On the night that the league's top scorer, defender, netminder and most valuable player were recognized for their superior on-ice performance in 2000-01, one award was presented to a player who means as much to his team on the ice as he does to his family and community off it.
Adam Graves did not have a MVP season. In fact, his 10 goals marked the lowest offensive output since his 1990-91 campaign in Edmonton. Numbers aside, it proved to be one of the most difficult years in Graves' life. He was forced to deal with the unsettling loss of his infant son Jaxon and his father Henry within a matter of months. But with the help of a strong family and a solid support system, Graves went about his business in the utmost professional manner and continued to serve the community with an unrivaled graciousness, while remaining one of the most respected players in his sport.
On Thursday night in Toronto, the 33 year-old forward was recognized as the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, capturing the 2000-01 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
"I think anytime you're recognized for an award in the NHL, you have to consider yourself very fortunate," noted the 2001 Masterton winner. "Obviously, the Masterton is a very prestigious award and I'm extremely proud of this honor. Kevin (Dineen) and Ray (Ferraro) are great players to be associated with. This is all very unexpected, but I'm very honored to receive this award. I obviously owe the entire Rangers organization, my teammates, the city of New York and, of course, the community. It's been amazing how everyone has taken my family - my wife Violet and our three children - and made us a part of the community. For that, we're very, very fortunate."
"I think for you to be recognized, you owe a lot to your team. You don't accomplish anything alone. You look to your team and your family for support. I think, like anything else, you look at your roots and I know that I was very fortunate in that regard. I look to my family growing up and the person who I admired most was my father. I was very lucky in that respect. This represents just about everything you strive for as an athlete. Everyone knows that in life, you're going to go through good times and times in which you're going to struggle and you have to battle through. I'm very fortunate to play a game that I love and at the same time life can teach you as much about hockey as hockey can teach you about life. I'm very fortunate and I aspire to have half the character and be half the man that my father was. If I can ever attain that, then I know that I'm heading in the right direction. I accept this award in honor of my father and I say that proudly."
In receiving the Masterton, Graves joins the likes of Pat LaFontaine, Cam Neely, Mario Lemieux, Brad Park, Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle and Bobby Clarke to receive the honor.
NEW YORK RANGERS WHO HAVE CAPTURED THE MASTERTON Jean Ratelle (1970-71) Rod Gilbert (1975-76) Anders Hedberg (1984-85) Adam Graves (2000-01)