Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils won the Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey at the 2018 NHL Awards Presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday.
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"This has been quite the year," Boyle said. "We have a tremendous amount of memories, some good ones and not so good ones. We are not going to forget this year, we're not going to forget all that we have been through. My wife and I, it has brought us closer. It's our anniversary today. It's pretty funny how God works sometimes. We're so happy for it, we can look back at it at some point, but it is moving pretty fast right now."
The 33-year-old forward was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone marrow cancer, during training camp. He made his season debut Nov. 1 and scored 10 goals in his first 25 games, including one on Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center, a 3-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 24. Boyle missed three games after his season debut and represented the Devils at the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game.
"I think as athletes or other people that get recognition, if you want to be a good person you should carry yourself [that way]. Your actions define you," Boyle said. "For us, we play, we are on TV, we have little kids [watching us]; I was a little kid looking up to players in the NHL. We have younger people looking up to us. We are all dealt different hands, have different challenges. You adjust to those and react to those; that's life. You can't do it alone. You need a support staff, and I want to make clear that I have an unbelievable one."
Video: Brian Boyle presented with Bill Masterton Trophy
Boyle, who signed a two-year contract with the Devils prior to the season, was a veteran leader in the locker room and helped New Jersey to a 44-29-9 record and its first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since 2012. New Jersey finished with 97 points, 27 more than last season.
"I think the culture of the League throughout the years has been humble guys that work hard," Boyle said. "Obviously, it's a competitive league and people want to win. But the humility that these guys have had, the character of the guys that have come before us, it's up to the players now to carry on that tradition. We are fortunate to be in this league and we have great examples in front of us."
Boyle is the second Devils player to win the Masterton. Defenseman Ken Daneyko won it in 2000 after overcoming alcoholism.
The other finalists were Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes. Luongo, 39, overcame hand and groin injuries to help the Panthers make a late playoff push. Staal, 29, missed three games in February following his daughter, Hannah, being delivered stillborn due to a terminal birth defect. The award is presented by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
"I would like to acknowledge Jordan and Roberto because if I got up there that was part of what I wanted to say," Boyle said. "I also recognize how impressive that award has been to players that have won it in the past. Also, my faith has gotten me through this and I wanted to acknowledge that, but when I am up there, it was emotional because everything came back, all the stuff you tried to put away for a while. It all came flooding back and it was something else. It was nice to have my family right there in the second row and I could look at them. It helped me out quite a bit."