|Teppo Numminen (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
The Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association selected Buffalo Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen as its nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The Masterton is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Numminen’s resolve to stay in the League after undergoing corrective heart surgery last season make him a worthy candidate for the award.
Having undergone September 2007 surgery to repair a faulty valve in his heart, Numminen’s lengthy and distinguished career was in jeopardy. He refused to allow the 2007-08 season to be played without him. Numminen fought back for seven grueling months just to make it into the Sabres’ lineup for the regular-season finale.
“It was tough at the start but you can’t do it by yourself. You have to have the support of your family,” Numminen said. “That kept me going.”
Having proved he could make it all the way back, the 40-year-old, four-time Finnish Olympian was determined to play at least another full season and has provided leadership and served as a role model for his young Sabres teammates in this, his 20th NHL season.
“[At first] you just want to survive, you just want to be a normal parent for your kids… not be a professional athlete. I wasn’t even thinking about that. That came later when I realized I could be a normal parent and do the normal things with the family and everyday routines. This is just extra for myself and I’m thankful for that to be back and playing in the professional league.”
This year Numminen has registered 16 points (2+14) through 55 games. He has recorded a total of 117 goals and 519 assists in his NHL tenure of 1,370 games - the most ever by a European-trained NHL player.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy was first presented in 1968 to commemorate the late William Masterton. The Minnesota North Stars player, who exhibited high degrees of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, died Jan. 15, 1968, after injuries suffered during a hockey game.
The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the season, and a grant from the PHWA is awarded to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund in the name of the winner.
Former Sabres to win the trophy were Don Luce in 1975 and Pat LaFontaine in 1995. Last year’s winner was Toronto’s Jason Blake.
The Masterton Trophy will be awarded at the 2009 NHL Awards broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on June 18, 2009. Airing on CBC in Canada and VERSUS in the United States, the 2009 NHL Awards will bring together the League's best players, celebrities and other NHL VIPs in celebration of the season's brightest stars.