The Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has selected Buffalo Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen as its nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded each year for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.
Numminen has undergone multiple surgeries to correct heart abnormalities and this season broke the NHL record for most games played by European-trained player. On Nov. 13, Numminen played his 1,252nd game to break the mark set by Hall of Famer Jarri Kurri.
Now with more than 1,300 games played, Numminen has recorded more than 600 points for the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Sabres. The former Coyotes captain still holds franchise records in games, defenseman goals and defenseman assists.
The three-time All-Star and four-time Finnish Olympian was named Buffalo's lone alternate captain this season. Through 76 games, he had two goals and 25 assists, ranking him second in points among Sabres defensemen behind All-Star Brian Campbell.
Numminen has had a heart murmur since childhood and was diagnosed with a dilated aorta late in 2003-04 while playing for the Stars. He underwent heart surgery during the lockout.
In the first round of the 2006 playoffs with the Sabres, Numminen experienced an irregular heartbeat, missing part of one game and all of another. He underwent another operation on his heart over the summer.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the PHWA and is given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected by a poll of all 30 PHWA chapters. A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the honoree.
The award was created to commemorate the late William Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968, after an injury suffered during a game.