Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators won the Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey on Monday.
Ryan took an extended leave of absence from the Senators in November to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, citing issues with alcohol abuse. The forward returned against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25, and two days later scored a hat trick in his first home game back, a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks.
"I know that it's something that I cherish, it's something that I really have to thank people for recognizing that I came out the other side ahead of a battle that has been plaguing me for a while, Ryan said. "It means a lot to me but I hope it means more to my wife because she put so much aside to get me here.
"A lot of teammates sent well wishes. A lot of them have kept in touch with me throughout the summer, just checking in and seeing how I'm doing. It's helped me a ton throughout the summer."
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Ryan played in Ottawa's final eight games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, scoring four goals while averaging 16:03 of ice time. He said he wasn't sure if he would ever play an NHL game again once he took his leave.
"Coming back, I always tried to be candid," Ryan said. "That's been probably the most rewarding part of this is that I've gotten to pass it forward. You can tell somebody this is what worked for me, this is how it worked and maybe it's something for you. I didn't plan for it but now that it has been such a positive thing I'm looking forward to doing it for other people."
Ryan, who is spending his offseason in Idaho, had a power outage and drove 40 minutes so he could speak with the media after winning the award.
"Getting help and learning and becoming better in all aspects of my life is certainly better than the alternative and the way that I was headed," he said. "The things that I've learned about myself, the secondary life, the new life I've built. It means more to me than chasing the Cup."
Video: Ryan discusses winning the Masterton Trophy
The local chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season and the top three vote-getters -- Ryan, Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom and Dallas Stars defenseman Stephen Johns -- were designated as finalists. A $2,500 grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.
Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, during the season. Johns made his season debut Jan. 18 after missing 22 months because of post-traumatic headaches. Each of them played in the postseason.
"I've got nothing but respect for the two other guys that could've won," Ryan said. "Watched Oskar and Stephen play in the playoffs a little bit. .. .With what [Oskar] went through, probably equally if not more deserving of this than I of was. Extremely impressed that he came back and played well too, he looked good."
The 2020 NHL Awards had been scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas but were postponed March 25.