MONTREAL, QC. – By definition, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.”
I know that these days, those words usually mean “something bad happened, and he wasn’t in the NHL for a while, but now he’s back.” So, if you’re using the definition that has so commonly been associated with the Masterton Trophy for the last few years, you’ll probably agree that Max Pacioretty deserves his nomination and may very well take home the trophy this Wednesday night.
If you’re looking at his nomination in regards to the official criteria? He still deserves it. Max Pacioretty has been an incredible hockey player and ambassador this season.
I know that his road to NHL stardom wasn’t paved as smoothly as expected, but in Montreal, the roads are never smooth. (Literally.) He made a splash in his very first training camp and many fans expected him to crack the roster and immediately become some sort of rookie wonder-boy, but it wasn’t to be. He travelled occasionally between the NHL and AHL, depending on how well he played, how much confidence he had, and whether there was any space on the roster. Through it all, he remained hard-working and honest — some might say too honest, after he caught some heat for saying that he enjoyed having ample ice time with the Hamilton Bulldogs, rather than limited minutes in Montreal.
When he did come back to Montreal, he showed more of the potential that he’s had all along. Then, we all know what happened. We all watched him lie on the ice, unconscious, then get slowly moved onto a stretcher. I don’t think I was the only person whose chest tightened up at the sight of a seriously injured young man, not knowing what the doctors would say once he arrived at the hospital.
But Max Pacioretty doesn’t deserve the Masterton for being the victim of such a frightening injury. He deserves the trophy for moving past it.
The charity work that he has done in the past year has been incredible. He and his wife, Katia, have hosted events and asked for donations in order to raise money for an advanced-technology MRI machine at the Montreal General Hospital. He’s not doing it for attention — in fact, while he seems proud of his work, he’s quite bashful about it. He’s doing it because, as he has said, he’s grateful for the care he received at the Montreal General, and the outpouring of support that fans have given him both on and off the ice.
I attended the Max Pacioretty Foundation Charity Poker Tournament earlier this year and watched him as he took to the microphone to welcome attendees. He was humble, if a bit nervous. He didn’t discuss his injury. He only talked about what came afterwards, and he genuinely thanked everyone in attendance for their support.
All of this work that he does outside of hockey isn’t even for him – the injury, which he doesn’t even like discussing, made him realize that he could help victims of brain trauma and their families, and in doing so, he’s become more than just another hockey player. He’s become the kind of person who makes his community better.
Although, let’s be honest, he’s pretty damn good at hockey. The 2011-12 season was Pacioretty’s best yet. He was the first Montreal Canadien to have a 30-goal season since Alex Kovalev in 2007-08. He scored his first NHL hat trick. The trio of Pacioretty, Erik Cole, and David Desharnais fired on all cylinders. He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season. Yet, through all of this, one of the Canadiens’ star players humbly gave credit to those around him.
Max Pacioretty has embodied perseverance, dedication, sportsmanship spectacularly in the last year. Regardless of whether he takes home the Masterton Trophy, Montreal is lucky to have him.
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