Nashville, Tenn. (June 18, 2009) – Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan became the franchise’s first NHL award winner on Thursday night at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, receiving the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy given “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” (Related story: Sullivan Talks About Masterton Trophy, Vegas Experience
“Given all this award stands for, and the players who have won it in the past, to receive it is a tremendous honor,” Sullivan said. “It has been a long journey full of highs and lows, but my return to the ice never would have been possible without my family, doctors, trainers and teammates who never lost belief in me.”
Sullivan returned to the Predators lineup on Jan. 10, 2009 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks after missing 142 straight regular-season games and 11 more playoff contests due to a back injury sustained on Feb. 22, 2007 vs. Montreal. Six-hundred eighty-seven days passed between games for the 5-9, 173-pound right winger whose return made him just the third player in the post-World War II era to miss more than 600 days due to injury, then return to action (joining Jim Peplinski, Calgary and Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh). He registered his first point in 154 games in the second contest of his return – Jan. 13, 2009 at Toronto, and netted his first goal in two years on Feb. 18, 2009 at Detroit.
After starting his season with just five assists in his first 15 games, the Timmins, Ont., native rounded into form in mid-February, and notched 27 points (11g-16a) in the final 25 games of the season. Nashville went 22-14-5 with Sullivan in the lineup in 2008-09 vs. 18-20-3 without him. Since joining the Predators on Feb. 16, 2004 in a trade with Chicago, Sullivan has posted 190 points (73g-117a) in 191 points and helped them to four playoff appearances in five seasons. Nashville has posted a 110-60-21 record with him in the lineup.
“Steve Sullivan epitomizes all the qualities that the Masterton Trophy stands for and we are thrilled that he has been recognized for all of the hard work and dedication he has shown to both our team, and the sport of hockey,” Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile said. “Not only did he serve as an inspiration for our team and community off the ice, but was a significant contributor to the club as he regained his form.”
The trophy was originally presented by the NHL Writers’ Association in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, a former Minnesota North Star who died due to head injuries sustained in a game on Jan. 13, 1968. A $2,500 grant from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund in the winner’s name. Previous honorees include Steve Yzerman (Detroit, 2003) as well as Hall of Famers Lemieux (1993), Cam Neely (1994), Brad Park (1984) and Henri Richard (1974).