more than his fair share of adversity throughout his life, battling asthma and severe allergies as a teen. Yet, nothing could have prepared him for the ordeal he experienced during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, an ordeal that almost ended his career. In Game 6 of the first round against the Canadiens, Poti was struck in the orbital bone by a deflected shot. The repairs -- which required the insertion of titanium plates into his face -- took six hours of surgery. Yet, Poti returned for the 2010-11 season.
David Booth, Florida Panthers -- Booth, 25, played just 28 games last season, his campaign cut short by a serious concussion suffered in October that not only cost him 45 games, but shelved his chance to earn a place on the United States Olympic team. Booth returned later in the season, but suffered another concussion in March. This season, he is back to his old self, scoring 12 points in his first 19 games.
Marco Sturm, Boston Bruins -- Sturm has seen back-to-back seasons derailed by knee injuries. In 2008-09, he played just 19 games before tearing the ACL inhis left knee. This past season, he made it until the playoffs before suffering a serious right-knee injury in the second round. After a long summer of rehab, Sturm is expected to be game-ready before the start of the New Year.